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Winter Drinks At Home

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Winter weekend entertaining at home revolves around the fire place, the kitchen and the bar. Huddled together we warm our hearts (and our tummies) while sipping cold weather cocktails. I love winter evenings when time seems to move slower and the hurried pace of the week melts away.- I also love showing off some new drink or exotic concoction that is a bit out of the norm and this year, it is all about sherry. 

I have been working with Alexandro Sherry in creating a series of ideas, serving suggestions and holiday tips to showcase the many ways of serving sherry. Alexandro Sherry is produced by Aecovi, a cooperative consisting of 1,200 wine growers in Spain's famed Sherry Triangle.

As children, we spend our holidays in our cortijo outside of Sevilla where we grow olives, wheat and alfalfa together with horses, sheep and brave bulls and so, adore anything to do with the authentic Andalucian countryside. Sherry is part of that mixture and being to able to share this with my friends, the highlight of this year’s celebrations.

Andalucia, with its deep Roman roots and Moorish influences, is the land of flamenco music, bullfighting and dark-eyed ladies with carnations tucked in their hair. But it is also touched by a heavy dose of Anglomania. Many old-fashioned British traditions exist there to this day. Perhaps we have sherry to thank for that. The sherry industry, centered in Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria, is as booming today as it was in the 17th century, when the export of sherry wines and brandy established an enduring connection with England.

British savoir faire may be considered the ultimate in elegance, but transported to southern Spain that elegance receives a strong dose of Spanish fun. What results is an explosive concoction of propriety and hilarity – the British stiff upper lip meets the nonchalant mañana culture. This oddly charming mixture is most apparent in this chapter, where classic British cocktails are given a touch of Spanish alegria.

My own education in libations was nearly a birthright. My godfather, Alfonso Domecq, of the notable sherry family, was married to my father’s sister Silvia. They were my favorite aunt and uncle, she incredibly charming and beautiful, he so attractive and debonair. Every year I would spend a few days with them in Jerez, where I visited bodegas, sipped extraordinary wines and brandies and walked among chalk-marked barrels dating from the 1700s. I saw Napoleon’s signature, Empress Eugenia’s personal barrel of wine and watched in awe as the catador dispensed a perfect serving of sherry from a barrel with a mere flip of his wrist.

Many classic drinks and certain foods of Andalucia were inherited from the British, then changed to suit the tastes of the Andalucian people. They remain, however, in essence, totally British. We sipped minted iced tea on warm summer afternoons, had Bullshots on chilly winter mornings before partridge shoots and made Bloody Mary before grand Sunday lunches. We didn’t really need an occasion for raising a glass, though. Growing up, a visit from the Domecq cousins always meant a heavy round of drinks and loads of fun.

Remembering good times and creating new memories is what holidays are all about. I could mark the passing of years with the “house cocktail” or the menu we created for each one. Sherry offers a wide range of flavors and uses, from the dry fino, excellent paired with tapas and soups to the very sweet and incredibly delicious Pedro Ximenez. I urge you to pick up a couple of different ones and give them a try. Really.- 

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