Sunday, April 18, 2010

"Y" is for Yummy Wine Cocktails

Picnics are simply fun. But add a wine cocktail and you’ve turned a picnic into a celebration. Wine cocktails are a refreshing and tasty choice for spring and summer entertaining. They're simply yummy! The best part about this style of beverage is that you can use any brand of inexpensive wine.

When you’re creating wine cocktails, you may want to think of new ones that combine wine with fresh juices, liquors, pure alcohols and garnishes. O, you may want to reinvent an oldie.

Like food and wine, wine cocktails taste best when balanced in flavor. Too much acidity from added juices, too much bitterness or too much sweetness from liqueurs can alter the entire experience of a wine cocktail.

It’s fun to look for new and/or obscure ingredients for your wine cocktails, as well. Wine cocktails can include ingredients, such as lemongrass, maraschino liqueur and truffles. In fact, one of the most popular and newest wine cocktails in downtown Toronto is the Icewine Martini graced with a real, frozen Vidal grape from Niagara. Fresh mint leaves, slices of lemons and limes and sliced strawberries add color to these cocktails, making them pleasing to the eye.

‘Sangria’ is no doubt the most well known wine cocktail. Made in a pitcher, Sangria recipes are countless. However, a boozy version calls for five cups of red wine, five cups of orange juice, one and a half cups of Triple Sec, one cup of sweet and sour mix, one cup of Grenadine, one cup of brandy and two cups of lemon-lime soda. Triple sec adds strong orange flavour to this beverage, while Grenadine is a non-alcoholic syrup made from pomegranates that adds a bright color and zesty fruit flavour. Sangria is like an alcoholic tropical fruit bunch.

Along with Sangria, there are a variety of wine cocktails that you can serve this summer for barbecue dining and for entertaining. White port can be used in the making of ‘Scotti’s Apple Juice.’ To make this beverage, place crushed ice in a glass. Add an ounce of white port and an ounce of Drambuie and fill the remainder of the glass with apple juice, adding a dash of bitters at the end. Drambuie, made from a blend of scotch whiskies, gives this cocktail its alcoholic zing.

The ‘Cardinal’ combines red wine with an ounce of Crème de Cassis over ice and decorated with a slice of orange. Crème de Casis is a sweet, black currant-flavoured liqueur that complements the subtle acidity in full-bodied red wines.

The ‘California Julip’ is made with one and a half ounces of brandy, a quarter ounce of strawberry liqueur, a tablespoon of simple syrup (a mixture of sugar and water), brut sparkling wine and mint leaves. To make this drink, place a few mint leaves and the liqueur and syrup into the bottom of a glass. Using the back of a spoon, crush the leaves into the liquid. Place crushed ice in the glass. Add the brandy and fill the glass with sparkling wine. Garnish with mint sprigs.
I once asked my husband, “If I was a glass of wine, what wine would I be?” He immediately replied with “Champagne.” His reasoning, he told me, is that I’m always justifying a reason to celebrate. I crack open a bottle of bubbly if I’ve failed or succeeded, happy or sad. I prefer to think of myself as a complex, vintage Champagne. He argues that I’m an easy-going bubbly.

Wine cocktails made from sparkling wine are festive, refreshing and pleasing to the palate, not to mention a less expensive alternative to table wine for patio dining. And while these specialty drinks are called ‘Champagne’ cocktails, it’s best to use inexpensive sparkling wines, as well. These cocktails can also be made with soda water for the designated driver. Just add a little sugar to the soda water to sweeten the mix.

For wine aficionados who do not believe in mixing the ‘purity’ of wine with other liquids, such as fruit juices, pure alcohols and liqueurs, I have but one comment, “Lighten up!”

Here are a few Champagne cocktail ideas:

Classic Champagne Cocktail:
Champagne cocktail is the easiest to make. Pour sparkling wine (one with some sweetness) into each flute glass. Add 2 tablespoons of brandy and add a dash of bitters. A slice of lemon to each glass adds some flare.
· Colio Wines Viva Spumante (CSPC # 184390) $6.75
(Available at Colio Boutiques)
· Barclay’s Brandy (CSPC 6528) $12.75
· Alpenbitter (CSPC 212688/100 mL), $3.95

La Vie En Rosé:
This cocktail is also easy to make. Place four sugar cubes in the bottom of flute glasses. Pour one tablespoon of rosewater over the sugar cube. Let the cube soak up the liquid. Pour rosé sparkling wine into each glass.
· Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (CSPC # 88591), $13.95
Rose water available at health food shops and some pharmacies

‘Death in the Afternoon’
This drink combines an ounce of absinthe and five ounces of sparkling wine, served in a champagne flute glass.
· Pastis Janot (CSPC # 701045) $19.95
· Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (CSPC # 88591), $13.95

This wine cocktails calls for an ounce of fresh peach puree and five ounces of sparkling wine.
· Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (CSPC # 88591), $13.95
· 3 peaches, peeled and pureed

This is a highly alcoholic cocktail, calling for two pieces if fresh pineapple, half an ounce of cointreau, half an ounce of vodka, one ounce of pineapple juice and three ounces of sparkling wine.
· Cointreau SA (CSPC # 10322) $15.95
· Alberta Pure Vodka (CSPC # 1503) $11.70
· Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut (CSPC # 88591), $13.95

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