I Am Trying to Make Sherry Mojitos Happen
Photo by the author. 


This story is over 5 years old.


I Am Trying to Make Sherry Mojitos Happen

Some people choose a song of the summer or have ill-fated summer flings with Spanish bartenders. I like to designate a drink of the summer.
Phoebe Hurst
London, GB

As human beings, we make sense of the world through our rituals. We wake up each morning and eat the same bowl of muesli; we do big shops on Sunday afternoons, and smooth rosewater serums over our faces each night before bed. When we get into cars with our siblings, many years after clambering into back seats holding school bags and iPod Shuffles, we sit on the same side as we did in Year Eight.

These repeated motions become most obvious at the changing of the seasons, when we are reminded that nature is basically one never-ending series of rituals, and align ourselves accordingly. Roll-neck jumpers in winter; nostalgia for pencil cases and new-term crushes when autumn begins; bleached hair in the springtime.


Summer is the most symbolic time of year in our minds. Some of us express this by choosing a song of the summer or having ill-fated summer flings with Spanish bartenders. Others go on holiday to the same Norfolk seaside town every year and walk the same stretch of coast in the same British summertime drizzle (s/o to my parents). But I like to choose a Drink of the Summer.

Much like the song of the summer, the Drink of the Summer is adaptable: suitable for drinking on your mate’s shit balcony and blasting from car stereos with the windows down, but also classy enough to order at one of those nice canalside bars and play at a family barbecue without startling elderly relatives. What it doesn’t require is longevity. By the time you realise that the sort-of-thing you had going with the guy you snogged at Gottwood won’t survive August, the Drink of the Summer is over—blown away in the early autumn breeze, along with the Boohoo sundresses and Instagram Stories of Croatian music festivals.

Photo via Flickr user Cafe Morgal.

Some drinks of summers past: in 2017, natural wine; in 2016, frosé; 2015 was the summer of the Aperol Spritz; 2014, orange wine; and in 2013, espresso martinis.

As a food journalist, I receive a lot of press releases telling me what this year’s Drink of the Summer will be. In March, PR reps begin sending excited emails, promising that aquavit is the tipple everyone is going to be sipping this summer or that a bartender in Fitzrovia has perfected the ultimate summer Pimm’s—with a twist! I ignore all of it. The search for the Drink of the Summer is a deeply personal journey, beginning the moment it is warm enough to stand outside a pub wearing a T-shirt. Only your heart can say which Italian aperitif or slushified wine you will spend the next six weeks becoming pleasantly faded on in overcrowded beer gardens.


Earlier this year, I went on holiday to Spain and drank little glasses of ice-cold sherry that tasted so good, I considered moving to Seville to work in a tapas bar (or at least doing Duolingo Spanish for a bit). Back home, London was beginning to emerge, pasty-skinned and vitamin D-deficient, from what felt like a decade-long nuclear winter. The time for the Drink of the Summer was firmly now, but sherry alone wouldn’t do the job. Nothing about fortified wine says “refreshing” “summer” “vibes.” How could I switch sherry into summer deluxe mode?

Much like the song of the summer, The Drink of the Summer is adaptable: suitable for drinking on your mate’s shit balcony but also classy enough to order at one of those nice canalside bars.

The answer came a week after I returned from holiday. My boyfriend went to a wedding I was secretly pleased not to have been invited to as a plus-one because it was somewhere in the countryside and the invitation included a list of suggested local hotels with a key that shows their prices range from ££££ to £££££. At the reception, they served something called a sherry mojito.

“It was a really easy recipe,” he explained. “Just sherry, 7 Up, and a shit-tonne of mint. Oh and maybe a lime.”

I took this as a sign from the summer gods and decided to test the sherry mojito out on some friends that Saturday. Turns out, none of the three off-licences near my flat sell Fino, the dry sherry I drank in those Spanish bars and the best accompaniment for a sugary lemonade. The shop owners looked progressively more confused at my request, gesturing to dusty bottles of Croft and Harveys Bristol Cream that look like they are only ever troubled by elderly ladies at Christmas. I finally gave up and bought Croft, because at least it’s from Spain.


Photo by the author.

