Taste: Spirits: Spin the Bottle

Wine finds a new place in our effervescent cocktail scene

If you’re a cocktail drinker in Philadelphia, times have never been better. And as a wine writer who has always enjoyed a cocktail as a prelude to dinner, my interest was piqued upon hearing that cocktails featuring wine were on the rise across the country, at venerable bars such as the Tar Pit in L.A. and Death & Co. in New York City.

So I headed over to the Franklin, with its maniacal focus on mixing nuanced concoctions, to challenge bartender Colin Shearn to invent a winefilled cocktail. We decided that sherry, the alluring Spanish sipping wine that already serves as a great aperitif, would make an ideal base. His mission: to create something new with this underutilized wine that would maintain sherry’s delicate nature.

Shearn started with a bottle of Pedro Romero Extra Dry manzanilla (from a well–regarded producer in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda; available at select state stores). He said his goal was to be certain the other ingredients complemented — and didn’t overpower — sherry’s salty flavor. After a few attempts that yielded notquiteright concoctions, inspiration hit. Noting that sherry is sometimes aged in old American whiskey barrels, Shearn tried variations with bourbon, and found an affinity between the two alcohols. When he added Aperol — an Italian aperitif similar to Campari — for a touch of bitterness, an outstanding drink emerged: The nutty sherry was balanced by spice from the bourbon, with a hint of complexity from the Aperol. When I asked what he’d like to call this drink, he replied, “I leave that to you. That’s the hard part.”


Death Rides a Pale Horse

Serves 1


1 1/2 ounces Pedro Romero Extra Dry manzanilla sherry
1/2 ounce Old GrandDad 114 proof bourbon
1/2 ounce Aperol
1/2 teaspoon simple syrup
2 dashes orange bitters
2 dashes absinthe

At least one hour before mixing drink, place a cocktail glass and a 16ounce mixing glass (pint glass) in refrigerator to chill. When ready to mix drink, fill the mixing glass with ice. Combine all ingredients and stir briskly until drink is very cold. Strain into chilled cocktail glass.