Lighten Up with Wine-Based Cocktails

Cocktails and Spirits with Paul Clarke

Weekly insight into the world of drinks with Paul Clarke from the Cocktail Chronicles and Imbibe magazine.

20080619-winecocktail.pngIn last week’s Washington Post, Jason Wilson dipped into a slowly growing trend in the bar world: wine-based cocktails. But as Wilson points out, the pleasure to be found in these drinks isn’t entirely culinary: he writes, “Using wine in cocktails is a surefire way to scandalize the serious wine aficionados in your life. Which is always fun.”

Mostly ignored until recently, wine-based cocktails date back to the earliest days of mixology: drinks historian David Wondrich writes that the sherry cobbler—made with dry sherry, sugar and fresh fruit—enjoyed great popularity in the mid-19th century, as did relatives made with sauternes, and with French and German wines then grouped under the now-archaic labels claret and hock. Mixing drinks with champagne as a base ingredient has been perennially popular, and fortified wines such as port and vermouth have lent flavorful touches to drinks for more than a century.

Today, wine-based drinks appeal to palates seeking lighter flavors, as well as to drinkers who wish to simply ingest less alcohol, but who want something livelier in the glass than a standard glass of chardonnay. And while domestic wineries are getting into the game, fortified wines such as sherries, quinquinas and chinatos are getting a fresh look from creative bartenders.

What do you reach for when you want something more than just a glass of wine, but with lower horsepower than a martini? Have you tried any of the new (or old) class of wine-based drinks?