As you reach for that trusty glass of red wine, it might not occur to you to say, “Hey, I should add this to a cocktail.” But you’d be surprised at how well Beaujolais Nouveau, merlot or Rioja mingle with bourbon, orange liqueur, or apple brandy. From a simple sangria to an unpretentious Kalimotxo––the popular Basque combination of red wine and Coke––a shot of vino can add depth of flavor and color to your cocktail.
Don’t let the wine snob in your life tell you that red-wine cocktails are somehow sacrilege. That kind of thinking is a passé. A good bottle of red—especially what you might be planning to serve with dinner, anyway—can help shape the flavor profile of your next cocktail.
Red wine is versatile as far as cocktail ingredients go. Add bubbles and the possibilities are endless. Take this suave blend of Lambrusco (a fizzy red from Italy best enjoyed chilled), Cappelletti aperitivo, and Peychaud’s Bitters. Make this one sip with snacks before dinner, and serve the rest of the wine with the main course.
Sometimes you don’t know if you want to end the night or conjure a second wind. This drink provides options. It’s made with Fernet-Branca, crème de cacao, cold brew coffee, and vanilla syrup, with a dose of Gragnano (a sparkling red similar to Lambrusco). A perfect after-dinner sipper that leaves the night open for, well, whatever.
If wine can give your cocktail a flavor and mouthfeel boost, then why not double down with two wines? That may be what bartender John Codd was thinking when he created this beauty. A complex blend of raspberry brandy, lemon juice, gum syrup, grenadine, and red wine, it is topped with bubbly. Probably the only time you should ever mix red and white.
Margarita variations abound, although there are few ways to perhaps improve on the classic. This one comes pretty darn close with its tasteful red wine float. A little goes a long way––just half an ounce of vino creates a color contrast and a new flavor dimension. The result is an adult take on the original. Pro tip: No salt rim, please.
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