Fortified for Your Tasting Pleasure

With the holiday season officially over we move past the Scrooge of a theme from last month’s MxMo and move forward unto a classic and very underutilized ingredient, fortified wine.  A fortified wine is basically wine that has had it’s alcohol percentage increased to help prevent spoilage which was a common factor in the early days of exploration, travel & shipping, especially during sea voyages.  Jordan Devereaux of Chemistry of the Cocktail has this to say about his theme choice for Mixology Monday LXIX:

“Fortified wines began, in large part, as a way to deal with the difficulties of shipping wine long
distances in the holds of sailing ships. Without the rigorous sterilization that is possible today, wines would often spoil en route. However, increasing the alcohol concentration to around 20% ABV was enough to keep them from going off. Coincidentally, this also made it possible to age those wines for very long periods, increasing their richness and depth.

These wines held an important place in the ur-cocktails of punch and have continued on in cocktails proper, the personal punches of the past several hundred years. Though less common nowadays, sherry, port, and, to a lesser extent, madeira and marsala, all find their way into various mixed drinks.

For this month’s Mixology Monday, I’d like to see what you all can do with these versatile wines. They can play many different roles – from taking the place of vermouths in classic drinks, to providing richness and sweetness in winter tipples, to serving as a base for lighter aperitifs. Whether forgotten classics or new creations, let’s see what you can put together.”

Now, while vermouth’s fall under the veil of fortified wines, they are, however, infused with herbs, spices, botanicals and usually sugar to give them a unique character and purpose.  And since vermouth has already been used as a previous MxMo theme, Jordan challenges us to use the less common sherries, Madeiras and ports for our cocktail canvas.  I’ve dabbled here and there with both sherry and port in a couple previous posts, the Spanish Inquisition and Perfect Storm utilized sweet Pedro Ximenez sherry and luscious Ruby Port, respectively.  Because both of these usually fall under rich and sweet style of aperitifs, they can be difficult and overwhelming to deal with.

I have opted to use sherry as my base for this month’s theme as I like how it plays well with many different spirits and you tend to have a bit more creative control and choices of what style you want to use.  Sherries are predominately produced from Palomino grapes grown around the province of Cadiz, Spain, near the town of Jerez de la Frontera.  They produce many different styles of sherry ranging from the dry, light Fino and Manzanilla style to the rich and creamy Pedro Ximenez and Moscatel styles.

I have decided to opt for Amontillado style sherry since it is a bit more complex and slightly sweeter and more alcohol than Fino but by no means as rich as the Pedro Ximenez and it plays well with so many different base spirits such as gin, brandy and even rye.  However, I think that since this is such a unique ingredient to use, we need to showcase the wonderful characteristics of a quality Spanish sherry as the base of our cocktail.  In fact, I like the idea of pairing it with another fortified wine, vermouth, specifically a bitter quinine laced vermouth, and a nice Italian amaro to birth a rich and deeply flavored aperitif style cocktail.

The Long Journey
1 1/2 oz Amontillado Sherry
1 oz Cynar
1/2 oz Bonal Gentaine Quina
Dash of Bittermens Orchard Street Celery Shrub
Lemon Peel for Garnish

Stir with ice, strain into a chilled cocktail glass.  Express lemon peel, garnish and enjoy.

Color:  Deep brown tones with a little clarity

Flavor:  Rich, full flavored with notes of honey, bitter herbs, vegetable, lemon and plum

Texture:  Full, creamy mouth feel with a long finish

Thanks Jordan for hosting a greatly under appreciated ingredient and please make sure to make your way over to his website, Chemistry of the Cocktail and Mixology Monday to see what other wonderful concoctions await.  Cheers!

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