I am currently away from home and don’t have the equipment, glassware or ingredients to make cocktails, so I thought this would be a good opportunity to write an article on one of the most important tipples in the Frasier series – Sherry!

Where it all began

The first mention of sherry is in Season 1, episode 3, “Dinner at Eight” – Niles meets Daphne for the second time, and Frasier offers him a sherry from the decanter. This is the first instance of the phrase “Sherry, Niles?”

“Sherry, Niles?”

Although the actual genesis of the sherry meme is revealed to us in Season 11 Episode 22 “Crock Tales” when, with their comedy 1993 wigs on, there is a re-enactment of the second time Niles meets Daphne – Frasier asks Niles if he’d like a Scotch and Niles says “Actually no, I’m in a sherry mood tonight”

“Sherry, Niles?” (In a slightly darker tone)

During this visit Daphne forgets his name and calls him “Miles”.

This is interesting since he meets Daphne officially for the first time ever at the start of S1 E3, then when he comes around the second time in the episode, she shakes Niles’ hand when leaving and says “It was nice seeing you again Dr Crane” which suggests that it is indeed the second time they have met, also why would she switch from calling him Dr. Crane to calling him by his first name and then back again?. Seems spurious to me, but maybe I am being a little pedantic.

(On second thoughts given that scene in Crock Tales is the also supposed to be the first time Roz gets invited to Frasier’s apartment, but in S1E06 The Crucible, Marty talks about meeting Roz for the first time at the infamous Paxton Painting Party… well, perhaps we shouldn’t think too much about Crock Tales…)

Don’t even get me started on the hair…

Sherry as portrayed on the show

Despite the countless times the brothers are shown with a glass of sherry in their hands, there are very few references to the specific language of sherry on the show. In fact, there are only two:

S10 ep22 – Fathers and Sons – Leland Barton (Hester Cranes research partner and close friend) is in Seattle and visiting the brothers in Frasier’s apartment where he reveals he is also a lover of sherry, and Frasier offers him a glass.

Like Father like Son

Leland: This sherry is exquisite.

Frasier: Oh, thank you. It’s an Andalusian amontillado I’m rather fond of.

Leland: A connoisseur. I’m very surprised. Most Americans think that sherry is just for cooking.

S11 Ep21 – Detour – Frasier has made an appointment to meet a stripper at his apartment, for Martin’s bachelor party, however he is unable to make it and sends Niles in his place. Martin comes home early and runs into an already nervous Niles in the kitchen.

Martin: Hey, Niles!

Niles: [nervous] Oh!

Martin: What’s up?

Niles: Frasier is going to split a case of oloroso with me because we both like oloroso, but he’s not here, so I’ll stop bothering you. Nice chatting.

Interestingly the references don’t come till much later in the series, I guess one of the writers finally decided it was a good idea to finally pick up a book about it 😊

So as you can see the brothers have mentioned they are keen on oloroso and amontillado, which are browner in colour… however you may have noticed that the wine in the glasses served on the show is always yellow [picture]. This is the colour of a fino or manzanilla, not an oxidised sherry. Since the writers of Frasier didn’t expect an audience educated in sherry, they likely chose whatever was around that looked the most aesthetically pleasing, which is basically white wine.

“Andalusian Amontillado” may also seem redundant since is a protected term in Spain (and recognised by the EU) and all sherry is by definition Andalusian. However, it is only recently that winemakers in Australia and Canada started using the term ‘Apera’ when referring to local wines made in the sherry style, and wines made in the USA are still called ‘sherry’ so we can assume he was differentiating between these and authentic Spanish sherry.

We also have the misconception that sherry can be left out in a decanter. To start with, if the crane brothers were actually drinking fino or manzanilla, it should be refrigerated after opening and even then, only for a few days, like a bottle of white wine. Oxidised or sweet sherries can last longer, but even still only for up to 2-4 weeks. I once found a faux crystal decanter in a charity shop, along with some fancy glasses and decided to set up a ‘sherry station’ only to be disappointed at the state of the wine a few weeks later. Then again, I don’t imagine a bottle lasts too long in the Crane household.

