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Sherry gets less granny, more chic behind select Lawrence bars


If you look in the right spots, sherry suddenly seems a lot less stodgy than stereotypes would have you believe.

As such places have for eons, a handful of Lawrence’s nicer restaurants have a sherry or two on their drink menus, usually grouped with dessert cordials. A small few are following a trend from the coasts by increasing sherry offerings, even incorporating the Spanish fortified wine into craft cocktails.

One is Pachamama’s, 800 New Hampshire St., which is planning it’s first-ever sherry dinner Wednesday night — though chef/owner Ken Baker says he’s not sure what’s taken him so long to do one. (See menu below, and call the restaurant at 841-0990 to reserve a seat. There were a few left late this week.) Another is 715, 715 Massachusetts St., where bar manager Margie Hogue said guests can choose from about five or six sherries by the glass or order one of several craft cocktails featuring the wine.

On 715’s cocktail menu now is the Jerez, made with Campari, cream sherry, sweet vermouth and orange. A featured drink Hogue hinted may land a spot on 715’s next cocktail menu is the Imperial Suitor, with Guatemalan aged rum, aged sherry (about 25 years on both) and blood orange liqueur, stirred with ice and served with a cherry.

The Imperial Suitor at 715, 715 Massachusetts St. Contributed photo from 715.

The Imperial Suitor at 715, 715 Massachusetts St. Contributed photo from 715. by Sara Shepherd

“We really liked how rich and raisiny it (the sherry) was, so we used that instead of a sweetening agent as a variation on the old fashioned,” Hogue said. “It’s rich, and sherry gives it a nice nutty nuance.”

Admittedly, I’m a sherry newbie (it turns out there are styles and levels of sweetness, just like champagne or German rieslings — who knew?). Baker kindly answered some questions this week to help bring me up to speed. Now, about those stereotypes...

Sara Shepherd: Convince me sherry is not just for people of the 1800s (or for soaking the spongecake in my grandmother’s trifle recipe)?

Ken Baker: Sherry has a long and storied history. It’s a drink that travels well, and it has resilience. But the most important thing about it is that it’s super versatile — it has so many different flavors. Everybody identifies sherry with the sickly sweet after-dinner drink, but most of your best sherries are bone dry, umami-rich, very savory. Those are the kinds of wines that blow court out of the water, and they go with so many different foods.

SS: My cabinet’s always stocked with a bottle of bottom-shelf sherry I use for cooking. I’ve tried drinking it (even in a cobbler with muddled fresh fruit), and it’s not good, not good at all. What kind of sherry is actually worth sipping?

KB: I don’t want to say cooking with sherry is a terrible idea, but it’s a terrible idea. I come from the standpoint that beer and wines are for drinking! You’re going to spend a little bit more money, but with sherry — aside from being versatile and having a huge range of flavors — the prices are all over as well.

SS: So if you’re really trying to appreciate this wine, it’s worth paying for something from higher than the bottom shelf?

KB: Yeah, absolutely.

SS: Any tips for pairing sherry with food?

KB: For the fino or manzanilla sherries, the first thing that comes to mind is olive spreads or nuts. The manzanilla is going to have more of a briny, salty component to it so it’s just awesome with seafood. The more full-bodied sherries take on super nutty caramelized notes. They have such a strong backbone, these wines are really good with game meats and sausages, a wide variety of foods. Amontillado up to oloroso, then the super-sticky ones like moscatel or Pedro Ximinez, that’s the kind of stuff you can pour on a bowl of ice cream and it’s unbelievable.

SS: Have you noticed more people ordering sherry at your restaurant?

KB: It’s not a top seller, but there’s definitely an upswing. I think part of that is because my bartenders are getting into it more, taking it away from the old-ladies-playing bridge image. The Midwest is always a little slow on the uptake, but it’s definitely huge in New York, Charleston and out on the West Coast — they have bars where that’s what they do.

Menu for the March 12, 2014, sherry dinner at Pachamama's, 800 New Hampshire St.

Menu for the March 12, 2014, sherry dinner at Pachamama's, 800 New Hampshire St. by Sara Shepherd

Tips welcome!

Try something unusual or know of something interesting going on at a Lawrence restaurant? Send me an email at sshepherd@ljworld.com or contact me on Twitter @saramarieshep. For more local food and restaurant news, click here.


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