My guess is the Royal Wedding was what got me thinking about wine cocktails … all the talk of Pimms Cup and such. Or was it the hats that made me want to have a cocktail? No matter.
As mentioned in this week’s newsletter post, we’re so busy drinking wine all the time we rarely keep hard liquor around anymore. But trust me when I tell you we will *never* run out of wine. So, when we’re in the mood for a cocktail, we just whip up a wine cocktail or two – and now you can too.
In my opinion the most important element for your wine cocktail making repertoire is to always keep on hand a really good bottle of Crème de Cassis. For wine lovers a bottle of Cassis is a fantastic and easy way to spice up the average glass of vino and/or to dress up that mistake you purchased from a wine merchant other than First Vine! 😉 For the uninitiated, Crème de Cassis is a sweet, dark red liqueur made from black currants. I don’t know any brand names off the top of my head but go to a nice liquor store and buy the best bottle they have. Don’t worry about the price, a bottle will last you a long time.
The second thing you will want to have on hand is a bottle of bitters. Bitters are a common bar ingredient that was considered a necessity in early bars but were left out of many drinks until their recent comeback thanks to an interest in classic cocktails. Many brands of bitters began as medicinal tonics but they found a home in cocktails as concentrated flavor stimulants that add a nice kick to the mix even though they are only used by the dash. The often secret formulas include a variety of herbs, fruits, spices and roots distilled in a base liquor.
You can also make wine cocktails using wine as a base with a variety of hard liquors and liqueurs. For example, a great way to use up the last few jiggers left in your bottle of rum is to rustle up some Bishop cocktails. Just divide the rum among 2 or 3 wine glasses about 1/4 of the way filled with ice. Fill glasses with red wine, add simple syrup to taste and a few good squeezes of fresh lime. Try it with first vine’s Domaine Chaume-Arnaud Le Petit Coquet ($13) – a sturdy everyday red with enough tannin to balance out the sweetness in the simple syrup.
So that was your first recipe . The more classic pairing is creme de cassis with white wine (known as a “kir”) or with sparkling wine (known as a “kir royale”). Simply fill a glass with chilled white wine , still or sparkling, then top off with about a tablespoon of creme de cassis and a twist of lemon. Although this is a great way to finish off a bottle of something you find a little dry for your palate, you can also find first vine wines well suited to the purpose. I like a kir made with first vine’s Domaine la Croix des Marchands Gaillac Blanc Sec 2008 ($12). It’s pretty darn dry, and provides the cassis with just the right flinty balance. For a Kir Royale, try our Champagne Bernard Mante Brut ($32) for a super elegant champagne cocktail.
Speaking of champagne cocktails, here’s a classic one to try. Put a few shakes of bitters in the bottom of a champagne glass, followed by a sugar cube. Fill the glass with chilled champagne or sparkling wine, top off with a twist of lemon. The bitters turn the champagne a beautiful pink color and balance out the sweetness of the sugar.
Feelin’ a little 80’s? Crank up the Duran Duran and mix up a few 80’s wine
coolers! Don’t worry, this is nothing like the Bartles and Jaymes tragic frat party drink of yore. The key is to use a good wine as a base, and go easy on any fruity/sugary accoutrements. Pour about 4 oz of white wine over ice in a large wine glass. Top off with about 3 oz of a good quality ginger ale, 1 oz of pineapple juice, and about 1/2 oz each of freshly squeezed lemon and lime juice. This drink needs a whie wine with a bit more oomph – for example, First Vine’s Château de Clapier White ($12)