The wine cooler has a bit of an identity problem. Is it a wine spritzer? A wine cocktail? Sangria? And what about that wild child moment in the '80s when it was the hottest thing on the party scene?
Luckily, this cocktail conundrum is easily solved. As Gertrude Stein might put it, wine cooler is wine spritzer is wine cocktail is sangria. And the versions being whipped up today have nothing in common with the cheap, mass-produced products of 30 years ago (which thankfully went the way of shoulder pads).
Summer is the perfect time for wine coolers, since it's the one time of year even the most dedicated vinophile toys with dropping a fistful of ice in a glass.
What should you use when making your own wine coolers? Well, don't reach for the bottom shelf wine that just doesn't taste good, advised Cappy Sorentino, bar director of Spoonbar restaurant at the h2hotel in the wine country town of Healdsburg, Calif. On the other hand, don't go crazy and uncork an expensive bottle of wine, either.
"It doesn't have to be the best stuff because you're basically using it as a base," he says.
Look for a wine that has a fair amount of acidity to it, i.e. "yes" to sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, "no" to chardonnay that's spent a lot of time in oak barrels. For red wines, Spanish wines are, not surprisingly, a good choice since sangria is a Spanish invention. Tempranillo makes a good choice.
Joe Campanale, beverage director of four New York City neighborhood restaurants, encourages cocktail enthusiasts to get creative by mixing up their favorite single-serving cocktail in a pitcher for a group dinner or celebration. Keep the ingredients light, he advised, as in his Blame it on the Aperol cocktail served at the dell'anima restaurant which combines Aperol, Blue Coat gin, lemon juice in a pitcher with plenty of ice. Give it a stir, pour into flute glasses and top off with sparkling wine for a bright effervescence.
4 ounces sauvignon blanc wine
1 ounce silver or blanco tequila
Juice of 1 lime
3 ounces grapefruit soda
Combine all ingredients in a tall, ice-filled glass.
Stir gently, then serve immediately.
Dark Island Cooler
1/2 vanilla bean
4 ounces cabernet sauvignon wine
1 ounce spiced rum
2 ounces pineapple juice
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a tall glass. Add the wine, rum and pineapple juice, stirring to combine. Add ice and top with seltzer water.
3/4 cup watermelon chunks
1/3 cup frozen peach chunks
1/2 ounce lemon juice
6 ounces prosecco sparkling wine
In a blender, combine the watermelon, peaches and lemon juice. Purée until smooth.
Using a mesh strainer, strain into 2 sparkling wine flutes, then top with prosecco.
Rose Tinted Glasses
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled
2 ounces St. Germaine elderflower liqueur
8 ounces rose wineSeltzer water
2 sprigs fresh mint
In a blender, purée the strawberries until smooth.
Using a mesh strainer, strain into a cocktail shaker. Add the elderflower liqueur and rose wine. Add ice, then shake to combine.
Strain into 2 tall glasses filled with ice. Top with seltzer water and garnish each with a mint sprig.