Tasting a sherry-finished whiskey gave me the idea for this Sherry Old Fashioned. The nuttiness and elevated dried fruit notes made me wonder how an Old Fashioned would taste if I substituted a sweet dessert sherry for the simple syrup. Spoiler alert: it makes it taste rich and complex. It’s a delicious Old Fashioned that’s easy to recreate at home to elevate your cocktail game.
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What is Sherry? (It’s Not Just for Cooking)
Sherry is a fortified wine, usually from the southwestern region of Spain, known for its nutty flavor. The wine varies wildly in sweetness, from the dry Fino sherries to sweet cream and Pedro Ximenez varieties.
Fortified means that the wine is blended with a spirit, either neutral grain alcohol or brandy, to lengthen its life by increasing its proof.
Sherry is made from white wine, usually from Palomino grapes, although the sweetest varieties are often made from Moscatel or Pedro Ximenez grapes. During the process of making the wine, a layer of flor, a mildew-like yeast that imparts that nutty flavor to the wine. In the creation of sherry, exposure of the wine to air allows that flor to create a barrier on the surface of wine as it ages in the barrel, keeping oxidation from happening.
There are many types of sherry, but the most common are Fino, Amontillado, Oloroso, Manzanilla, Cream Sherries, Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel. The former four are dry sherries, the latter three are considered sweet sherries.
For our purposes with this Sherry Old Fashioned, we want to harness the rich dried fruit flavors that come from Pedro Ximenez (sometimes called PX sherry) or cream sherries.
There is a wealth of information on sherry, and one I find useful is the site Sherry Wines.
How to Store Sherry
Because sherry is made from wine, like any wine, it degrades once the bottle is open. Just as you store vermouth (another fortified wine, by the way), sherry should be stored in the refrigerator once opened.
Drier sherries last about 2 weeks in the fridge, but cream and PX sherries can last as long as 4 to 6 weeks in the fridge before their flavor degrades.
Please note that sherries don’t go bad in a way that will make you ill. However, they may turn to vinegar – just as any wine can as it oxidizes and ages. Over time the flavor goes flat and loses much of its complexity as it oxidizes.
Does Sherry Need to Be Refrigerated?
Yes! I added this as a subheading because it’s important. Please refrigerate your sherry. If you want to see what happens, save a small amount of dry sherry in a sealed glass container for 6 or 8 weeks and compare the taste to a newly opened bottle.
Take a small sniff beforehand to make sure it hasn’t turned to vinegar.
What is an Old Fashioned?
If you’re new to my site, head over to my article on How to Make a Perfect Old Fashioned (yes, I know those are fighting words to whiskey lovers and bartenders alike). I have lots of information on the history, elements, and flavors of an Old Fashioned.
Concisely, the Old Fashioned is a simple cocktail of whiskey, sugar, and bitters. It was being made in some form in the early 1800s. Today it’s a classic whiskey drink, and one many bourbon lovers master at home.
With just three elements, it’s still a balanced, delicious cocktail when made well. Selecting a great whiskey, matching a simple syrup or sugar, and pairing that with bitters sounds easy, but it’s not. A truly balanced and delicious Old Fashioned is a symphony of flavors.
Flavors in this Sherry Old Fashioned
The rich, sweet dried fruit flavors of Pedro Ximenez sherry are intense and striking in this riff on an Old Fashioned cocktail. The raisin, date, and fig flavors sweeten the whiskey cocktail in place of a simple syrup.
Paired with chocolate bitters to bring out some of the slight spice and cocoa notes of the sherry, a perfect whiskey pairing for this is a wheated bourbon. I chose Wilderness Trail, but this cocktail will be a hit with any wheated bourbon – from Maker’s 46 to Larceny and everything in between.
While I added the sweet dessert sherry as a substitute for simple syrup, the bourbon cocktail didn’t have the mouthfeel that it needed. To address that I added a bar spoon of simple syrup made from bourbon barrel smoked sugar from Bourbon Barrel Foods. But any simple syrup will do.
I played with adding an expressed orange peel to the cocktail to create a bite of bitter orange oils, but in the end, the chocolate bitters balanced the cocktail on its own.
How to Make a Sherry Old Fashioned
Like any Old Fashioned, this is a whiskey classic you’ll want to stir, not shake. To make this, add your whiskey, bitters, sweet sherry, and simple syrup to a mixing glass.
Fill the mixing glass with ice. Use your bar spoon to stir the cocktail for 30 seconds, or until well-chilled. Strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large cube.
To garnish, express an orange peel over the cocktail and add a cocktail cherry or three.
This is a perfect cocktail to batch. If you’d like to learn how, head over to my Easiest Method Ever to Batch a Cocktail for a Party article.
Other Cocktails You Might Enjoy
- Bold Old Fashioned
- Chocolate Sazerac
- Fig Old Fashioned
- Peach Old Fashioned
- Banana Old Fashioned
- Chocolate Old Fashioned
Recommended Bar Tools
You don’t need every slick, beautiful bar tool out there, but there are several I’ll recommend. (As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases. However, that does not affect the cost of the items below.) My favorite pieces usually come from the Cocktail Kingdom section of Amazon:
You may already have these bar essentials, but just in case:
Sherry Old Fashioned
- 2 oz wheated bourbon
- ½ oz Pedro Ximenez sherry or any sweet dessert sherry
- 2 dashes chocolate bitters
- Bar spoon of bourbon smoked sugar simple syrup
- Garnish: orange twist/cherry
- Add ingredients to a mixing glass.
- Fill the mixing glass with ice and stir for 30 seconds.
- Strain into a chilled rocks glass with one large cube.
- Garnish with an orange twist and a cocktail cherry.