Elements: Fino Sherry - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

Elements: Fino Sherry

In the early aughts, a new generation of bar professionals rediscovered—and subsequently popularized—sherry and sherry cocktails. The fortified Spanish wine was crucial in turn-of-the-last-century cocktails like the Bamboo and Tuxedo, while the Sherry Cobbler dates back to the 1830s. Of the seven styles of sherry, which run the gamut from light and fresh to oxidized and rich, fino is the driest.

The wine is delicate, with restrained herbal and saline notes, and hints of almond, citrus, and bread. Manzanilla, which is fino produced in the coastal city of Salúncar de Barrameda, can usually stand in for fino in cocktails, but it tends to be lighter and zestier in profile. Unlike oxidized sherries such as amontillado and oloroso, fino also has a short shelf life. “It should be consumed within two days of opening,” says Daniel Azarkman, owner of San Francisco’s El Lopo. “Treat it as you would any white wine.”

At El Lopo, Azarkman highlights fino’s brine and umami characteristics by mixing it with a gentian amaro and a dry vermouth. The secret to this deceptively simple drink is the quality of its ingredients, says Azarkman. “A good fino should run at least $13. Price is a convenient way to weed out the really large producers who treat sherry as a commodity, and a good sherry will give you the complexity you need for craft cocktails,” he says.

Negroni Estropeado

This elegant Negroni riff leans extra herbal in profile.

1 1/2 oz. fino sherry (Azarkman uses Cesar Florido)
1 1/2 oz. dry vermouth
1 oz. gentian aperitif (Azarkman uses Lo-Fi)
1 dash orange bitters

Tools: barspoon, strainer
Glass: rocks
Garnish: grapefruit twist, sage leaf

Stir all of the ingredients with ice, then strain into a rocks glass with one large ice cube. Thread the sage leaf through the grapefruit twist (optionally toasting the underside of the sage for extra aromatics) and place on the ice cube as garnish.

Daniel Azarkman, El Lopo, San Francisco

At North Light in Oakland, California, operator Den Stephens uses just four ingredients for his low-ABV cocktail Solange Playing in an Elevator, which combines fino, Cocchi Americano, and pear brandy with a touch of simple syrup. “I chose fino as the base, because I loved how its soft, dry, marzipan notes played against the roundness of the Bartlett pears in the brandy,” he says. “I wanted something low-proof with terrific length that people could enjoy before dinner.”

Solange Playing in an Elevator

A low-ABV cocktail with lush fruit flavors and a bracing finish.

2 oz. fino sherry (Stephens uses Rey Fernando de Castilla)
1/2 oz. Cocchi Americano
1/4 oz. pear brandy (Stephens uses Clear Creek)
1 barspoon simple syrup (1:1)

Tools: barspoon, strainer
Glass: Nick & Nora
Garnish: lemon twist

Stir all of the ingredients with ice, then strain into a chilled glass, and garnish.

Den Stephens, North Light, Oakland

Caer Ferguson, bar manager of Austin’s DrinkWell and co-founder of the Daijoubu cocktail pop-up, is a fan of fino for its versatility. “I use it with most clear spirits, and it’s also a great swap for vermouth when a drink has a sweeter liqueur or syrup in it.”

For her Conscious Club, a vibrant riff on a Clover Club, Ferguson uses a Mediterranean gin to add an herbaceous element that complements the minerality of the sherry. “Fino is light, but tart, so I love using it as an acid replacement in drinks that would usually include citrus,” she says. “In this case, it also allows us to use less lemon and lean into the fruitier acidity of the sherry.”

Conscious Club

This riff on the classic Clover Club balances fino’s bright acidity with the juicy sweetness of raspberries.

1 1/2 oz. fino sherry (Ferguson uses Lustau Fino Jarana)
3/4 oz. gin
1/2 oz. raspberry syrup
1/4 oz. fresh lemon juice
1 dash orange bitters
1 fresh egg white
Chilled tonic water

Tools: shaker, strainer
Glass: Collins
Garnish: rosemary sprig

Shake all of the ingredients (except tonic water) with ice until chilled and foamy. Strain into a
chilled Collins glass and top with tonic water. Garnish with a fresh rosemary sprig.
Raspberry SyrupCombine 3 cups of simple syrup (1:1) with one 16-ounce container of raspberries. Muddle the fruit and let sit until it develops a rich pink color; depending on ripeness, this should take 3 to 24 hours. Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh strainer, and store in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Caer Ferguson, DrinkWell, Austin

Enjoy This Article?

Sign up for our newsletter and get biweekly recipes and articles delivered to your inbox.

Send this to a friend