Going Against the Grape: Wine-Based Mixed Drinks

What we are about to embark upon will surely offend the sensibilities of the more fastidious wine critics in the world. We are going to taint the purity of fine wine with the basest of mixers and bourgeois liquors. We are going to desecrate months of hard work and careful planning by treating a glass of wine like a shot of tequila. Is everyone ready?

The Wines

2008 Traza RiojaThe two victims of our experimentations are the 2008 Traza Gra2, a 100% Graciano Rioja, and the 2009 Walnut Block Wines Sauvignon Blanc.

The Traza Gra2, crafted by David Sampredo of the collective Vinos Sin-Ley (translated as “wines without laws”), is a rich, perfumey red with a very deep, complex purplish-red color. Red and dark fruits accompanied by just a touch of spice accent a relatively full body. Good balance, bone-dry, and velvety tannins make it a good, pleasant Rioja experience for around $15.

The Walnut Block Wines Sauvignon Blanc is a bright, juicy, prototypical New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Rich grapefruit, lime zest, and very prominent herbal undertones match very well with just a touch of sweetness and a ripe acidity. The color is striking, with an almost colorless silver luminosity, just a tinge of greenish-gold. It’s $11 and worth every penny.

Both wines were purchased from Hillsborough Wine Company in Hillsborough, NC.

Now that we’re acquainted with the victims, let’s look at the mixed drinks we will be attempting to create in the mad mixologist’s lair:


The first drink we tried was the Kalimotxo (pronounced Cah-lee-moh-cho), which is a fairly simple concoction with Basque origins. The recipe is as follows:

3 parts red wine

1 part Coca-Cola

Pour the red wine over a glass of ice, then add the Coca-Cola. Stir. Garnish with a lemon or lime wedge. Simple.

We tried this in the tasting with the Rioja, but there was just something slightly off about the flavor. After a second attempt at making this cocktail with a 2007 Mr. Black’s Concoction Shiraz, I came to the conclusion that a stronger, fuller, juicier wine makes for a more delicious cocktail, and at 15.9% with bountiful dark fruits, Mr. Black’s Concoction was exactly what I wanted. Avoid lighter reds and avoid adding too much cola to keep this drink in check. The lighter the red wine you use, the less cola you should add to compensate for the more delicate flavors. Too much fizz, and the drink will devolve into a bitter experience.

White Wine Mai-Tai

While not a true Mai-Tai (a Mai-Tai is neither pink in color nor this simple to create), this drink is nevertheless a delicious and surprisingly potent addition to your bartending repertoire. Here’s the recipe:

1 part clear rum

1 part white wine

splash of grenadine

Mix all ingredients together in a cocktail shaker. Pour over a glass full of ice. Garnish with a pineapple wedge or a maraschino cherry.

Because the rum flavor is so heavily featured in this drink, you need to splurge and go one step above Bacardi to get the full experience. For the white wine, go with something full, dry and juicy, something along the lines of a Sauvignon Blanc, Gruner Veltliner, Pinot Blanc, or Picpoul de Pinet would work well here. If you go off-dry, the sweetness combined with the grenadine will overwhelm the delicate wine flavors in the drink and turn it into a syrupy mess.

Take it easy with this one. Because you’re mixing alcohol with more alcohol, it’s going to be a lot more potent than most mixed drinks, up near 30% alcohol, and you won’t hardly be able to taste it. One or two of these will be good for an afternoon on the beach.

A Pleasant Surprise

While preparing for this experiment, I of course paid a visit to the local ABC store. There, I happened upon one of the biggest surprises of my alcohol-consuming life. The clerk saw me browsing the rum section and asked me if I needed any help. When I told him about my plans for the tasting, he handed me this bottle, saying that it was by far the best rum in the shop. There were 2 or 3 rums at a higher price point, but I took him at his word on it.

