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Why do bartenders like it so much? Most sherry fans cite the astonishing variety of flavors, from the briny, delicate acidity of fino and manzanilla, to the sweet, raisin-like richness of PX, which bartenders often sub for simple syrup or other sweeteners.
Because sherry works so well in cocktails, bars or restaurants that don't have a full liquor license often use sherry to concoct legal libations. For example, at Donostia in New York, look for the refreshing La Gallega, which mixes fino sherry with grapefruit, lemon, sweet vermouth, honey syrup, and black pepper.
Finally, since the alcohol levels are close to wine, sherry plays well with food, so chefs enjoy using it for food pairings, too (head to DC's Mockingbird Hill, for example, to sip sherries alongside fresh-cut ham or plump, buttery Castelvetrano olives).
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Okay, I'm ready. How and where do I drink it? Purists sip sherry straight via wine glasses. Manzanilla and fino resemble white wines and are refreshing served slightly chilled as a summer sipper, especially if paired with nuts, cheeses, or charcuterie like Spanish jamon. The more oxidized varieties (amontillado, oloroso) are suitable for heartier fare like pork or chicken dishes. Meanwhile, save sweet, rich PX for dessert.
And then there are the multitudes of sherry cocktails. History-minded barkeeps in particular appreciate the role that sherry played in the evolution of cocktails: New Orleans's Bellocq offers a sherry cobbler modeled after the late 1800s classic: sugar, sherry and "cobblestone ice" (hence the drink name), topped with a fancy, ostentatious fruit garnish.
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