Barman Chad Phillips

At Kimpton’s new downtown hotel The Palladian, bar manager Chad Phillips has been tasked with running the bars at both the seafood forward Shaker and Spear as well as the more laid-back lobby bar Pennyroyal. At Pennyroyal Phillips shares his love of tea in the form of a daily bowl of happy hour punch, while down the stairs at Shaker and Spear the barman wholeheartedly endorses the virtues of the underrated Spanish spirit sherry by stocking a good number of its many varietals.

Over the last several months nearly every bartender we’ve talked to has waxed poetic about their love of sherry- its diverse uses, the deep character it possesses, and also its relative good value, being an underrated spirit and all. If you find your waiter eagerly recommending the “Sherry Program” at Shaker and Spear, like ours did, perhaps a primer on this fortified wine and all the fuss over it is in order.

 Here are five questions with Chad Phillips, a barman absolutely mad for sherry.

What inspired Shaker and Spear's sherry program?
Sherry has been a passion project of mine for a couple of years. And when I was approached for this opportunity at Shaker and Spear we started talking about the concept, the straightforward seafood that we're doing, and sherry is just a perfect match. It's one of the spirits with the widest range—from driest wines to sweetest— the possibilities of the pairings are phenomenal. Sherry just goes perfectly with seafood.

What led you to become an ardent supporter of sherry?
Um, I tasted it. I used to have that association with sherry that a lot of people have, you know cooking sherry or that horribly sweet sherry that my grandmother used to drink. But about four years ago someone put a really nice Oloroso Sherry in front of me and I tasted it and feel head-over-heels in love. I then got to tasting all the varietals and gained a really deep appreciation for its versatility and how much it has to offer. 

The sherry I fell in love with is still my favorite, it's William and Humbert's dry sack Oloroso 15. It's buttery and delicious and I could drink it any time of the day.

Any idea why it's such a trendy spirit at the moment?
Bartenders are always looking for the next new thing and I feel like sherry is that. It's a great substitute in classic cocktails, it has a lower ABV (alcohol by volume) so you can actually drink a few more cocktails and be responsible. And it's just got so much depth and character and can add that to any cocktail from classics to original creations.

What is the one thing that everyone should know about sherry?
There is a sherry for everybody. If you like something really dry and clean there is Fino, if you want something nuttier and richer there is Oloroso, and if you like a nice sweet drink like Port there is Moscatel and Pedro Ximénez. If you want something in between, to go with a hearty salad, you can have a great Amontillado. If you try one and don't like it there are still a dozen other varieties that are all very distinct.

Can you take us through a meal at Shaker and Spear from cocktails to dessert; what would we be drinking, if we were drinking through your sherry program?
Starting out with appetizers, whether you're going the classic oyster route or trying our brown sugar cured tuna, I would recommend starting out with a nice dry Fino. It's really dry and will help cut through any fattiness and acidity with those dishes. And it's a really nice way to warm up your palate for the rest of the meal.

As you go into the entree I would recommend our Sherry Bee’s Knees, which is made with Amontillado Sherry instead of the traditional gin. It’s sherry, lemon, and honey- a very simple classic cocktail with nice acidity and sweetness and a perfect counterbalance to the majority of our dishes. I'd recommend our seared scallops with golden raisin puree for that course.

And for dessert, I would say for the flourless chocolate cake with pistachio cream, I would go with our Oloroso Sherry neat. It's a rich, buttery sherry and very nutty. It's rich without being too rich and has a sweet nose with a dry finish; it really complements the intense chocolate of our flourless chocolate cake.

Bonus question: We heard that Penny Royal has a daily tea hour that involves a punch bowl; what's s that all about?
I am a huge fan of tea in cocktails, it's an underutilized ingredient that also has a lot of health benefits, so everyday we make a punch using tea somehow, whether it's in a base spirit or a syrup, the tea is incorporated somehow. We make a big bowl of punch and it's there till it's gone, and only $5 a glass.