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What can I use sherry wine for?

Sherry is a fortified wine that originates from the region of Jerez in Spain. It is made from white grapes grown near the city of Jerez de la Frontera in Andalusia, Spain. Sherry has a unique production method that involves oxidizing the wine in a deliberate manner after fermentation. This gives sherry its distinctive nutty, briny flavors. There are many styles of sherry ranging from dry and crisp to sweet and syrupy. The versatility of sherry makes it a very useful ingredient in cooking and cocktails.

What is Sherry Wine?

Sherry is a fortified wine that can only be produced in the “Sherry Triangle” region of southwest Spain. The three cities that make up the Sherry Triangle are Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, and El Puerto de Santa María. Sherry starts off as a fairly neutral white wine made from Palomino grapes. After the initial fermentation, sherry makers add grape brandy to the wine to boost the alcohol content. The wines are then aged using the solera system where wines of different ages are blended together. As the wines age and oxidize under a layer of yeast called flor, they develop the distinctive nutty, briny flavors associated with sherry.

There are two main styles of sherry – Fino and Oloroso. Fino sherries are very dry and crisp with yeasty flavors. Oloroso sherries are darker, richer, and nuttier with flavors of walnuts, dried fruits, caramel, and spice. Blended sherries like Cream sherry and Amontillado offer flavors in between the two styles. Sweet sherries are made by blending dry sherries with Pedro Ximenez (PX) or Moscatel grape musts. Tio Pepe, Manzanilla, and Pedro Ximenez are some classic labels of sherry.

Cooking with Sherry

The unique flavors of sherry make it a very useful cooking ingredient. Here are some of the ways sherry can be used in cooking:


After roasting or sautéing meat, deglazing the pan with a bit of sherry helps release the delicious browned bits stuck to the bottom. Add 1/4 cup of dry sherry like Fino to the hot pan and scrape up the flavorful drippings. This sauce can then be drizzled back over the meat.


The bold flavors of oloroso or PX sherry can amplify the taste of meat in a marinade. For seafood like shrimp, a dry fino adds nice briny notes. Use 1/4 cup sherry per 1 pound of protein and let marinate for 30 minutes up to overnight.

Pot roasts or braises

Add a few splashes of sherry when braising meat like short ribs or oxtails. The sherry adds depth of flavor and helps tenderize the meat. Make sure to reduce the braising liquid to thicken after cooking.

Risottos or paellas

Dry sherries like Fino or Manzanilla make an excellent addition to seafood risottos or paellas. The light nuttiness pairs perfectly with creamy rice and shellfish. Start with a 1/4 cup of sherry and add more to taste.

Soups and stews

Add sherry towards the end of cooking soups and stews for extra complexity. Try adding 2-3 tablespoons of medium or cream sherry to mushroom, butternut squash, or chicken soup recipes.

Pan sauces and gravies

For steak, chop, or poultry pan sauces, deglaze with 2-3 tablespoons of dry oloroso sherry after browning. For gravies, add 1-2 tablespoons of cream sherry to the stock or drippings.

Chocolate and desserts

Sweet cream or PX sherries can add interesting flavor layers to chocolate desserts like mousses, pots de crème, or chocolate sauce. Start with 2-3 tablespoons and taste as you go.

Sherry Type Flavor Profile Culinary Uses
Fino Very dry, light, tangy Deglazing, seafood risottos, marinades
Manzanilla Delicate, salty, briny Seafood stews, green salads
Amontillado Dry, roasted nuts, caramel Red meat stews, gravies
Oloroso Rich, nutty, dried fruit Marinades, braises, glazes
Cream Sweet, toffee, vanilla Desserts, pan sauces
PX Very sweet, dark fruit, prune Chocolate, baked goods

Cocktails with Sherry

The unique flavors of sherry also make it an excellent cocktail ingredient. Here are some classic sherry cocktails recipes:

Sherry Cobbler

– 2 ounces sherry (Fino or amontillado)
– 1/2 ounce simple syrup
– Orange slice and seasonal berries for garnish

Pour sherry and simple syrup into a wine glass filled with crushed ice. Stir gently to combine. Garnish with orange and berries.


