Wine has been an integral part of cocktails since that first brilliant person decided to mix two spirits together to see what would happen. Many familiar cocktails contain types of wines as components, from fortified wines like vermouths and sherries to apertif wines like Lillet and Dubonnet to sweet dessert varietals like Sauternes. But wines also can be the main event in a drink. After all, what would a mimosa or a Bellini be without sparkling wine to build them on? Below are several cocktails, both classic and contemporary, that feature wines of various types as the main ingredient.
4 ounces sherry
1 T sugar
3 orange slices
Cobblers featuring all manner of alcohol have been around in various guises and permutations since at least the mid-1800's (and probably longer). They're super-simple to put together and make for a very refreshing libation on a warm summer's day. This particular variant is based on sherry. Any type of sherry will work, but if using a sweet version like an oloroso, you might want to back off of the sugar a tad. This is not the time to use up that leftover cooking sherry either--those have salt and other ingredients added to them and should be reserved for cooking, not quaffing! Shake all ingredients with ice and strain into a tall glass over crushed ice. There's no need to muddle the fruit beforehand—the ice will do the job for you. Sherry cobblers traditionally are all about the elaborate garnish, so feel free to go crazy with the berries and fruit slices, and don't forget to include a straw or two.
4 ounces Champagne or other sparkling wine
This classic reportedly is one of the first cocktails on record, replacing hard liquor with Champagne in the original bitters/sugar/spirits formula that differentiated a ‘true’ cocktail from other types of mixed drinks in years past, and it couldn't be easier to make. Soak the sugar cube with the bitters and place in the bottom of a flute, then fill with sparkling wine. Don't stir or agitate the drink as it will flatten out the bubbles, which is the whole point of this tasty refreshment.
2 ounces dry white wine (a nice, grassy sauvignon blanc is ideal)
1.5 ounces strawberry puree
1 ounce cucumber/ basil /mint simple syrup (*see below)
1 dash calamansi vinegar
This is an original wine-based drink I came up with for a private event recently. It's a bit more elaborate and takes a few extra steps to make, but it's well worth the effort! Gently stir all ingredients (except club soda) together in a mixing glass, then pour over ice in a Collins glass. Top with club soda. Garnish with some cucumber slices and a strawberry. The vinegar serves to cut through the sweetness of the syrup, as well as augment the flavor of the strawberry puree—but be sure to just use a dash, as a little goes a long way. White balsamic vinegar can be substituted if you can't find the calamansi variety.
* For the cucumber/ basil /mint simple syrup :
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
5 large basil leaves
5 to 7 mint leaves
1 half large cucumber, diced
Bring the sugar and water to a boil in a medium sauce pan. Add the remaining ingredients, then reduce heat and let simmer for five minutes. Take off heat and strain out the basil, mint and cucumber pieces; let cool, then bottle and refrigerate. This syrup will keep for several weeks in the fridge.
Editor’s Note: In addition to his duties as LN’s weekly food columnist, Mr. Sorrell also is a member of the United States Bartenders’ Guild and operates Cocktails Are Go! (cocktails-are-go.com), which offers in-home tastings and educational programs.