Call Yourself A Wine Enthusiast, But Have You Heard Of Sherry?
Image Credit: Unsplash

Sherry, a fortified wine, is occasionally called for in recipes, and while the amount required is normally minimal, sherry gives a distinct flavour and acidic quality that can greatly enhance the flavour of whatever meal you're creating. However, not everyone has sherry in their liquor closet, and we may not want to buy an entire bottle for only one tablespoon. Fortunately, there are a few sherry alternatives, both dry and sweet.

What Exactly Is Sherry?

Sherry originated in Spain and is created from white grapes, primarily Palomino, which creates dry sherry, and Pedro Ximenez, or "PX," which provides sweet sherry. Sherry is a fortified wine, which means it is prepared from fermented grapes and then fortified with distilled alcohol. Originally, this procedure was used to preserve the wine. Fortified wines include vermouth, port, Madeira, and marsala.

Dry Sherry And Sweet Sherry

Aside from the diverse grapes needed to make each sherry, dry and sweet sherries are also prepared differently. Dry sherry is made by adding the spirit after the sugar has been converted to alcohol, resulting in a less sweet, stronger wine. Adding distilled alcohol while fermentation is still in progress—typically grape spirit or brandy—kills the remaining yeast, resulting in more sugar and sweeter wine.

Drinking Sherry And Cooking Sherry

Cooking sherry is another sherry product that is offered. While drinking sherry is sold among other liquors such as vermouths and ports, cooking sherry is sold in the grocery aisle beside vinegar.

Cooking sherry differs from drinking sherry in that it contains a large amount of salt, which serves as a preservative but makes it unpalatable. Cooking sherry is excellent in savoury foods, but in desserts, the amount of salt will be too much. However, in addition to the salt, cooking sherry is a lower-quality wine, to begin with, therefore drinking sherry is always preferable.

Dry Sherry Substitutes

When seeking an ingredient substitution, the most obvious option is something similar. Because sherry is a fortified wine, any other fortified wine should work in its place. Another dry fortified wine, such as dry (white) vermouth, is your best bet. Madeira and marsala are also suitable in dried form. You can alternatively use a dry white wine such as sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, pinot blanc, or sémillon instead. Dry sparkling wines will also work in small quantities.

Sweet Sherry Substitutes

As with dry sherries, another sweet fortified wine is the finest substitute for sweet sherry. Port, which is often rich and sweet, and sweet vermouth, which is red rather than white, are two examples. Sweet Madeira and marsala are also excellent options. Red wines such as cabernet sauvignon, grenache, malbec, merlot, shiraz, or zinfandel, as well as sweet dessert wines such as muscat, gewurztraminer, or sauternes, will also work but will lack sweetness. If only a tiny amount of sherry is needed in the recipe, these wines should be fine.

Alcohol-Free Sherry Substitutes

If you don't have any wine or prefer not to cook with alcohol, there are a few non-alcoholic sherry substitutes to try.

Apple cider vinegar can be used in place of dry sherry. You can use it at full strength for tiny amounts, such as a tablespoon or two, but if the recipe calls for more, dilute the vinegar with water. For example, 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar and 1/2 cup water can be used in place of 1 cup dry sherry. This is most likely the greatest non-alcoholic replacement, especially for amounts of 1/2 cup or more. Add a pinch of sugar to the apple cider vinegar for a sweet sherry replacement.

Chicken stock and apple juice are other acceptable substitutes. If you need to replace lower amounts of sherry in sweet recipes, use a teaspoon of vanilla extract for every tablespoon of sherry called for. Just keep in mind that the more you substitute, the more your dish will deviate from the original.