Amongst wine connoisseurs, craft cocktail drinkers, and just the curious wine drinkers, a great deal of interest in sherry wines has been generated in recent years throughout Europe and North America alike.
It’s no wonder that so many curious travelers are looking to satiate their interest and drink sherry while on vacation in Spain. And for those who haven’t yet delved into the world of sherry, there’s no better place to do so than in Madrid (okay, well maybe in a sherry wine bodega in Jerez, but that’s for another trip in and of itself).
What is sherry wine?
For those who, at the mention of sherry, imagine a syrupy sweet wine only consumed by an elder member of their family, some clarification is in order, beginning with the basics of what, exactly, sherry wine is.
Sherry is a style of fortified wines coming from the denominación de origen of Jerez. Located in the southwest of Spain in the province of Cadiz, this is one of Spain’s winemaking regions with thousands of years of winemaking history thanks to the Phoenicians, who brought the first grapes to Iberia roughly 3,000 years ago. In order to be a sherry wine, it must come from one of the three towns which compose the Sherry Triangle: El Puerto de Santa María, Jerez de la Frontera and Sanlúcar de Barrameda.
Although most people think of sherry wines as excessively sweet, only cream and Pedro Ximenez (or P.X., as it’s also known) sherries are sweet. The remaining styles of fino, manzanilla, amontillado, oloroso and palo cortado are all dry, with the last three being oxidative wines which pair well with strong cheeses, game and the like. Their nutty and caramel finish has also made them extremely popular in the craft cocktail world both in Spain and abroad.
And so we could wax poetic for pages about all the subtle differences between a manzanilla and a fino, or how to pair which fish with which sherry, but the key is experiencing sherry wines for yourself. And although we’re some 450 kilometers away from the Jerez region, Madrid is one of the areas of Spain where a small community of chefs, bartenders, and restaurateurs are serving this uniquely Spanish wine to those of us who are sherry obsessed. Here are some of the best places in Madrid to drink sherry.
Top 5 Sherry Bars in Madrid
1. La Venencia
Originally opened in 1922, La Venencia is no secret, but we’d be remiss to leave off the list. Located in the heart of the Huertas district, this tavern popular amongst locals and travelers alike hasn’t changed much since the doors opened nearly 100 years ago. The wait staff note your order in chalk on the bar, don’t allow any tipping, only serve sherry wine, and prohibit guests from taking photographs inside.
Glasses of sherry vary in price from €1.90 to €2.20, with the option of ordering half bottles or bottles as well for less than €13. Each glass is served with a free tapa (chips, olives, or peanuts, depending on the sherry you order) and there is a great range of classic raciones from charcuterie and cheese to anchovies and mojama, a salt cured tuna product served with olives that goes marvelously with fino. This is a great bar to introduce yourself to the different styles of sherry in a historic setting with very reasonable prices.
Angelita kills two birds with one stone. Run by brothers David and Mario Villalón, upstairs is the simple and chic restaurant serving modern takes on Spanish classics (think oxtail cannelloni topped with sherry wine hollandaise sauce and wild foraged mushrooms) oftentimes utilizing ingredients from their parent’s farm in Zamora. Meanwhile, downstairs you have the American Bar serving fantastic cocktails.
The wine list is extensive—naturally with an incredible selection of sherries—while the cocktail bar downstairs incorporates sherry into several of their cocktails. The custom cheese plates are incredible and the sommeliers are happy to answer any questions while you’re on your path to falling in love with sherry.
3. Madrid & Darracott
Although technically a wine shop, Madrid & Darracott also offers wine tastings several times a week. It opened in 2019 and is run by previous Devour Madrid guide Luke Darracott, one of the many people whose contagious love for sherry inevitably rubbed off on me and has led me to write this very article.
Luke has an entire section of the shop dedicated to sherry. He’s more than happy to explain each wine and help buyers choose the perfect sherry wine to drink while on vacation in Madrid, or to take back home with you to convert your friends.
4. Casa Baranda
With the bar itself dating back to 1919, in 2016 the owners of the classic Malasaña establishment Bodega de la Ardosa acquired the space next door with the goal of bringing it back to its original glory as a bar specializing in sherries. Casa Baranda is similar to La Venencia in that the sherry is served in bulk directly from the casks into reusable bottles, and thus the prices are very economical. The zinc bar dates back to 1919 and the menu here has more options than La Venencia (the tortilla, patatas bravas, and fried eggplant are all musts).
Before a night out, I love stopping by Casa Baranda in the late afternoon for a glass of fino as for €3 they serve the classic Cádiz pairing of mojama (the previously mentioned salt cured tuna product) and fino with marcona almonds and a drizzle of olive oil. It is perfection. Be careful, however, as this is the kind of bar where one round turns into five and it’s midnight before you know it. Luckily you will be in Malasaña and your options are plenty to continue your night out.
5. Taberna Sanlúcar
Named after one of the three towns in the Sherry Triangle—Sanlúcar de Barrameda, the hometown of manzanilla—La Taberna Sanlúcar is the best possible way to travel down to the sherry region while staying in Madrid. It has everything I love in a Spanish tavern: simple food showcasing regional and seasonal produce (try the sea anemone fritter when available), extremely friendly wait staff, locals rubbing shoulders and sharing food and drinks, ice cold Alhambra beer, and of course a great selection of sherry.
The tortillitas de camarón—shrimp fritters made with chickpea flour typical in Cádiz—are a must. Recently I discovered their fried cod served with potato, olive oil, and roasted red pepper—another perfect bite. This is the kind of tavern that makes everything right in life.
Ready to take your love for sherry and more Spanish wines to the next level? Join Devour Tours guide Nika for a crash course in the wonderful world of Spanish wines (yes, including sherry!).