The Best Sherry Bars in the Nation
Trends in the beverage world can be obscure and fleeting—we’re looking at you, bone luge shots—yet some resurgences among the libation literati seem destined to endure.
Take Sherry, the much-maligned, wondrously complex wine from a trio of Andalusian towns in southwestern Spain that made a splash on the drinks scene in 2012. Now, Sherry-focused bars and restaurants are proving that this fortified wine has some serious fortitude.
Wine Enthusiast profiles the best bars where you can explore Sherry, and experts weigh in on what’s new with the wine.
Co-owner Derek Brown opened this temple to Sherry with his wife, Chantal Tseng, in 2013. The bar offers more than 90 bottlings and 15 Sherry-based cocktails, including a $5 fino garlic back (a shot of dry Sherry followed by a sip of pickled garlic juice, playing to Sherry’s often savory side). There’s a Sherry-focused food menu, too, inspired by classic pairings. Think ham samplers, olives, or duck and fig pâté.
“For us, Sherry is an expression of one of the most beautiful and complex wines on the planet,” says Brown. “Our devotion isn’t a trend, but a commitment to that beauty. We opened this place knowing damn well that there was no demand for Sherry bars and we’d have to create it. And still they come, every night, which both makes me happy and blows my mind.”
Rafael Mateo, the chef and owner of this intimate, 25-seat tapas bar, offers more than 30 Sherries by the glass, inspired by visits to producers in Spain, The fortified wine pairs naturally with Mateo’s Spanish-style snacks like jamón Ibérico, paprika-laced chorizo or Galician-style octopus.
“People are more informed about Sherry and come into Pata Negra with an enthusiasm to try new ones,” says Mateo. Sherry lovers should try Sherry en rama, “or raw,” says Mateo. “[It’s] new to the U.S. market and in fashion now. It’s a very pure form of Sherry production, in an effort to bottle Sherry straight from the cask with little clarification or manipulation.”
Cheryl Wakerhauser, Bar Vivant’s owner, recommends vintage Sherry—if you can get your hands on one.
“They will knock your socks off,” Wakerhauser says. “While most Sherries get blended into the solera every year, there are extremely rare instances where the bodega makes a vintage Sherry. This Sherry is not blended, and thus concentrates over time in the barrel where water evaporates and increases the alcohol. They are also locked down, and the barrels can only be opened in the presence of the Consejo Regulador.”
“Sherry is a staple and is definitely here to stay,” says Jaime Kaloustian, wine director of this Upper West Side restaurant. Offering two Sherry cocktails and eight Sherry options by the glass (or bottle), Dovetail showcases producers that complement chef John Fraser’s nuanced, often vegetable-focused cuisine.
“Sherry’s different styles basically define versatility in beverage programs,” Kaloustian says. “All styles are valuable as an ingredient for cocktails, while darker styles are great with cheese, dessert and seared foie gras. Lastly, our guests still rely on the lighter concentration Sherries as their apéritif without suggestion.”
“We have been celebrating our passion for Sherry wines at 15 Romolo for many years, and it has been a blast watching the category catch on around the country,” says Ian J. Adams, assistant general manager. He credits the resurgence of classic cocktail cultural, a more knowledgeable wine consumer and a demand for value for returning Sherry to the limelight.
The bar serves 18 Sherries by the glass along with Sherry cocktails. It also hosts a “Sherry Christmas” party to coincide with International Sherry Week, which begins the first week of November.
There’s a clear affection for Spain at this quirky eatery, with some 20 Sherries in stock. April is devoted to Sherry here, with specialty cocktails like Panza Punch (Sherry, Pimm’s and gin) or the Shegroni (yes, a Sherry-based Negroni) appearing alongside flights and special events like a four-course menu with pairings.
“We’ve always had an extensive Sherry list at Gitane, so we’re enjoying the renaissance of interest in it,” says Franck LeClerc, the restaurant’s owner. “We have the millennial generation to thank for its new popularity.”
—Photo by Lib Curlee
This bar, named after E.J. Bellocq (who secretly photographed the madams of Storyville at the turn of the 20th century), is renowned for its throwback Sherry cobbler. But there are also five Sherry cocktails on the menu and 10 varieties to explore by the bottle and glass.
“Sherry is a trend that’s here to stay because it has such great depth of flavor and variety,” says Kirk Estopinal, co-owner of Bellocq. “People in the last couple of generations strayed from considering Sherry as something you just cooked with, similar to Marsala and Port. Sherry is a perfect example of everything old being new again.”
“Sherry is so hot right now because it encompasses everything from the driest wines in the world to some of the sweetest, making it an amazingly versatile ingredient,” says Chad Phillips, the head bartender. Situated inside the Palladian Hotel, just blocks from Pike Place Market, this elegant bar incorporates Sherry into several cocktails.
“You can match it up against anything from gin to Scotch to Amaro, and it will hold its own while adding great depth,” Phillips says. That goes for food, too, including the bar’s Spanish-inspired snacks like ceviche and salt cod sandwiches.
For those who prefer drinking Sherry straight, try one of the bar’s eight selections by the glass. “Williams & Humbert Dry Sack Oloroso is rich, nutty, and full-bodied, and delightful any time of day,” says Phillips.
- 1Mockingbird Hill, Washington, D.C.
- 2Pata Negra Tapas, New York City
- 3Bar Vivant, Portland, OR
- 4Dovetail, New York City
- 515 Romolo, San Francisco
- 6Gitane Restaurant, San Francisco
- 7Bellocq, New Orleans
- 8Pennyroyal, Seattle