Wine Cocktails & Poor Man’s Sangria

This is almost a moot point, but as long as the warmth sticks around town it’s still appropriate to drink wine cocktails.

Not that you can’t drink sangria or mimosas on the coldest winter day, of course, but one of my personal signs of fall is when I stop mixing wine cocktails and start drinking red wine straight again. (Yes, this has already happened. Stop griping – the cold months have their own charms, and this summer had way too much sustained heat for my northern blood.)

I wrote about wine cocktails for Vue back in July when Edmonton’s blazing summer was in full swing, but that article never made it online – so here it is. Note: while wine cocktails are refreshing on hot days, they are also a valuable method of masking the taste of shitty wine. And while we’d all like to live in a world where shitty wine never touches our lips, let’s face it: sometimes a bottle looks like a good choice but ends up being a cruel disappointment. Also: weddings.

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Muggy temperatures require drinks that are low in alcohol and refreshing – and wine actually makes a pretty good cocktail ingredient.

The most famous wine cocktail is probably the mimosa, which is made from a simple mix of orange juice and sparkling wine – the height of simplicity, plus you get a shot of Vitamin C to boot.

Sangria is almost as famous: this wine-based punch originated in Spain and has spread all over the world. It is made with wine (usually red, though you can use white as well) with a sweetener and fresh fruit. Sangria can be as complicated or as simple as you like: traditionally brandy is used to sweeten sangria but you can skip this in favour of ginger ale, orange juice, or other fruit juices if you don’t want the extra booze kick; any type of fruit (fresh or frozen) works as a garnish. Or simply dump some orange juice into a glass of wine, red or white, and bam – poor man’s sangria.

Port is a classic cold-weather tipple, but it can be quite refreshing in the summer – if you mix it with a slushie. Now, obviously you don’t want to be dumping super expensive, decades-old vintage port into a 7-Eleven cup (unless you’re Miles Raymond), but the Croft port house actually makes a type of pink port that’s perfect for various cocktails (their website lists several), including a port slushie. Simply add port to your favourite slushie flavour and voilà – instant refreshment. I’d recommend sticking to plain lime or lemon-lime flavours, as a Coca-Cola port slushie sounds pretty gross. Then again, I haven’t tried it myself – so who knows.

There actually is a wine cocktail made with cola, which has become very popular in the Basque region of Spain. (Apparently the Spaniards are quite experimental when it comes to wine cocktails.) The cocavino, or kalimotxo (don’t ask me how to pronounce that), is made from equal parts of cola and red wine. Some variations also call for a dash of ouzo for a licorice-y kick.

Another port-based cocktail is popular throughout Portugal: white port and tonic. It’s made just as it sounds, by mixing equal parts of white port (much cheaper than the various red and tawny ports) with tonic water, and is usually garnished with an orange wedge.

Wine spritzers are another simple, classic way to enjoy wine in warmer months. These are a mixture of wine (red or white, though white is most common) with club soda or sparkling water, served over ice with a fruit garnish (any kind you like).

Sparkling wine has long been used in various refreshing concoctions. The Bellini is made from a blend of Prosecco (or other sparkling wine) with pureed white peach. The Kir Royale is made by adding a dash of crème de cassis (blackcurrant) liqueur to a glass of sparkling wine; this is actually based on the Kir, which is the same thing only with white wine instead of bubbly.

The world’s burgeoning cocktail culture has yielded hundreds of other drinks that use wine in various degrees and types. The ones above are the easiest to make and most common, but there’s really no limit to the number and type of different combinations that can be made – experiment away.

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