As we ease into another futile bank holiday, eagerly waiting for permission from Boris to step outside, there’s a delicious shortcut to feeling summery: fortified wines. It’s not a wine with a moat and some fancy crenellations, but rather wine that’s been given a bit of a lift with some spirits and sugar, and in some cases mellowed out with herbs and spices. We’re going to talk about 3 fortified wine categories today, with a recipe for each.
But first, go empty your ice trays and refill in anticipation of toasting the Tolpuddle martyrs all weekend.
Not just your nans drink, sherry is an incredible category that gets so much play from modern bartenders because of the sheer complexity each type offers. Many people are familiar with Bristol Cream sherry, and associate it with their elder female relatives at christmas, and that blend is actually a delicious way to civilly sloshed and put up with Young People’s Music and Opinions while you wait for your tea, but the component types of sherry that go into are all also worth a lot of your time.
Fino & Manzanilla
Tio Pepe is the brand you’ll see in the UK, mostly. It’s a bracingly dry, pale coloured liquid that can often be swapped for dry vermouths in recipes for a bit of a change. But really, drink it ice cold with some nice almonds, posh olives and a bit of Swiss or French hard cheese and it’s transformative; you’ll feel like you’re sat in a leafy square in Europe discussing dialectics with a quirkily handsome academic in no time.
A touch sweeter than fino, with a very thirst quenching saltiness, Manzanilla is a favourite of mine served with tonic. Both types of sherry are aged in barrels under a protective layer of ‘flor’, yeast which floats to the surface and protects the sherry from oxidising.
Amontillado and Oloroso
These are getting a little sweeter; the flor has either been removed, in the case of Amontillado, or never grew due to extra spirits added at the start of aging in Oloroso. What this results in is much more oxidisation of the sherry, giving sweeter, nuttier flavour profiles. Still works great with food, still works great with tonic.
The sweetest of the sherries, made with grapes that have been dried to allow their sugars to intensify, making a much sweeter wine to start with, which is then aged to really amplify it’s raisin-y sweetness. Try it over vanilla ice cream.
An Every Cloud classic, this is a super simple, unbelievably thirst quenching drink.
35ml Fino Sherry
25ml Peach Schnapps (Archers is fine!)
Top with cranberry juice
The word vermouth originates in the German word for Wormwood, Vermut, and this is the secret of vermouths, as well as being fortified with brandies and other spirits, and sweetened, they are infused with a assortment of herbs including wormwood.
Red vermouths are generally referred to as Sweet, or Italian vermouths, though some, like Punt e Mes, are really not so sweet, and others like Dolin Rouge are not particularly Italian. White vermouths, or french vermouth, are similarly confusing and poorly labelled, especially as they could be ‘dry’ or ‘blanco’. To compound the weirdness even more, most ‘red’ vermouths are made with white wine anyway, then coloured with caramel.
Ultimately, though, this doesn’t matter too much. Close your eyes and you probably couldn’t tell what colour most vermouths were from flavour alone, and the serve I’m going to recommend works great with either.
75ml Sweet or Dry vermouth
Top with lemonade
That’s it. That’s the drink.
Yep, it’s from a William Gibson book, and yes it’s delicious. I have no idea where I picked up the idea that this is the recipe for the drink in the book, but I’m writing this so shut up.
Port can cover a myriad of different drinks, mainly connected by their origins in Porto, Portugal. Tawny and Ruby ports tend to be a lot sweeter, and due to being aged for really quite a long time, even in the case of cheaper and more commercial producers, very complicated. They also, in my experience, give a hangover like nothing else.
White port is another matter entirely; sweeter than a dry sherry but with some similarities in the flavour profile, it’s a gift for mixing up into summer drinks like this Sangria:
White Port Sangria
700ml White Port
500ml Grapefruit juice
2 dozen basil leaves, torn and lightly bruised
Slices of grapefruit, orange, lemon (whatever you have)