Whisky and Sherry: Thinking Outside the Cask

The Grand Army in New York City mixes up The Weakest Link, a riff on the Old Fashioned, that features Wild Turkey 101 rye and Alejandro oloroso sherry. Max Flatlow

Whisky and Sherry: Thinking Outside the Cask

March 16, 2023 –––––– Sally Kral, , , ,

Sherry is seemingly ever-present in the world of whisky, thanks to the influence of the sherry cask. It’s most prominently seen in scotch whisky, of course, but the influence of these casks sourced from Jerez, Spain can be found in whiskies all over the world. Indeed, a conversation about some scotch whiskies can become as much about the sherry influence as the whisky itself. But few whisky lovers ever consider the use of sherry–the wine, not the barrel–as an ingredient in their cocktails.

While fino and manzanilla sherries make excellent bases for light and bright cocktail styles, those on the other end of the sherry spectrum–amontillado, oloroso, palo cortado, and Pedro Ximénez–offer more intense, nutty flavors due to heavy oxidation. That makes them better suited to pairing with aged spirits and other rich ingredients.

“The flavors of a heavily oxidized sherry allow us to add an incredible amount of depth to a cocktail, layering savory and umami flavors that many people would recognize in food but are unaccustomed to tasting in drinks,” says Harrison Snow, co-owner and beverage director of Lullaby in New York City. His The Whiskey Drink ($16) features Abasolo corn whiskey from Mexico, Lustau oloroso sherry, lime juice, agave syrup, mascarpone cheese, house-made parsley olive oil, and saline. “Sherries tend to pair very easily with spirits or ingredients that impart similarly savory notes like scotch, rye whiskey, and Demerara rum,” Snow adds.

At Bar Vivant in Portland, owner Cheryl Wakerhauser’s Zoomie Zoom Zoom ($10) blends Woodford Reserve rye, Harveys Bristol cream sherry, Gonzalez Byass La Copa Rojo vermouth, Orange Cap ginger beer, and Angostura bitters. “The rye acts as the backbone of the drink, and the cream sherry adds both a dollop of sweetness and a velvety texture that rounds out the power of the rye while also contributing hints of orange, baking spice, and a walnut nuttiness, all which complement the bright, spicy ginger beer,” Wakerhauser says. “It’s a refreshing cocktail for any season; sip it in the spring or summer for its refreshing qualities and continue into the cooler months, savoring its fall flavors.”

The Doc Oc Sazerac ($15) at Oloroso in Philadelphia mixes Rittenhouse rye, Xixarito Pedro Ximénez sherry, Lustau brandy, demerara syrup, house-made mole bitters, and Peychaud’s bitters. “Amontillado and palo cortado sherries offer complexity and nuttiness, so they can stand up to stronger ingredients; oloroso contributes richness in body and a nose that’s super fragrant; and Pedro Ximénez brings in sweetness, richness, and body,” notes Gordana Kostovski, Oloroso’s general manager and sommelier. “We’ve found sherry to be a super versatile and wonderful component to use in our signature cocktails—it can add brightness, acid, finesse, nuttiness, sweetness, salinity, and complexity to a drink.”

At Grand Army in New York City, sherry is featured in several takes on classic whisky-based cocktails. Bartender Shannan Lynch’s Alex Trebek ($17) is a Manhattan riff, comprising Powers Signature Irish whiskey, Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old scotch, La Cigarrera amontillado sherry, Method sweet vermouth, St. George Spiced Pear liqueur, and Drambuie scotch liqueur. Bartender Kathryn "Pepper" Stashek’s Weakest Link ($17), meanwhile, is a variation on the Old Fashioned, featuring Wild Turkey 101 rye, Tio Alejandro oloroso sherry, Suze gentian liqueur, pecan orgeat, house-made rosemary tincture, saline, and Angostura bitters. “To complement the sweet elements of the Weakest Link and add salinity, we use oloroso sherry—we chose this over amontillado because it has a longer oxidation period, making its overall flavor darker and more nutty, pairing very well with the pecan orgeat,” says beverage director Ally Marrone. “This cocktail would make any American whiskey imbiber happy.”

The Whiskey Drink

Harrison Snow, co-owner and beverage director of Lullaby in New York City


  • 1 1/2 oz. Abasolo corn whisky
    1/4 oz. Lustau oloroso sherry
  • 3/4 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. agave nectar
  • 1 heaping bar spoon mascarpone
  • 1 dash parsley olive oil (see below)
  • 6 drops saline solution
  • Parsley sprig, for garnish

Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with a small amount of ice and whip shake until chilled. Double strain into a coupe glass. Garnish with a few drops of parsley olive oil and a small parsley sprig.

Parsley Olive Oil
Blend 2 cups extra-virgin olive oil with 1 bunch parsley. Pass through a fine-mesh strainer, then decant into a dropper bottle.

Zoomie Zoom Zoom

Cheryl Wakerhauser, owner of Bon Vivant in Portland, Oregon


  • 1 oz. Woodford Reserve rye whiskey
  • 1 oz. Harveys Bristol cream sherry
  • 1 oz. Gonzalez Byass La Copa Rojo vermouth
  • 3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • 5 oz. Orange Cap ginger beer

In a Highball glass, combine the rye, sherry, vermouth, and bitters. Add 3 ice cubes and stir to chill. Top with the ginger beer and give the drink one final stir.

Alex Trebek

Shannan Lynch, bartender at Grand Army in New York City

600_Alex_Trebek_2.jpgMax Flatow

  • 1 1/4 oz. Power’s Signature Irish whiskey
  • 1/2 oz. Balvenie Doublewood 12 year old scotch
  • 1/4 oz. La Cigarrera amontillado sherry
  • 3/4 oz. Method Spirits sweet vermouth
  • 1/4 oz. St. George Spiced Pear liqueur
  • 1 tsp. Drambuie scotch liqueur
  • Orange peel

Stir all ingredients with ice and strain into a Nick and Nora glass. Express an orange peel over the drink, then discard.

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