Story by Cara Devine, our Melbourne-based drinks writer. She is the manager of Bomba in Melbourne and the face and talent behind the cocktailing Youtube channel Behind the Bar. You can email her at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the south of Spain, the intense sun reflects off bleached walls causing the air to shimmer with heat and magic. Citrus trees line the streets, old men smoke rollies in shadowed doorways, time crawls… and every taverna has a wall full of barrels of sherry. The ‘tender will happily pour you a copita from your barrel of choice, often for as little as €1 and accompanied by a complimentary tapa. Bliss.
Sometimes, though, you may feel like something a little more thirst-quenching. And if that’s the case, do they have the drink for you. The Rebujito is a cooling mix of dry sherry and lemon lime soda, served over ice – sometimes with a sprig of mint, but that’s as fussy as it gets. With the name coming from the Spanish arrebujar (to jumble up) or rebujo (a knot or tangle), it is meant to be thrown together – a carefree summer libation!
“The Rebujito is a cooling mix of dry sherry and lemon lime soda, served over ice – sometimes with a sprig of mint, but that’s as fussy as it gets. With the name coming from the Spanish arrebujar (to jumble up) or rebujo (a knot or tangle), it is meant to be thrown together – a carefree summer libation!”
Its exact origins are unknown – whether its inspiration owes more to the Sherry Cobbler or the Highball family is up for (fairly redundant) debate, but either way it seems to have been invented for Seville’s La Feria de Abril. Week long festivities with constant toasting in the heat call for something low in alcohol and high in refreshment and when you’re a hop, skip and a jump from the Sherry Triangle it’s a pretty obvious move to build around the distinctively flavoured wine of the region. It appeared in the 1950s, as commercial soft drinks grew in availability and popularity, but it really took off in the 1980s as the South’s answer to Northern Spain’s Kalimotxo, the red wine and Coca Cola concoction which fuels many a student party across Europe.
The simple, two ingredient formula is a blank canvas for bartenders. Traditionally made with just fino or manzanilla sherry and 7Up or Sprite, it’s easy to tart up by using fresh citrus, adding other flavour elements, or even switching the sherry used. Fino and manzanilla are the lightest wines of the sherry family. They spend their entire ageing process under a protective layer of yeast, or flor, keeping them delicate and fresh – think floral and citrus, with a slight hint of dough and nuttiness adding complexity. Using the richer amontillado or oloroso sherries and matching with seasonal fruits can give this drink legs well after the sun loses its heat; amontillado and mandarin is a match made in heaven for colder days.
But, I digress. The crisp and bright original translates so well to that great Australian summer tradition – the all day sesh. Perfect for group serves, you can use fresh lemon and lime juice with some sugar syrup and soda water, or leave it to the professionals. A good quality soda like Fever Tree’s Sicilian Lemonade or Strangelove’s Fancy Lemonade elevates this drink far from the sticky bubbles of commercial fizzy drinks and lets the base shine through. It looks beautiful in a punch bowl or jug with berries, citrus slices and mint for garnish. Plus, if you’re a bar that serves sherry by the glass, having a Rebujito on your menu is a no brainer; it’s the perfect vehicle for a bottle which has lost its just-opened freshness but is still perfectly fine for mixing, and while sherry may not be €1 a measure here it’s certainly easier on the bottom line than a similar serve of spirit.
In a summer which sees the majority of Australia stumbling bleary-eyed out of lockdown and still unable to travel, this slice of Spanish sunshine is just what the doctor ordered. The lower alcohol can ease those of us who haven’t kept match fit back into the wonders of drinking in the outside world, while the tart citrus notes and yeasty sherry backbone transport us to the bright white streets of Andalusia, where sherry flows and the fiesta never stops.