Why This Fortified Wine From Spain Is Making a Comeback

As sherry experiences a resurgence in popularity on the coasts, Pax Americana is leading the charge at home.

By Katharine Shilcutt March 31, 2016 Published in the April 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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The Pixies, Doolittle, Track 1, Debaser

The Pixies, Doolittle, Track 1, Debaser: It’s a great name for a cocktail. So great, we didn’t even check the ingredients before ordering it at Pax Americana. Discovering a drink named for the band that defined much of our adolescence felt like fate intervening—and it was.

At first, it was hard to place the flavors mingling in the icy Collins glass. The drink was plummy, with a pronounced nuttiness, and tasted of sun-dried raisins. But then: “There are two different kinds of sherries in there,” owner Shepard Ross told us, stopping by the table. Oloroso and Pedro Ximenez—one nutty, one sweet.

The cocktail, an old-fashioned preparation known as a cobbler, is made by combining the two sherries with apple brandy, orange bitters, passion fruit, lime and apples, then pouring it all over a tall glass of crushed ice. It’s a cool, crisp concoction that will be tough to turn down as Houston days get hotter.

Sherry is experiencing a resurgence in popularity on the coasts, particularly in cocktails. But Ross admits the fortified Spanish wine is a tougher sell here in Houston—and not for lack of trying on his part, or that of other Houston bars such as Public Services and Julep. Many drinkers still associate sherry with Harveys Bristol Cream, the offensively sugary stuff that was trendy in the 1970s, made by blending several low-end sherries in one black-and-blue bottle.

While cocktails are a good intro to the spirit, sherry can also be enjoyed on its own, whether as an apéritif before a meal or an after-dinner digestif. And unlike Harveys, most sherries aren’t cloyingly saccharine. At Pax Americana, Ross stocks varieties ranging from nearly clear to caramel-thick, in flavors from super-dry, to briny and citrus-tinged (“That would pair really well with oysters and shellfish,” noted Ross), to decadently sweet and smooth (perfect with Brie or a slice of chocolate cake).

If you’re not sure which to choose, just ask your bartender to steer you in the right direction, said Ross. “There’s a sherry out there for everyone.”


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