A New Generation of Wine Cocktails
Forget clumsy “winetails.” Today, bartenders are using wine in cocktails to create food-friendly sips and push drinks into new territory. Savvy barkeeps are reaching for the wine bottle because it provides something not easily found in other ingredients.
“Wine gives me a broader reach,” says Amanda Reed, beverage director at Seattle’s Heartwood Provisions, which specializes in food and cocktail pairings. “There are so many flavors you can have from using particular wine products that spirits may not have—the array of botanicals, the complexity of flavors.”
Reed uses white wine or verjus in place of citrus to provide acidity, and she’s a fan of the fruity and floral aromatics provided by late-harvest wines.
The Pamplona, served at San Antonio bar Juniper Tar, looks like a glass of red wine: dark and inky in the glass, with just a simple curl of lemon peel.
“It was inspired by a trip to Spain,” says Benjamin Krick, the bar manager. Krick developed the drink after he was introduced to the Kalimotxo (Calimocho), a highball-like mix of Spain’s abundant red wine with Coca-Cola, often served with a squeeze of lemon.
Krick reinterprets the casual drink as a high-end, low-alcohol sipper that features Sherry and a syrup made with red wine and Coca-Cola. Lemon oil adds fragrance.
The wine-forward base provides “rich mouthfeel and body,” he says. “It’s better than just adding sugar to a cocktail.”
At New York City’s Nix, head bartender Soraya Odishoo makes a “smoked” wine for her Oakland cocktail. Starting with Rioja, she takes a flame to star anise, clove and cinnamon and “traps” the resulting smoke inside the wine. Mixed with golden rum and bitters, the drink is like a mashup of mulled wine and spiced rum.
Most agree that the recent Sherry revival, coupled with an uptick in vermouth bottlings, created a gateway for more wine cocktails.
“Sherry was definitely the bridge to incorporating any kind of wine into cocktails,” says Krick, pointing to the classic Sherry Cobbler, a simple mix of Sherry and crushed fruit that’s enjoying a comeback nationwide.
Heartwood’s Reed uses her ample experience in both wine and spirits. “My angle is to mix my worlds a little bit,” she says. “But I think all bartenders should use a lot of wine in cocktails.”
From Brooklyn Bartender by Carey Jones (Black Dog & Leventhal, 2016)
Viognier + Lillet Blanc + gin + grapefruit = Aqua-Y-Essence. This stirred drink combines aromatic white wine with wine-based Lillet, contributing acidity without any fresh fruit juice.
- Grapefruit peel
- 1½ ounce Dorothy Parker American gin
- 1 ounce dry Viognier (or a full-bodied Sauvignon Blanc)
- ¾ ounce Lillet Blanc
- ¼ ounce Combier Pamplemousse (grapefruit liqueur)
- 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
Twist a grapefruit peel into a coupe glass. Discard the peel and set the glass aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in a mixing glass with ice. Stir until well chilled and strain into the coupe glass.
Courtesy Amanda Reed, Heartwood Provisions, Seattle
Sherry + Lambrusco + Scotch = The 5 O’Clock Shadow. Reed uses a smoky blended Scotch (try Wemyss Malts Peat Chimney) for the base and infuses it with black peppercorns for extra bite. Lambrusco adds fizz and red fruit, while Sherry adds layers of salinity, nuts and dark chocolate.
- 1 ounce black pepper infused Scotch (recipe below)
- 2 ounces Moscatel Sherry (PX or oloroso may be substituted)
- ¼ ounce lime juice
- 2 ounces Lambrusco
- Speck, for garnish
In a rocks glass filled with ice, add Scotch, Sherry and lime juice. Top with Lambrusco, and stir to mix. Garnish with speck speared on a toothpick.
- 8 ounces blended Scotch whisky
- ¼ cup whole black peppercorns
Combine the Scotch and peppercorns. Let steep for 1–2 days. Strain out the peppercorns prior to use.
Courtesy Benjamin Krick, Juniper Tar, San Antonio
Red wine + Coke + Sherry (x2) = Pamplona. Inspired by Kalimotxo (Calimocho), the popular Basque mix of red wine and Coca-Cola, this is best served at room temperature, which allows the cocktail’s nuances to come forward. (Krick uses dehydrated lemon slices for garnish, but we’ve opted for a simpler piece of lemon peel.)
- 1 ounce fino Sherry
- 2 ounces oloroso Sherry
- ¾ ounces red wine reduction (recipe below)
- Lemon peel
In a mixing glass, stir together all ingredients except garnish. Strain into a Nick & Nora glass or small wine glass. Twist a lemon peel over the drink’s surface to express its oils, then drape the peel over the edge of the glass to garnish.
- 12 ounces Mexican Coca-Cola
- 6 ounces red wine (use a full-bodied Spanish wine like Tempranillo or Garnacha)
Reduce the ingredients separately in two small saucepans (the red wine will reduce faster). In each saucepan, simmer the liquid for about 10 minutes, or until it thickens a bit. Allow to cool. Measure the reductions again: The ratio should be 3 parts reduced Coke to 1 part reduced wine. (If you prefer ounces, 6 ounces reduced Coke to 2 ounces reduced wine.) Stir together.
Courtesy Jim Kearns, Slowly Shirley, New York City
A robust red wine from France’s Rhône region plus a pair of fortified wines anchor this drink, keeping it rich and boldly flavored, but not too boozy.
- 1½ ounces Daumen Lirac
- ½ ounce Rhum Barbancourt 5 Star rum
- ½ ounce PX Sherry
- ½ ounce Port
- ¼ ounce Tempus Fugit Crème de Cacao
- 2 dashes Chuncho bitters
- 2 dashes Hellfire bitters
- 2 orange peels,
- Mix of equal parts cocoa powder, chili powder and sugar, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, add first 7 ingredients and 1 orange peel. Shake well, and strain into a rocks glass over crushed ice. Garnish with the remaining orange peel and a dusting of cocoa-chili-sugar mix.
Courtesy Darwin Pornel, Faith & Flower, Los Angeles
It’s not unusual to see sparkling wine used to add a little fizz to cocktails. But here, a sparkling rosé also adds fruit, a touch of tannic backbone and a lovely rosy hue.
- 1½ ounces Rittenhouse Rye
- ¾ ounce lemon juice
- ¾ ounce simple syrup
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s Bitters
- Charles Bove NV Sparkling Rosé (Touraine)
- Lemon peel, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine first four ingredients. Shake well, and strain into a coupe glass. Top with sparkling rosé. Garnish with a lemon peel.
Courtesy Joel Schmeck, Irving Street Kitchen, Portland, OR
This cocktail calls for an aromatic white blend from Greece, Assyrtiko, to to balance rye whiskey and bring together a tall, refreshing sipper.
- 1 ounce Domaine Sigalas 2015 Assyrtiko/Athiri
- 1 ounce Bulleit Rye
- ½ ounce honey syrup (2 parts honey to 1 part hot water)
- ¼ ounce Torani Amer
- ¼ ounce lemon juice
- 2 dashes Rothman & Winter Apricot Liqueur
- Long lemon twist, for garnish
In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients except garnish. Shake well, and double-strain into a Collins glass over crushed or pebble ice. Garnish with a long lemon twist.
- 1Aqua-Y-Essence, a Viognier Cocktail
- 2The 5 O’Clock Shadow, a Lambrusco Cocktail
- 3Pamplona, a Red Wine & Sherry Cocktail
- 4Lawyers, Guns & Money (Carat Rocks)
- 5Parade Route Cocktail
- 6The Argonaut Cocktail