Oh Sherry: Eveleigh Pours and Pairs New Aperitivo Menu

Pre-dinner drinks on Sunset Boulevard can easily turn into a tasting adventure

You can approach Eveleigh’s new aperitivo menu a few different ways. Whatever you do, consider it a relaxed affair.

“It’s not something the world’s demanding,” says head barman Dave Kupchinsky, who feels disappointed when he can’t find sherry and aperitivo menus even in L.A.’s Spanish restaurants. “Sherry is a trend among industry people. Bartenders love mixing with sherry, managers and chefs are using it, but the world doesn’t usually know about it. Either it’s going to blow up as a trend or not, but we love it.”

The point of aperitivos, of course, is that they’re pre-dinner drinks. They tend to be lower in alcohol, and are more dry and less sweet, so that they stimulate instead of diminish your appetite for food. As Kupchinsky points out, hanging out at Eveleigh and enjoying the 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. daily aperitivo menu means that guests “can wait out traffic and have a little drink and a little snack without getting drunk.” Or it could be a good way to ease into a long weekend night.

But the sherry and food pairings that Kupchinsky and executive chef Jared Levy have created can also work as a four-course tasting menu. Don’t worry if you don’t know much about sherry, a fortified wine that’s all made from the same grape and becomes distinct through aging. The back of the menu has tasting notes and even a detailed diagram about how sherry is made.

And know that the Sunset Boulevard restaurant is pouring the good stuff: rare, small-batch, ephemeral. Sherry producer Lustau, for example, buys and bottles different sherries from mom-and-pop bodegas in Spain, so you’re often drinking family concoctions that can evolve from year to year.

Here’s a look at Eveleigh’s sherry and food pairings:

Fino and Ham

“All our pairings are very classic and traditional,” Kupchinsky says. “Every place I went to in Spain, we started the meal with iberico ham and fino.”

The Colonel Newsom’s Kentucky smoked ham Eveleigh serves, Levy notes, is the only American ham that’s ever been invited to Spain’s World Congress of Dry Cured Hams in Aracena, where it was also displayed in the local ham museum. The fruity notes of the Lustau fino balance the rich, nicely salty ham.

“It’s an artisan Kentucky smoked ham,” Levy says. “It’s smoked in a barn with a small fire in the corner of the barn, and they hang hams and move them through the barn throughout the year. Different areas have different character.”

Manzanilla and Anchovies

“Fino and manzanilla both work well with seafood,” Kupchinsky says. “It’s like white wine.”

For this pairing, Alexander Jules 17/71 manzanilla and the anchovies both provide different levels of sweetness and bitterness that make you thirsty and hungry for more. Only 1,100 bottles of this sherry were produced.

Amontillado and Braised Greens

Drinking this Lustau sherry really makes the greens pop. They don’t seem bitter. As Levy says, “They’re almost sweet.”

“Amontillado works well with pork and chicken, but the really interesting thing is how well it pairs with difficult green vegetable dishes,” Kupchinsky says. “It’s almost impossible to pair anything with artichokes or asparagus or brussel sprouts, but amontillado with those kind of dishes is incredible. They really open up.”

You can expect Levy to pair different seasonal vegetable dishes with amontillado.

Oloroso and New York

“Oloroso works will with gamy meats and fowl, but I love the fatty steak with oloroso,” Kupchinsky says.

It works well, this juicy grilled red meat with a sherry that has notes of nuts, coffee, and what resembles some of the more mellow, less sweet elements of candy.

In addition to the sherry selections, Kupchinsky has created special cocktails that live up to their aperitivo billing. The refreshing Bon Debut with anisette, dry vermouth, yellow charteuse, fresh lemon, and soda gets all of its sweetness from the anisette. The Wicked Game with Campari, dry vermouth, blood orange, fennel gastrique, is carbonated and bottled in-house.

It’s like the craft-cocktail version of chill pre-dinner drinking. Order a bite if you feel like it, or just linger with your glass before you head home or to dinner.

redarrowEveleigh, 8752 Sunset Blvd., Los Angeles, 424-239-1630