That night in my kitchen, I filled four glasses with crushed ice, wedges of lime, and fresh mint. I didn’t bother with measures, pouring in roughly half 7 Up to half sherry. My friends reached excitedly for their green-hued drinks, the ice clinking around the forest of mint. “The Drink of the Summer, everyone!” I said. We each went in for a big sip. The blunt sweetness of the sherry immediately butted against the equally sugary soda. Then we took another sip, and another one. The excited noises stopped.

“It’s quite … sweet, isn’t it?” one friend said. I could feel the sugar pummelling my temples—apparently sweet and dry varieties of sherry aren’t interchangeable when mixing cocktails. My teeth started to ache, so we decided to abandon our glasses and move onto Sainsbury’s own-brand Prosecco, which tastes effete and sophisticated in comparison.

Clearly, my sherry mojito recipe needed refining if it was to become a serious candidate for Drink of the Summer. I arranged to meet Sam Clements, bar manager at London Spanish restaurant group Brindisa. When I arrived at Brindisa’s Shoreditch location, he was introduced to me as “sherry boy” by one of his colleagues. I assumed this must be an affectionate nickname but later found out that it's the name of Clements’ sherry appreciation Instagram account. This guy obviously knows his sherry, and unsurprisingly, strongly backs its bid for Drink of the Summer.


“For the last three years, sherry has been uttered in the background as the ‘drink of the summer’ and then it gets lost on the wayside to things like the Negroni and the Spritz,” he told me. “I think a good sign of it being a year for it at the moment is you’re seeing these Bacardi legacy competitions and people are starting to use sherry. That sort of thing tends to push people towards a drink and popularise it.”

Photo via Flickr user Yelp Inc.

After berating me for attempting to make mojitos with a pale cream sherry like Croft (“It would be super sweet and very raisin-y, which isn’t something you're really looking for”), Clements pointed out that the Andalusia region of Spain has been making rebujitos—a cocktail of Fino or Manzanilla sherry with lemonade and mint—for years.

“I was lucky enough to go Jerez in May a few years ago, and you’d see all these big jugs of refreshing-looking sherry mixers with mint,” he said. “It’s a really a big thing there and that kind of stuff is becoming more popular here, too. We’re actually getting summers in London now, so people want this kind of refreshing drink.”

We headed to the bar, where Clements showed me his version of the rebujito, made with the same mix of Manzanilla sherry, lemon juice, and mint, but with the addition of an Earl Grey syrup. He called it the "rebu-tea-to."

“It’s very fast and loose,” he said, clapping the mint leaves before adding them to a tall glass. “[In Spain], they would probably just pour it, but I’m going to make it in a very particular way for the balance.”


He added 50 millilitres of La Gitana Manzanilla En Rama sherry, along with freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice, ice cubes, and the Earl Grey syrup—made by steeping a tea bag in boiling water, then heating with sugar into a syrup. After that came soda water and more mint leaves for garnish.

“I’m using an Earl Grey syrup because Earl Grey tea has a lot of bergamot inside and it marries up nicely with the drink’s more fragrant citrus,” Clements explained, stirring the finished cocktail and pushing it towards me.

It was good—much better than my teeth-rotting 7-Up concoction. The sherry was sharp and dry, complimenting the zingy mint against the more aromatic bergamot and lemon juice. I saw what Clements meant about his "rebu-tea-to" being a refined take on the fast-and-loose rebujito. Like DJ Koze’s “Pick Up” to Cardi B’s “I Like It,” both ooze summer vibes—but in very different ways.

Photo by the author.

Some weeks went by before I attempted to make a sherry mojito again, and the summer milestones stacked up.

I go to a festival, I get sun burnt, I encounter a shirtless man on the Central Line, and suddenly it’s nearly July. This time, I do it properly: going to the big supermarket to buy Fino sherry and fancy lemonade in a glass bottle. I bash the mint before adding it to the glass, just like Clements did, and top with a generous scoop of ice as I imagine the bartenders of Jerez would. The result is so much better. Refreshing, ice-cold, extremely drinkable—the perfect Drink of the Summer.

Until next summer, when it begins all over again.