I know nothing about sherry, except that it got that guy in Edgar Allan Poe's The Cask of Amontillado in some serious trouble. As such, I don't make a habit of ordering it on its own, or choosing a cocktail with sherry as the main ingredient. But thanks to the craft cocktail revolution, the spirit that had been relegated to the back of our kitchen pantries as cooking wine is starting to see a resurgence.
Despite my ignorance, sherry has rapidly cropped up across cocktail menus as a component that can add a touch of smoothness and sophistication to an otherwise spirit-forward or strongly-flavored cocktail. Not coincidentally, I was also sure that a few of CBD Provisions' Sherry Meads a Drink cocktails would infuse my broke ass with enough smoothness and sophistication to make it look like I actually belong in the Joule Hotel.
I'm admittedly a sucker for a cheeky name, which is the only reason that I even ordered this cocktail. I'd like to pretend that I'm some kind of wine aficionado who knows the difference between Madeira and oloroso, but my only experience with the fortified wine was a quick slug out of a bottle of cooking sherry. It wasn't the best introduction.
Fortunately Sherry Meads a Drink is made with dry-sack, medium sherry, which is a very approachable and drinkable entrée into the world of fortified wine with its slightly nutty and sweet flavors. Traditionally, sherry is to be sipped on its own, served neat or over ice, but mixed in this cocktail, it's transformed into much more than a humble aperitif.
In the chill of the November evening, the sherry was just boozy enough to provide a little warmth without making my head swim. At $12, I was concerned that I wasn't getting enough drunk for my money in ordering a fortified wine-based drink, and I wasn't wrong. If you're looking for a cocktail that will knock you on your ass, Sherry Meads a Drink is not for you.
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But if you're looking for a cocktail that will challenge the way you think about drinking, order away. Each element of this cocktail is something I wouldn't have considered drinking before, especially when I saw "mead" on the menu. In my mind, mead is something that only dweeby LARPers and Medieval Times reenactors consume, not something that you sip at one of the city's fanciest bars. Still, mead, like sherry, is also seeing a spike in popularity of its own. Earlier this year, one cocktail publication called it "the new cider."
Which actually makes a lot of sense. Mead, or wine made by fermenting honey and yeast, is surprisingly drinkable and delicious. The variety served in this cocktail, made by New Hampshire's Moonlight Meadery, is sweet without being cloying. The subtle cherry, currant, and blueberry flavors mingled well with the nuttiness of the sherry, and perfectly balanced its crispness. Whether or not you plan to start acting out Lord of the Rings movies, you should probably put a bottle of mead on your list the next time you head to the liquor store. You won't be disappointed.
Bigallet china-china adds light citrus notes and bitterness, and serves as an absolutely essential counterpoint to the sweetness of the mead. Without the china-china, it is likely that this cocktail would taste like a more refined version of a chain restaurant's fruity 'tini. Freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice rounds out the cocktail, completing the bitter-acidic-sweet trifecta that makes cocktails like these so delicious. Parsing each sip of the cocktail for its individual flavors is nearly impossible once the ice starts to melt -- the components come together beautifully when gently shaken.
Most excitingly, Sherry Meads a Drink is served over a heaping scoop of "Sonic ice," which isn't some newfangled kind of artisanally-made ice. No, the geniuses behind the bar at CBD are talking about the deliciously soft pellet ice that everyone loves from America's Drive-In, Sonic. It isn't actually ice from Sonic, but nobody else knows what "pellet ice" means, and it just doesn't sound as compelling. Once you've finished your cocktail, be prepared to be that asshole at the bar who is loudly chomping on ice. Each bit will still taste like your cocktail, and you've got to wring every last bit of booze out of this $12 pour.