When Houston Eaves landed in Austin, Texas, behind the bar of the aptly-named Fino, the happy hour menu included $1 Sherries. This was an anomaly in Texas and he recalls how the bar director, Josh Loving, had an affinity for the category. “Josh talked about Sherry in a way that made me want to drink it and learn about it,” says Eaves.
It didn’t take long before the staff at Fino began to incorporate those sherries into the bar program. The words Fino and Manzanilla began to pop up next to gin or in lieu of vermouth on their cocktail list. It was a bold move to start using Sherries in their cocktails, as they were considered esoteric and offered unique flavor profiles.
Fino and its sibling, Manzanilla (from the DO of Sanlúcar de Barrameda), are fortified and biologically aged, meaning they age under *flor, a thin layer of yeasts created by the natural environment of the coastal region of Jerez in southwestern Spain. This layer of yeasts devours all traces of sugar—including glycerol, a component that adds sweetness, weight, and texture to wines, especially those with higher alcohol levels. Without glycerol, these Sherries tend to range from 15 to 17 percent alcohol by volume, yet remain lifted, light and delicate in structure. The flor also leaves Fino and Manzanilla Sherries bone dry—quite different from vermouth, which often includes added sugar, and from liqueurs, which always do. The flor can also impart unique flavors—nutty, herbal and saline.
Eaves now runs a leading cocktail haunt in San Antonio, Downstairs at the Esquire, where he often uses Sherry in his cocktails. Manzanilla takes a lead role in many of his drinks, delivering a cocktail at a lower-proof than most Martinis or Manhattans. A drink like his sherry-based People of Reason offers a bright, low-ABV option for both wine and beer drinkers, or anyone who wants to pair their cocktail with their dinner: As in Spain, where Sherry is typically served with cured meats, fish, salty olives and Marcona almonds, at Downstairs, Eaves’s Sherry-based drinks serve to elevate rather than dominate a food pairing.
“Sherry may be an unusual ingredient to see on a cocktail list, but it tends to spark a lot of conversation,” Eaves says. “Then we talk about it, give people small pours, and we make cocktails with it—it’s perfect for our menu of meat, cheese, and oysters.”
People of Reason
From Houston Eaves, Downstairs at the Esquire
2 ounces La Guita Manzanilla Sherry
½ ounce Reisetbauer Carrot Eau de Vie
¼ ounce pineapple gomme syrup (Liber & Co. or Small Hands)
1 barspoon Legendre Herbsaint
Stir all ingredients in a mixing glass, then strain into a cocktail glass. Express lemon peel over the drink and serve with carrot ribbons soaked in Herbsaint.
This recipe appears in the print edition of the April 2020 issue.
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