During the heat of summer in southern Spain, the best way to cool down before a meal is with a glass of crisp sherry, along, of course, with a few plates of salty tapas. The finer selections of this nutty, fortified wine have grown in popularity here in the U.S. over the past few years, but for many, there is still much to explore in order to understand the nuances of this unique wine, including its use in cocktails. In the enlightening book Sherry: A Modern Guide to the Wine World’s Best-Kept Secret, Talia Baiocchi covers everything from the seminal Sherry Cobbler to the modern inventions bartenders are creating every day.

One such example is the Artist’s Special: a nearly forgotten Parisian classic from around the time of Prohibition that still carries a modern feel in the way it uses dry sherry and red currant syrup to add a bit of panache to the classic whiskey sour. Baiocchi’s recipe calls for a blended scotch, which is appropriate given that bourbon was likely not an option during the 1920s, but either spirit could work in a pinch. With this drink’s racy red hue, one sip brings visions of the Jazz Age in Paris, burlesque and endless dancing.

Though sherries can be best enjoyed on their own, in cocktails it’s never a bad idea to experiment by adding a small amount of sherry “seasoning” to your favorite drink for a quick infusion of added character. It’s also good to know that sherry’s drier forms can essentially take the place of vermouth, and the sweeter varieties often take the place of liqueurs. While a tart whiskey sour or smash (with mint) can be hard to beat on a hot afternoon, the Artist’s Special certainly shows how sherry’s versatile, yet complex yeast and herbal notes can make a world of difference. Enjoy.

Whiskey Sour

Servings: 1 cocktail

Ingredients
2 ounces bourbon
3/4 ounce lemon juice
3/4 ounce 1:1 simple syrup
Egg white

Directions

  1. Combine liquid ingredients into small shaker tin and egg white into the large tin separately.
  2. Dry shake without ice for 10 seconds, then add ice to the tins and shake again for 10 seconds.
  3. Strain into a sour glass and garnish with a dash of Angostura bitters across the foam.

Prep time: 3 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Artist’s Special

Servings: 1 cocktail

Ingredients
1 ounce Great King St. Artist’s Blend — Blended Scotch Whisky
1 ounce oloroso sherry
1/2 ounce lemon juice
1/2 ounce red currant syrup*

Directions

  1. Combine ingredients into small shaker tin and shake with ice for 10 seconds.
  2. Strain into a chilled coupe glass and garnish with a lemon twist.

*Red currant syrup (adapted from Jerry Thomas’s Bartender’s Guide)

  1. In a bowl, muddle 1 cup stemmed red currants (or sour cherries if not available) and 1/4 cup raspberries, then cover and let stand overnight.
  2. Add 1 1/4 cups sugar and 7 ounces of boiling water, stirring to combine.
  3. Let cool and finely strain into a jar for later use, up to one month.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Moderate