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Sherry is one of those ingredients where the disparity between the average drinker and a bartender's imagination is often too great to overcome. To the average drinker, sherry is one of two things—a sweet brown liquid drunk by grandmothers, or something with which you cook. To a bartender—at least one who has taken the time to learn—sherry can be anything from a crisp, salty Manzanilla to a rich, maple-sweet Pedro Ximenez. Like no other beverage, it spans the range of textures and tastes. I don't mind telling you: I'm a sherry fanatic.
To bridge this disparity, what we sometimes do as bartenders—especially those of us with the keenest interest in ingredients—is try and foist sherry upon these average drinkers and get them to join the ranks of the initiated. We try to get them to drink outside their comfort zones because we know taste is not formed in the absence of experience, but rather precisely through the ingestion and appreciation of new things.
When it works, the customer joins our small band of travelers as we use our senses to discover universes of taste.
I know the retort here, and it's well within the drinker's right: "Why can't I just get what I want?" Then you stare at us like you would at a big bag of frozen Brussels sprouts when confronted with something new. So be it. We can't say we haven't tried.
Inversely, when it works, the customer joins our small band of travelers as we use our senses to discover universes of taste—taste-adventurers, marauding hedonists, gastronauts if you will—and it feels like we have staved off the hobgoblins of foolish consistency, as Emerson might have put it. In a word, it feels like progress. Sometimes, though, people are stuck in the middle, fearful of change but equally paralyzed by routine, staring off in the distance as they utter the words, "I don't know, I'll have a bourbon drink."
I'm happy to say that over the holidays I invented a cocktail I feel offers them hope: a bourbon and sherry drink. It's called the Robert Frost cocktail. I premiered this drink to great acclaim at a White House holiday party, and since then I've had many requests for the recipe. You can adjust the simple syrup to taste, but it's a delightful, aromatic cocktail.
The Robert Frost Cocktail
• ¾ oz. Bourbon
• ¾ oz. Amontillado Sherry (dry)
• ¾ oz. White Port
• ½ oz. Simple Syrup
• Dash of Orange Bitters
Combine ingredients and shake with ice. Strain into chilled cocktail glass and add thinly sliced orange and lemon wheels.
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