Finally, this wouldn’t be a proper geek post without discussing glassware. In the first season we see the brothers drinking from long stemmed cordial glasses

“Sherry, Niles?” From a long stemmed glass…

However at the beginning of the 3rd season they switch to the more short stem fluted sherry /port glasses.

By Season four short stemmed glasses were all the rage.

I would much prefer the cordial glasses for tasting purposes but I can see why they switched. It’s hard to get a good shot of the sherry decanter, but here is one from the 3rd season showing a rounded decanter with a narrow neck and a blue stopper.

That bottle we don’t like to talk about

So, despite there being very few references to the specifics of the sherry on the show, there is one time that a bottle is actually shown. In S6 Ep9 – Roz a Loan.

Harvey’s Bristol Cream? Surely not!

It’s a bottle of Harvey’s Bristol Cream sherry. Now you can buy a litre of Bristol cream for around $13 in 2018… that might give you an idea of it’s quality. It is very unlikely that the crane brothers would go anywhere near the stuff (Niles even more so than Frasier), especially when you take into consideration their attitude towards wine. I suspect it was the only bottle the props department had lying around, and they assumed no-one would know, or care, what it was anyway.

Why sherry?

There were a few benefits to using sherry on the show as opposed to wine – it eliminated the need to have a wine bottle hanging around – Instead we have an off screen decanter. The smaller glasses, especially the fluted ones in the later season are less intrusive – all of these things cut down on continuity issues, since it is less noticeable when the liquid levels change (Ever wonder why Martin’s beer is always in a can?), and they are small glasses designed to be sipped from slowly.

Since it had a reputation of being enjoyed by older ladies it also helped to reinforce the stereotype of the Crane brothers being pompous and stuffy, as well as being less interested in Martin’s traditional ‘manly’ pursuits – as Niles said in S4 Ep1 when Martin was talking about his friend “Jim” who drinks Jim Beam. “We’re sherry drinkers, Dad. Think about it!”. It is a drink that few people have knowledge about, and it is difficult to get in bars, which adds to the exclusivity. Not to mention that the show wouldn’t be the same without the occasional “Sherry, Niles?”.

Want to take your sherry game to Frasierian heights, but don’t know where to start?

Like vermouth before the craft cocktail revolution, sherry’s popularity has really suffered since the 1970’s. As I mentioned previously when most people think of sherry they think of cream sherry… that dusty bottle of sweet, mass produced, low quality strong wine that has been sat open at the back of the cocktail cabinet for years. Don’t get me wrong, not all sweet sherries are bad – but the proliferation of cheap cream sherry has certainly damaged it’s reputation.

Despite Frasier’s best efforts it didn’t manage to trigger a sherry revival. Maybe the brothers were ahead of their time as, here in 2018, a revival is coming, sherry cocktails are already becoming more popular in fashionable cocktail bars for example, and any restaurant that you might find the Brothers Crane dining at – with an extensive wine list – will have some sherry by the glass options for you to mull with after dinner (they are generally good value too).

If you are lucky enough to have one in your city, try seeking out a tapas bar with a substantial sherry by the glass list and try a few for yourself alongside some traditional small plates, I promise you will be converted! If you have a good independent wine shop in your city, you local wine expert will likely wax lyrical about sherry, lamenting that it is not more popular than it is, and will be happy to suggest the perfect bottle to get you started.

References/Further reading

  1. Sherry Notes Blog: https://www.sherrynotes.com/
  2. “What sherry does Frasier drink” https://andalusiantraveller.com/2017/05/09/what-sherry-does-frasier-drink/
  3. “What kind of sherry did Frasier drink” https://worldofbooze.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/what-kind-of-sherry-did-frazier-drink/