Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tasting Wine in a Cocktail Lounge?

Tasting wine in a cocktail lounge?

Well, actually, it makes sense---if the wine being tasted is fortified wine, and it comes from the revered Bodega Emilio Lustau; if the mixologists are just as interested in wine as in spirits; and if those same mixologists are busy whipping up some tasty and creative sherry-based cocktails.

The Oregon Bartenders Guild and Lemma Wine Company of Oregon sponsored a tasting of the fine sherries of Lustau at the Teardrop Lounge this week, and bartenders all over northern Oregon flocked to the event. It was standing room only, as Drake McCarthy (below, left), sherry authority and Lustau representative from Europvin Wines, gave the lowdown on Lustau, perhaps the finest producer of Sherry there is.

Drake also tasted the interested crowd on six of the sherries, from the delicate Manzanilla tangy with a fresh sea breeze, through Amontillado, Oloroso, East India, and a pure Pedro Ximenez.

Emilio Lustau Light Manzanilla Sherry, Solera Reserve "Papirusa"
...light, tart orchard fruits, and a wonderful aroma of salty sea breeze

Emilio Lustau Dry Amontillado Solera Reserva "Los Arcos"
...soft, nutty almond aromas, full bodied and dry with excellent acidity

Emilio Lustau Dry Oloroso Solera Reserve "Don Nuno"
...nutty, but with English Black Walnuts, pungent, smoky, rich and chocolatey

Emilio Lustau Deluxe Cream Reserva "Capotaz Andres"
...dark, concentrated, smoky, dried fruits and nuts; rich and complex

Emilio Lustau East India Sherry--Brown Sweet Oloroso Sherry
...remarkable! Super-concentrated, rich, smoky, complex, raisiny and loaded with dried citrus peel and spice. An outstanding example of sherry.

Emilio Lustau Pedro Ximenez Solera Reserva "San Emilio"
...fantastically rich, treacle-like, liquefied raisins and molasses syrup

When the formal tasting was concluded, the mixologists launched themselves into action, and in a flurry of peeling, stirring and shaking the crowd was presented with four delectable concoctions, all including a Lustau sherry.

Tommy Klus (Blue Hour), aka Tommy Tweed, used the Lustau Don Nuno Oloroso in a beautiful, and beautifully-presented, Sherry Cobbler (left). This would be a perfect summertime sipper. It's light, clean, citrusy tart and icy cold, and the sherry gives it just enough authority and emerging complexity of taste to make it compelling. There's a plus here too: on a sultry summer day this drink would be excellent, and the lower alcohol content of the sherry base means you can drink more of them! (And you'll want more than one.)

Jeff Morgenthaler (left) and Tommy Klus (right) work together to make their cocktails for the thirsty crowd.

Jeff Morgenthaler (Clyde Common) presented the crowd with a bigger, bolder entry, a Solera Club, mixing the Lustau Deluxe Cream with Cynar Artichoke liqueur, creme de peche, and absinthe. It was a beautiful harmony of fruit, herbs, and the nutty, smoky, raisiny richness of the Oloroso.

Also, do yourself a favor and check out Jeff Morgenthaler's fascinating blog, Not only is it a fun read of Jeff's exploits and ideas, it's a treaure trove of information about mixology. www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/

Daniel Shoemaker (Teardrop Lounge) seemed to be everywhere, both mixing his own cocktails and helping out his peers, keeping his bar running smoothly without ever actually appearing to be in a hurry. He contributed two fascinating cocktails to the mix,

Daniel's first cocktail was Muscat Love, a copita glass filled with a combination of Plymouth Gin, Lustau Moscatel de Chipiona (a Muscat-based sherry), bitter Bonal Gentiane liqueur, a dash of Bitter Truth Orange Bitters, and curly orange zest on top for garnish. The description "bittersweet" is apt here, for the cocktail lavishes with sweetness at one moment and lashes with stinging bitterness the next. The lush, soft, pungent sherry is in antipathy with the botanicals of gin and gentiane and bitters, but the tangy orange fruit zest brings them all into an armistice of rich flavor in the mouth. It's a brilliant display of putting the right flavors together in the right proportions for the right effect---which is as good a description of the art of mixology as I can think of.

Shoemaker's second and final cocktail creation was his Illuminations, where he used the impressive and richly flavored Lustau East India sherry to marvellous effect in a Sour format---with El Tesoro Reposado tequila, lemon juice, maple syrup and egg white. Illuminations will instantly dispell all those bad memories of ugly whiskey sours you may have had in your callow youth and replace it with this perfectly balanced version with the sour tang of lemon, the silky, nutty, spicy sweetness of sherry and maple, and the frothy touch of egg white.

Illuminations was illuminating.

There are two obvious takeaways here. First, the house of Emilio Lustau is making fine sherries that admirably serve in their traditional roles as aperitif and digestif wines. Second, that these same excellent sherries can be used as ingredients to make creative, tasty, engaging cocktails.

So don't let your Lustau linger in isolation in your cabinet---pull it out and get creative!


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