The Del Rio

By Jonathan Sharpe
Wednesday, February 19, 2014
Photo by Jonathan Sharpe

Challenge 1: Name three or more cocktails that use tequila as a base. If you can do that: a) you’re a good bartender; b) you’re a cocktail nerd; c) you’re looking things up on your smartphone; d) both b) and c). Challenge 2: Name one or more cocktails that incorporate sherry. If you can do that: see above. (Admittedly, I answered d) to both.)

Bar trivia aside, it’s rare to see tequila poured into anything other than a salt-rimmed glass or a shot here in the bourbon-soaked Southeast. It’s rarer still to see sherry used for anything other than making a mushroom sauce or getting your grandparents tipsy, but both deserve more respect as cocktail components. Tequila and sherry, that is — not your grandparents.

Cocktail writer Camper English summed up the relationship between these two ingredients in a way that should speak volumes to anyone who enjoys a Manhattan or a Rob Roy: “Sherry is to tequila as vermouth is to whiskey.” In a Feb. 20, 2011, San Francisco Chronicle article, English describes the love affair between tequila and sherry happening in more metropolitan parts of the country, and includes a recipe for the Del Rio by Josh Harris of the cocktail consultancy Bon Vivants, which I’ve adapted for this week’s drink, using ingredients I had at home.

Aside: Drinking sherry may not yet be trendy here, but there’s another southern place where it’s never gone out of style: Andalucia, Spain, where it’s been enjoyed chilled and paired with thinly sliced jamón for eons. We know a thing or two about cured pork and drinking around here, so who knows? Maybe it’ll catch on.

Meantime, if you’d like to try a good fino sherry, Morganelli’s wine buyer James Alford recommends the crisp, dry and nutty Tio Pepe fino muy seco (15
percent ABV, $16.99).

And now for a tequila and sherry cocktail, Josh Harris’ Del Rio:

1 1/2 oz. tequila plata (substitution: reposado)
3/4 oz. fino sherry
3/4 oz. St. Germain elderflower liqueur
3 dashes Angostura orange bitters (substitution: grapefruit bitters)

Place all liquid ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, stir for about 15 to 20 seconds and strain into a cocktail glass. Zest a small (1.5-inch) piece of grapefruit peel (substitution: clementine) over the drink, run it around the rim of the glass and drop into the drink.

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