– 1 1/2 ounces Fino sherry
– 1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
– 2 dashes orange bitters
– Lemon twist for garnish

Combine sherry, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Tuxedo No. 2

– 1 1/2 ounces gin
– 1 1/2 ounces dry vermouth
– 1/4 ounce Fino sherry
– 3 dashes maraschino liqueur
– Lemon twist for garnish

Combine gin, vermouth, sherry and maraschino liqueur in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.


– 1 1/2 ounces cream sherry
– 1 1/2 ounces sweet vermouth
– 2 dashes orange bitters
– Orange twist for garnish

Combine sherry, vermouth and bitters in a mixing glass filled with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.

Cooking Substitutes

If you don’t have sherry on hand, here are some possible substitutes:

– Dry white wine – Use a dry white wine like Sauvignon Blanc in place of dry sherries like Fino. The flavor won’t be exact but it will work.

– Sweet white wine – For sweet sherries, opt for a sweet white wine like Gewürztraminer or Riesling.

– Apple cider vinegar – The tanginess of cider vinegar can mimic dry sherries in sauces and marinades. Use less vinegar than the amount of sherry called for.

– Non-alcoholic options – For cooking, you can use chicken or vegetable stock, apple juice, or ginger ale in place of sherry.

– Port – While not a perfect sub, the rich sweetness of Port is similar to sweet Sherry styles.

– Madeira – The nutty oxidative qualities of Madeira make it a reasonable stand-in for Oloroso or amontillado sherry.

Where to Buy Sherry

While sherry was historically more popular, it has declined in consumption over the past few decades. However, many liquor stores will carry at least a few styles such as:

– Fino or Manzanilla – Very dry, light, delicate
– Amontillado – Medium dry, nutty flavor
– Oloroso – Dry to sweet, rich walnut and spice flavors
– Cream Sherry – Sweet, treacly, dessert-like

Some restaurants may also have a small selection of sherries available. Spanish restaurants or wine-focused establishments will be more likely to carry various styles. If you have trouble finding it, consider asking your local liquor store if they can special order some sherry for you to try. Online wine retailers will also have a large variety available.

Serving and Pairing Sherry

While most wines are served chilled, sherry has a wider acceptable serving temperature range. Lighter styles like Fino and Manzanilla are best served well-chilled around 46-50°F. Fuller-bodied Oloroso and cream sherries can be served at room temperature between 60-68°F.

When pairing sherry, think about matching intensities. Delicate finos pair well with light seafood, salads and appetizers. Fuller amontillados and olorosos stand up to hearty stews, braised meats and ripe cheeses. Sweet sherries are excellent with desserts.

Here are some sherry pairing suggestions:

– Manzanilla – Oysters, ceviche, sushi, tapas
– Fino – Goat cheese, fried calamari, grilled fish
– Amontillado – Mushroom risotto, chicken caccaitore
– Oloroso – Aged hard cheeses, pot roast, barbecue
– Cream Sherry – Crème brûlée, apple pie, cheesecake
– PX Sherry – Chocolate cake, pecan pie, dried fruits


With its versatility in cooking and cocktails along with a wide range of styles, sherry is a very useful wine to have on hand in your kitchen. Dry sherries provide a boost of flavor to seafood, chicken, and vegetable dishes. Fuller, nutty sherries add richness to heartier meat stews and braises. Sweet sherries lend their raisined fruit character to desserts and chocolate confections. Savor a glass of sherry before dinner or try your hand at a classic sherry cocktail like the Bamboo or Sherry Cobbler. With a few bottles of sherry in your collection, you’ll be prepared to whip up an endless variety of delicious treats.