It’s lucky that I’m such a trusting person because this truly was one of the best rums I have tasted. This is a rum that’s built for sipping. I almost felt guilty blending it with the wine because of how pure and clean it tasted. Flavors of sugarcane, vanilla, banana, and molasses. It’s perfectly suited to tropical mixed drinks, especially if you’re looking to go heavy on the rum. I wouldn’t waste this rum on mixing with cola. Leave that to the Bacardis of the world.

I paid about $40 for this rum, and it’s freely available online at that price if you’d like to give it a try. For another look at it, hop on over to the Drinkhacker review. I don’t have much experience with liquor tasting, and a more trained palate can provide a better review than mine.

The Conclusion

What I learned from this experiment is that, despite the thirst for purity in the wine industry, there are other alternatives for wine use outside of cooking. Depending on the descriptors of a wine, it could make a pretty tasty cocktail. Now I turn to you, dear readers, for help. I’ve only scratched the surface of mixing wine. Have any of you given these a try? What other delicious concoctions have you heard of or produced with your favorite wine? My weekend is in your hands.

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9 Responses to “Going Against the Grape: Wine-Based Mixed Drinks”

  1. Benito Says:

    The Wine Brats book from the 90s has a whole section on crazy wine cocktails. I don’t have it in front of me, but I seem to recall a weird margarita and something involving hot chocolate. Something else used hot tea. Personally I tend to stick to sangria or any of the sparkler+liqueur cocktails. The latter really allows for a lot of fun, and there are hundreds of classic recipes out there. Just off the top of my head, the Bellini, French 75, and Kir Royale are some of my favorites.

    This week on my blog I’ve used a moscato-flavored vodka to make a summery cocktail, and I’ve used reduced red wine to make compound butter. Not quite what you’re looking for, but fun alternate uses for wine.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      My coworker recently received a $100 bottle of tequila as a gift from an account, and she’s trying to figure out a way to make a cocktail with that and wine. A weird margarita is exactly what I suggested, but I have no idea how to concoct such a thing. I’ll have to look up that book.

      I’ve tried a Bellini, of course, but neither the French 75 nor the Kir Royale, so I guess I have more research to do.

      Cheers, Benito!

  2. Tanisha Says:

    I’ve tried the Kalimotxo before and loved it with the Rioja! I will admit that I did add a shot of rum to mine though.
    I’ve also made a drink called ‘Ice-tini’ which is Ice Wine and Vodka. Not a drink for the faint of heart.
    A sweeter, lighter drink for the summer is ‘Something Blue’ – Hypnotiq, White Wine, and Ginger Ale. I’m not usually a fan of Hypnotiq but the wine and the ginger ale really cut down the sweetness of it.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Yeah, I think if I had gone with a more traditional Rioja it would have been a better fit. the Graciano by itself just wasn’t full enough to take on the Coke flavor. As for the Ice-tini, that sounds awesome. I just got a Kiona Ice Wine, and I have a fantastic Russian vodka, so that might be a blend to try soon.

  3. Amanda Maynard Says:

    Awesome post, Josh. My favorite (and probably more common) wine mixed drink are champagne cocktails. Just small hints of other flavors can really punch up a drink and I’ve been a little obsessed with them lately.

    • wineaccguy Says:

      Yeah, sparkling wine seems to be a pretty mix-friendly option, but I was surprised at how well these wines mixed as well. The texture was smooth and the flavor very clean on both cocktails. I’ll definitely have to explore the bounds of sparkling wine mixing, see how versatile it can be.

  4. 1winedude Says:

    No idea why people get so uptight about this kind of shizz. It’s totally cool with me. In fact, w hen I got engaged to my wife we popped open some vintage Dom. We didn’t finish the bottle that night (we had a lot of bottles open that night!) and I was like “put that into the fridge, we are so totally making Sunday mimosas out of that tomorrow!!!”


  5. The Sediment Blog Says:

    Aren’t the Chinese supposed to be drinking Lafite + Coke?

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