We wine lovers can be a bit, well, snobbish! Or perhaps a politer way of describing us is, discerning. Not for us the $4.99 jug of alcoholic grape juice stacked up at the end of the supermarket aisle. No, we have refined palettes, educated tastes and we wouldn't dream of sullying our favorite indulgence.
Actually, that's not true, is it? 'Fess up, we all have a secret passion for mixed drinks made with wine. And there is absolutely nothing at all wrong with that; the fact that we enjoy a wine based cocktail is not in conflict with our appreciation of wine in its pure form.
Here are some of our favorite wine based mixed drinks. If you haven't tried these, go ahead, indulge!
A spritzer is a mixture of white wine and something sparkling – generally soda water. The trick is to find an inexpensive white wine, preferably one with plenty of fruit, and to serve the whole thing very cold. Half and half is the right proportion, and top off with a slice of lemon or lime. Spritzers are perfect for very hot weather or for parties. They are thirst quenching, have a summery feel, and yet allow the flavor of the wine to be enjoyed. Alternatives to soda water are ginger ale and lemonade, but, most wine lovers feel this is a flavor too far.
This classic cocktail was invented in Harry's Bar in Venice, a favorite haunt of Ernest Hemingway. It combines champagne and peach, and is just a perfectly delicious concoction.
You take a third of a glass of peach purée or juice, preferably fresh made from perfectly ripe Italian peaches, and two thirds of a glass of champagne. Add the champagne to the peach, and stir with a swizzle stick. Garnish with a slice of peach on the edge of the glass.
They can also be made with raspberries or apricots, but be sure the fruit you choose is fresh and full of flavor.
Bellinis are rather decadent, and are an excellent choice for a wedding where some of the guests are non-drinkers. Everyone gets to drink something lovely to toast the bride and groom, the virgin version uses sparkling apple juice instead of champagne.
This time our wine is red, and served warm. One of my most cherished memories is of the annual carol services at a thousand plus year old church in rural England. Unheated and candlelit, the entire village packed into the ancient church, where they read and sung the traditional nine lessons and carols. All the while, at the back of the church, the wine was being mulled and the mince pies were being warmed. The perfume of wine and spice and pastry was indescribably tantalizing, and at the end of the service, all gathered to make merry and drink the delicious brew.
Here is an English recipe:
- 2 bottles of robust red wine – not your finest, but something good – a meaty Cabernet Sauvignon perhaps.
- 2 large oranges sliced
- 2 large lemons sliced
- 1 large orange stuck with about 20 whole cloves
- (Tip – wash the citrus fruit in hot water before using to get rid of the wax coating – or buy organic)
- 6 tablespoons honey
- tablespoon grated fresh ginger
- 3 tablespoons of cherry brandy or other fruity liqueur
Put all the ingredients into a non-reactive saucepan, bring to just below boiling and simmer for at least 20 minutes. Don't let it boil, as this will evaporate the alcohol. Serve in glass mugs or heavy wine glasses, with Christmas cake, mince pies or gingerbread. It's Christmas in a glass!