October 18, 2011
Spiritual Quest: 5 Boozy Posts About our Current Cocktail Feature, Jerez Classics

Yesterday, Sarah, a Nopa regular from the neighborhood said that she likes to read the nopalize tumblr posts. Perfect! For only the second time someone has validated the hours of toiling away that could easily be afforded to a sleep deprived body. But nope. Instead on the ipad and interwebs scouting amusing and provoking content to bottle and share. So thanks, Sarah!

I’ve been feeling very vinous lately, so this week I wanted to look at cocktails. And this happens to be a very good time for us to do this since our current *spiritualJerez Classics, is probably my favorite bar feature in the year that I’ve worked here.

Spiritual in Nopalese means a roughly quarterly new listing of cocktails derivative of a place (a region) or base (spirit). But it is so much more than that. It is what Yanni calls a “solera” method of developing our cocktail list. The best drinks from each of these spiritual series eventually finds a permanent home on the list. It is the mind and mouthpiece of the Nopa bar.  

Yanni, the physical mouth and mind behind the Nopa Spiritual really digs sherry. We all do really. For instance, there are as many by-the-glass- sherry (and Madeira) listings as our sparkling, white and pink wines combined! But more importantly, these particular cocktails taste like they were crafted by someone who loves and understands sherry.

“A respectful blasphemy”

This is how Yanni describes his approach of the current feature. The concept is simple, but has yielded astoundingly delicious outcomes. Take classic cocktails and sub sherry for vermouth. But we’re not talking a blindly uniform approach here. The sherries selected-and the classics- are well conceived. This is why Yanni is the man. The concept is clever, kitschy even, but the application really delivers. It is a way to bring awareness and honor to the original cocktail while pushing forward on cocktail ingenuity. So, this week we take a walk through the Nopa spiritual.

First classic, the Alfonso Cocktail. The Alfonso cocktail was named after the Spanish King Alfonso VIII. Alfonso was allegedly exiled to France once the Spanish Civil War broke out. Although Alfonso sided with the military, their General decided Alfonso wasn’t fit to be the face aligned with the uprising. His opposition was a close friend of the General and came with inherent majority support among the military men. Alfonso was sent packing to Paris. 

But there must’ve been some facet of Spaniards with whom Alfonso enjoyed favor. How else would you end up with a cocktail named after you? In my world, that is ridiculously high praise. (Side note, if you find yourself at Zam Zam in Upper Haight on a Monday or Tuesday and ask a lovely Czech woman for a “Satterfield”, she will deliver. And so will the drink.) Anyway, the naming progression according to Yanni:Alfonso>Exile>Expatriate = Expat. 

The original recipe for the Alfonso is a Champagne cocktail. It calls for granulated sugar, Angostora bitters, Dubonnet and sparkling wine. I have to begin by saying I almost never, ever enjoy a cocktail with granulated sugar. I am far more into predominately spirituous and bitter cocktails. Even when I crave something lighter and cleaner, I prefer the sweet to come from the natural sweetness of an eau du vie, liqueur or fruit.  In a pinch, maple or agave, but something about putting straight sugar in a cocktail for me is unsettling. That said, it works really well here because the other components are absolutely dry/bitter and can easily withstand the dosing.

In the Alfonso, Dubonnet, the French, sweet and herbal fortified wine is subbed out for Vina AB Amontillado sherry. It is a pale, dry, fino sherry that has a completely different profile than that of Dubonnet. The decision is significant enough that comparisons between the two cocktails will need to end here. The sherry sets our Expat on a very different path. It comes off like a sparkling manzanilla; bone dry and intense sherry palate- except with bubbles. Wine dorks must feel me on this: Sparkling. Sherry. It is positively delicious.

The Expat fittingly sits atop the spiritual for its construction, but for me, its the best opening cocktail on our menu right now. Come check it out! 

  1. isawstephen posted this