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Not having used sherry before, what is the type used when a recipe just calls for "sherry"? I see cream sherry, dry sherry, and very dry sherry at my local grocery store. Does brand matter much?

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

Cream sherry is very sweet - likely too sweet for most recipes that don't explicitly mention it.

If a recipe simply calls for "sherry", it usually means dry sherry, as that's the most common kind of available. In fact, I don't think I've ever even seen "very dry" around here. So I would definitely stick with the dry.

As for brand, I believe that sherry is the brand (somebody correct me if I'm wrong). If you see several different bottles all labeled sherry, I don't think it matters too much which one you pick - at least if you're using it for cooking and not drinking.

P.S. If you're using this as a substitute for rice wine, the commonly-accepted substitute is indeed dry sherry.

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Thanks! You saved me, I was going to buy cream sherry. There were 4 brands of cream sherry, and only one each of dry & very dry. Sherry was not the brand. – hobodave Jul 24 '10 at 22:00
And yes, it was a substitute for rice wine. :) General Tso's here I come! – hobodave Jul 24 '10 at 22:01
Sherry is a type of wine not a brand, like port or Pinot noir. (Although not named for the grapes that make it unlike a lot of wines) – sarge_smith Jul 25 '10 at 2:02
@sarge, I just found this - apparently it is a registered name but is used generically in the U.S. – Aaronut Jul 25 '10 at 2:09

If you are able to buy actual styles of sherry, then fino is the driest, and is the one to go for in most savoury dishes. If you are using it in seafood or fish dishes, then I'd try to get manzanilla which is a kind of fino that is grown on the coast and has a salty tang to it.

For sweet dishes try the really raisiny Pedro Ximinéz (PX) or oloroso, which is usually dry but there are sweet versions.

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I think the typical American grocery store must have a pretty crap selection then. None of those words/brands even occurred on any of the ones I looked at. – hobodave Jul 24 '10 at 21:59
Fino differs from other kinds of sherry, it is cask fermented, unlike the other varieties. Dry sherry for cooking or as a substitute should be Amontillado or Manzanilla (which literally means apple-like). – klypos Jul 21 '12 at 23:10
@klypos Manzanilla is also the noun for camomille infusion in Spanish, to which colour it resembles more. It could also mean little apple. And Manzanilla is a variety of olive and olive tree. – J.A.I.L. Nov 12 '12 at 19:32

I would gravitate to the dry sherries eg fino/manzanilla

But! I have used dry madeira, dry white port, and amontillado sherry with Chinese recipes that called for rice wine, all with great results.

The real rice wine Sake (if you have any) always works well with cooking though I find it a nice, buzzy drink and it always disappears quite fast from the fridge!

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I would use dry sherry; the brand most popular in ireland and the Uk would be Winters Tale, I've used that in cooking and desserts many times.

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Dry sherry is what you want! Cream sherry is a sweeter sherry and more commonly used for sipping. If the recipe calls for sherry, but doesn't designate it as a sweet sherry, then go for dry sherry. You can find it in most grocery stores. I have used Christian Brothers sherry for several years. Although it is not labeled as a dry sherry, I have found it to be a good go-to sherry for cooking (and sipping as I cook!).

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