If Only Hemingway Had Drunk Sherry

At this time of year cock­tails in the garden have a glam­or­ous appeal, even if they neces­sit­ate coats, boots and gloves. My new favour­ite ingredi­ent for a cock­tail is sherry, for far too long a com­edy drink. Shakespeare, Edgar Allen Poe and Benito Pérez Galdós all wrote about sherry; the Poet Laur­eate gets paid in the stuff. But des­pite all their best efforts, sherry has remained fatally tied to the likes of the repressed and punc­tili­ous Mr Banks from Mary Pop­pins who drank a glass of sherry each night at 6.02pm precisely.

Sherry’s struggle to be cool has been dam­aged too by the abom­in­able schooner glass. Shaped like a dis­mal 1970s bell­bot­tom trouser leg and with a stumpy little stem, it’s as far from cool as left is from right. I should say, though, that even the dread­ful schooner is prefer­able to the glass I was once served sherry in. The cir­cu­lar base of the ugly, mis­ted glass had snapped off, leav­ing only a spike at the bot­tom. ‘There’s a pot-plant on the window-sill’, the parsi­mo­ni­ous host­ess said. ‘If you want to put the glass down, just stick it in the bougainvillea.’

If only someone dan­ger­ously trans­gress­ive like Ern­est Hem­ing­way had drunk sherry. If he’d been known to growl ‘Bring me a sherry on the rocks, and make it snappy’, things could have been so dif­fer­ent over the long, lean years of sherry’s 20th Cen­tury. But all that is start­ing to change. Vodka is on the wane and sherry is sud­denly the Fiat 500 of the drinks world. Less alco­holic, more retro and infin­itely more desirable.

I’ve just been sent a bottle of Har­veys Bris­tol Cream, now pack­aged in a dis­tinct­ive blue glass bottle. Its rich, round, sweet taste is per­fect for a sum­mer cock­tail, even if the prom­ise such a drink holds of long, lan­guor­ous sun-lit even­ings is end­lessly snatched from us by granite-grey skies. I love the the­at­ric­al­ity of cock­tails; the mix­ing, the shak­ing, the twizz­ling and the whole fan­dango. My cre­ation is called Hemingway’s Neo­lo­gism because it’s a drink he never encountered and would most likely have turned his nose up at. But my bet is that he would have loved it, if the rum and whisky hadn’t fin­ished him off first. And if he’d stuck to the low-alcohol count of Hemingway’s Neo­lo­gism he would never have needed to say ‘Always do sober what you said you’d do drunk. That will teach you to keep your mouth shut.’

The trick with cock­tails is to make the ice-cubes out of a com­pon­ent of the cock­tail itself. As the cubes melt you simply get more fla­vour, rather than a watered down ver­sion of what you star­ted with. In this case, I made chubby ice-rolos out of pomegranate juice.

HEMINGWAY’S NEOLOGISM

  • I part chilled Har­veys Bris­tol Cream
  • 2 parts pomegranate juice
  • 3 parts chilled ginger ale
  • Hand­ful of pomegranate ice cubes
  • Sprig of mint

Com­bine all the ingredi­ents and pour into long glasses.

I wish I could pour you a glass of Hemingway’s Neo­lo­gism per­son­ally. But since I can’t, I’m serving you a syn­aes­thetic vir­tual drink instead. Stare at this allium for a count of five and it will startle your senses in the same way that the actual drink would. Sherry’s new role as a drink so sharp you could slice a loaf with it, suits it so much bet­ter than a schooner ever did. Like Willy Wonka’s square sweets that looked round, sherry is now a cold drink that’s sud­denly hot. Mr Banks would hate it.