Sherry, Spain's multi-purpose fortified wine, has found its way into the Toronto drinking scene of late. Having spent the best part of the last 25 years consigned to the back shelves of the LCBO and harbouring a reputation as a tongue-coating grandma's drink, it's currently being reconsidered, reimagined, and repurposed as it finds a place in many of the city's top dining establishments.
First of all, sherry is much lighter in body and alcohol content than hard liquor. Secondly, depending on the style, it offers all manner of fragrant qualities: manzanilla and other fino sherries will give delicious almond flavours with a pungent flor, and sometimes even a light saltiness, while oloroso styles will offer a deep, rich, nuttiness. Finally, sherry is probably the last product available in the LCBO that offers real value for money (at least for now).
Here are my top five picks for sherry cocktails in Toronto.
Geraldine - Cigarettes & Smiles ($14)
The historical appeal of sherry fits in very nicely with Geraldine's post-Victorian styling, reminiscent of a Gatsby party. Johnnie Walker Scotch whisky and apricot liqueur are stirred up with amontillado (fino sherry), with a touch of orange flower water and Coster's coffee & cigarette bitters.
Lo Pan - Geisha ($14)
A sour-style cocktail made with yuzu in place of lemon juice, Lo Pan's Shane Mulvany shakes up fino, beefeater gin, and ginger liqueur with egg white and the aforementioned asian citrus fruit. It's bright, with a palate-cleansing spice that's ideal after indulging in the fare downstairs.
Bar Isabel - Lobo de la Noche ($15)
Two types of sherry make their way into this drink, available at the only Spanish restaurant on our list. Both Tio Pepe fino, and Osborne Pedro Ximenez (a dark and rich sherry made from sun-dried grapes) are stirred with Bulleit Rye bourbon and Angostura bitters.
Cocktail Bar - Tailor of Panama ($15)
Jen Agg is one of Toronto's original craft bartenders, dating back to well before forging her mini Hoof empire (she used to mix up drinks at Cobalt, probably the first serious cocktail bar in Toronto). Using the richer, nuttier Oloroso sherry, this tiny speakeasy mixes up Abuelo rum with Lillet (a fortified wine from Bordeaux) and Cynar (a bitter artichoke-based liqueur similar to amaro).
Thoroughbred - Catalina Wine Mixer ($13)
This new spot in the Entertainment District has excelled at blurring the lines between restaurant and bar, with a DJ converting the downstairs dining room into a dancefloor within seconds of the end of dinner service. Heading in a fruitier direction for this cocktail, Tio Pepe fino is shaken up with strawberry cordial, gin, Aperol, and a black pepper tincture.
Photo of Geraldine
by Jen Hunter via blogTO