Andalusia, with its deep Roman roots and Moorish influences, is the land of flamenco music, bullfighting and dark-eyed ladies with carnations tucked in their hair. But it is also touched by a heavy dose of Anglo mania. Many old-fashioned British traditions exist there to this day. Perhaps we have sherry to thank for that. The sherry industry, centered in Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa Maria, is as booming today as it was in the 17th century, when the export of sherry wines and brandy established an enduring connection with England.
British savoir-faire may be considered the ultimate in elegance, but transported to southern Spain that elegance receives a strong dose of Spanish fun. What results is an explosive concoction of propriety and hilarity –the British stiff upper lip meets the nonchalant mañana culture. This oddly charming mixture is most apparent when classic British cocktails are given a touch of Spanish alegria.
My own education in libations was nearly a birthright. My godfather, Alfonso Domecq, of the notable sherry family, was married to my father’s sister Silvia. They were my favorite aunt and uncle, she incredibly charming and beautiful, he so attractive and debonair. Every year I would spend a few days with them in Jerez, where I visited bodegas, sipped extraordinary wines and brandies and walked among chalk-marked barrels dating from the 1700s. I saw Napoleon’s signature, Empress Eugenia’s personal barrel of wine and watched in awe as the catador dispensed a perfect serving of sherry from a barrel with a mere flip of his wrist.
Many classic drinks and certain foods of Andalusia were inherited from the British, then changed to suit the tastes of the Andalusian people. They remain, however, in essence, totally British. We sipped minted iced tea on warm summer afternoons, had Bullshots on chilly winter mornings before partridge shoots and made Bloody Mary before grand Sunday lunches. We didn’t really need an occasion for raising a glass, though. Growing up, a visit from the Domecq cousins always meant a heavy round of drinks and loads of fun.
This close relative of the Bloody Mary was my father’s favorite drink. He always ordered one at the legendary King Cole Bar in the St. Regis Hotel during his visits to New York. It is there that the Bloody Mary as we know it today was born. This concoction is an especially sensational prelude to a long, leisurely lunch on a cold day. Make it with good quality organic beef broth, and season it to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Add a splash of tomato juice to the glass to create another Bloody Mary relation, the “Bloody Bull.”
Ingredients [Makes 6 drinks]
4 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
2 cups vodka
In a 2-quart pitcher, combine the broth, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and lemon juice. Stir until incorporated. Add the vodka and stir again. Fill 6 double old-fashioned glasses with ice and pour the Bullshot mixture into each one. ■