Sherry cooking wine is a cheap wine that has been flavored and colored to mimic true Sherry. Cooking Sherry is never drunk as is and is not used to make cocktails or other beverages. It differs from true Sherry, which is a fortified wine that is only produced in a specific region in Spain.
Cooking Sherry Characteristics
Cooking Sherry is intended to be used in dishes where a splash of alcohol and sweetness is desired. While cooking Sherry can add flavor and color to foods, it more often adds bitterness and astringency from the harsh, cheap wine used to make its base. In "Cooking Light," writer Karen MacNeil recommends using drinking Sherry -- rather than cooking Sherry -- in cooking for a more pleasant taste.
The Drinking Kind
Drinking Sherry comes from the south of Spain, specifically the Andalucia region. There are six types of drinking Sherry, each produced in a specific region of Andalucia. They all have distinctive taste profiles, but as fortified wines, they contain between 15 to 20 percent alcohol. Sherry is often naturally sweet, but not cloyingly so, and have a pronounced fruit flavor.
Cooking with Drinking Sherry
Of the many drinking Sherry varieties, Amontillado and Oloroso are among the best to cook with. Amontillado's are produced from high quality Sherry that could not meet the exacting standards for producing a more refined drink. The taste changes that result because of this -- Amontillados have a woodsy, nutty taste -- make it perfect for roast dishes and hearty soups. Olorosos are produced similarly to Amontillados, where oxidation encourages rich, nutty, umami-rich flavors.
A Splash of Sherry
Use drinking Sherry to marinate meats as a replacement for the wine or acid in your favorite recipe. Because of its rich, warm flavor, Sherry works well with cool weather dishes, such as braised pork stew with roasted potatoes. Reduce Sherry-flavored marinades to make into a sauce for roasted meats, such as a fruity sauce for roast pheasant or chicken. To quickly increase the depth of flavor in sauces or soups, add a small amount of Sherry just at the end, stirring in with butter to enliven the liquid.