Wine Talk: Cocktail hour

A refreshing summer wine cocktail sounds enticing, and there are enough wines of differing sweetness and flavors to suit all tastes.

cocktail 311 (photo credit: MCT)
cocktail 311
(photo credit: MCT)
Once cocktails were traditional, standard, and the recipes usually came out of an old book kept under the bar, with stiff pages from having so many drinks spilt on them over the years.
Today the old-fashioned barman has developed into another animal altogether.
Find a good one and you have met what is now known as a “mixologist.” These newwave barmen are like spontaneous chefs. If you arrive at the bar and say what you are looking for, they will mix you a cocktail fulfilling your wishes and probably using fresh ingredients available at that particular moment. To watch the new-style bartender in action is to enjoy a performance. It makes sitting at the bar totally worthwhile.
As a result of their inventiveness, cocktails are now coming back in.
The key to a successful cocktail is quite simply contrast. The great chef Raymond Blanc writes in his book A Taste of My Life: “If you were to taste the greatest dishes of the world, you would identify a pattern: the majority of them are based on contrasts.”
This is the key to making cocktails. Blanc goes on to explain that the best balanced cocktail has three ingredients, which he refers to as the three S’s. The first S is for strength. This comes from the alcohol or spirit. The second S is for sour, which comes from a fruit or fruit juice. The third S refers to sweetness, and this is usually from a liqueur. These three S’s provide the balance to make a refreshing or flavorful cocktail, with the desired contrasts to make them interesting.
Wine cocktails come to mind because a refreshing summer wine cocktail sounds enticing. Many people will frown at the idea of wine cocktails, as there are enough wines of differing sweetness, flavors and styles to satisfy most people. However, if you are an amateur mixologist, wine may be successfully used for the “strength” part of the cocktail.
For those with a prudish attitude to making wine cocktails, remember wine has been mixed with fruits, spices or honey since the earliest days of wine drinking in 6000 BCE. They were mixed to add flavor to a drink that may not have been that tasty without the additions and to act as a preservative.
It is certainly sensible to use inexpensive wines, and not the finest wine you have been keeping for a special occasion! A.J. Rathbun, author of Wine Cocktails (The Harvard Common Press), describes a good summer wine cocktail as one “that cools you down, has a school’s-out sort of vibe, is light on its feet and less alcoholic than cocktails enjoyed during the colder winter months.” Exactly! Here are some cocktail ideas to experiment with involving red, rosé, white and sparkling wines. If you prefer exact measurements, there are numerous sources and variations. Just select the recipe that suits you.
SANGRIA This refreshing and delicious fruit-based wine punch has its roots in Spain. Make a basic syrup using a mixture of water and sugar. Bring it to the boil and then simmer for 5 minutes and cool. Pour a 750-ml. bottle of inexpensive wine like Domaine or Vino Red into a large punch bowl. If you want a sweeter or lower-alcohol version, use the Young Selected Carignano as the base wine. Add a glass of brandy. Extra Fine is ideal. Cut up an orange, lemon and lime and add orange juice and lime juice. Add ice. Stir well and ladle it into tall glasses.
ISRAEL CUP This is from a 150-year-old recipe called the Bordeaux Cup or Claret Cup, drunk by the British, which I have renamed. Pour a bottle of Israeli red wine like Segal, Vino Red or Domaine and some syrup (prepared as above) into a large pitcher. Add grated lemon rind from and some cloves, cinnamon and allspice. Stir and dilute to taste with ice and water. This is best served in wine glasses.
ROSE SQUIRT Fill highball glasses half full with ice cubes. Then pour in a rosé wine to just over half full. Use Barkan Classic Shiraz Rosé or Selected Zinfandel Rosé, depending on whether you want the wine to be dry or semi-dry. Add a small amount of maraschino cherry liqueur and top up with soda water. Add cherries for garnish.
MUSKRAT Add mint leaves to pineapple juice. Use a mixing glass or a cocktail shaker to “muddle” the mint and juice or stir well with a wooden spoon. Fill the cocktail shaker half full with ice and add apricot liqueur. Strain the liquid into white wine glasses and top up with ice cold Young Selected Moscato or Binyamina Muscat.
BLUE WAVE Combine slices of green apple, segments of orange and slices of kiwi fruit in a mixing glass. Stir well with a wooden spoon. Add ice cubes, an Emerald Riesling wine (Selected or Barkan Classic), a splash of Hpnotiq liqueur and orange juice. Stir well and top up with ginger ale. Use frozen individual grapes as a garnish. Serve in a cocktail glass.
Pour ice-cold, freshly squeezed orange juice through a strainer. Add to a sparkling wine like Private Collection Brut or Tabor 652. Serve in champagne flute glasses.
Adam Montefiore works for Carmel Winery. He regularly writes about wine in international and Israeli publications.