Tequila and Sherry Together Again: La Perla

Old drinks can be a lot of fun. Retracing a drink's history means uncovering obscure details about more than just ingredients and techniques from the past. Understanding the way that cocktails, and alcohol in general, impacted not only American culture and social practices but those worldwide situates current trends within  a larger historical context. Regardless of whether a cocktail has stood the test of time, each mixture of disparate ingredients has a story, true or not, and a place in history, large or small. Unearthing these fragments of information can influence the way that a contemporary drinker thinks about what's in his or her glass, as well as the circuitous route various ingredients have taken to get there.

The flip side is that all of this research can be terribly exhausting. For example, over the past few months I have been delving into the history of the Corpse Reviver No 2. Trying to juggle all of the minute details can make writing a simple blog post an hours' long endeavour. Usually for each answer--or more realistically, each hypothesis--that is actually discoverable, some level of interpretation is required that inevitably just leads to more questions. Fascinating, yes. Time-consuming, equally yes. And while I love delving into all of the details about locations and personalities, contemporary cocktails serve as well-needed change of pace.

Most recognizable classics achieved their status because someone decided that a recipe was worthy of being physically collected in a cocktail recipe book--sometimes many people agreed over and over. Many modern recipes will never make it into print, regardless of their worth. It is simply the nature of the contemporary. No one can guess what will become classic in say fifteen years. Current and classic are always mutually exclusive. Thus, modern drinks don't carry the weight of history. It is quite a blessing. It would be impossible for a cocktail created in the last ten years to have 100 years of history. And because of this, managing the specific details becomes a lot easier. Sometimes even tracking down an actual recipe can be the biggest challenge. Sure there can be frustrating moments, as certain details will be unavailable, but that could also be said for an obscure classic.

While most of my research has revolved around the Corpse Reviver, I have been quite obsessed with drinking cocktails that include both tequila and sherry. These cocktails are all quite new. Tequila-based cocktails were not widely collected in early cocktail books, aside from the UKBG's Cafe Royal Cocktail Book. Tequila did not gain widespread popularity until the margarita became fashionable with the  Hollywood set in the late 1940s. This is another reason why modern cocktails are so interesting: by using ingredients that were either not readily available or had not even been invented yet, current bartenders can explore new and different flavor combinations. And this is the best reason of all to engage with current cocktails: they harness the creativity of an age and are constantly push the boundaries of taste.

La Perla

1 1/2 ounces reposado tequila
1 1/2 ounces manzanilla sherry
3/4 ounce pear liqueur

Combine ingredients in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Notes on Ingredients: I used Milagro reposado tequila, Pur Spirits pear liqueur, and Barbadillo sherry.

One of the first published cocktails to utilize both tequila and sherry and gain notoriety is the La Perla, created by Jacques Bezuidenhout, who won the National Sherries of Spain cocktail contest with it in 2005. The interaction between the smoky, lightly aged reposado and the nutty dry flavors of the manzanilla is highlighted in this austere three-ingredient cocktail. The inclusion of the pear liqueur surprised me, but I found the taste quite lovely. The most pivotal ingredient, however, was the lemon twist. The essential oils add a great amount of depth to the cocktail and fuse together the sweetness of the pear liqueur with the more savory tequila-sherry combination.

Though this cocktail was originally intended as a tequila aperitif, the pear liqueur's sweetness became more apparent as the drink warmed up. While this is by no means a shortcoming, I would not place this cocktail in the same category as a Martini or a Negroni, the more famous of the aperitif cocktails. Instead, this cocktail would work well in any situation that a would call for a Manhattan or other spirit-forward cocktail that has a touch of sweetness.

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