The use of wine in cocktails is a hot trend among today’s top bartenders. But as Jason Wilson’s excellent new book shows, this trend is actually ages old.
I grew up in Bakersfield, California, a community with a large Basque population. (Thus my fondness for the Picon Punch.) One of the most popular drinks with younger Basques is Calimocho, a combination of cheap red wine and Coke. It’s one of those things that sounds revolting, but turns out to be surprisingly good. It makes for a refreshing drink on a hot day — and also helps use up the old wine that doesn’t taste so great on its own.
The Calimocho is far from unique. As long as people have been drinking wine, they’ve been mixing it with other things. Wine and soda of various sorts has long been a staple, as has the ubiquitous Sangria, which is properly made with wine, brandy, fruit, and possibly a liqueur. Different types of Champagne cocktails — including the sly and potent French 75 — have also dominated the field.
But it’s not just the more common types of wine that have featured in mixed drinks. Sherry and port have a rich history of use in concoctions of various types, especially back in Colonial times, when cobblers and sangarees of all stripes were the hot items of the day.
Wine Cocktails explores some of the history and development of these cocktails, along with general background on the wines themselves. Wilson’s writing is as lively and entertaining as always, making this a useful read even if your mixology skills are lacking.
The best part of Wine Cocktails, naturally, is the recipes, and Wilson collects a wide variety both old and new, many of them from top mixologists, utilizing a varieties of wines, spirits, and flavors. These are the real deal, not like so many of the recipes you find on the Internet. You can make these drinks trusting that you’ll end up with a final product that is unique and delicious.
All told, this is an indispensable book for anyone looking to learn more about this fascinating — and very tasty! — trend.