While it’s true that nothing beats a glass of good wine as the sun sets and dinner looms, every now and then a pre-dinner cocktail can be a mighty fine alternative. My cocktail of choice is apt to be gin and tonic, but I’m not averse to enjoying a glass of good whiskey every now and then, and at the right time and place, a Margarita likewise appeals.
Then there’s the boozy version of having one’s cake and eating it too: A cocktail that includes both wine and spirits. I first enjoyed one of these in France many years ago in the form of Kir Royale. I had already been introduced to regular Kir, a blend of white wine and cassis (cassis, or créme de cassis, is a liqueur made of macerated black currants), but I’d not yet had the pleasure of drinking Kir Royale. Said to have been invented by Felix Kir, a Catholic priest in Dijon, France, Kir Royale is a tasty and refreshing blend of cassis and sparkling wine.
Another member of the Kir family is the Communard, sometimes known as a Cardinal, which features Cassis and red wine.
--1 ounce Crème de Cassis
--5 ounces red wine such as Merlot or Pinot Noir
Pour the Crème de Cassis into a wine glass. Slowly add the wine. Stir to blend or let the Crème de Cassis slowly rise up as you drink the cocktail. If you like a sweeter cocktail increase the Crème de Cassis.
Another red colored cocktail is Aperol Spritz, which made its first known appearance in 1919 in Padua, Italy. Almost a hundred years went by before this drink really caught on in the US, but today Aperol Spritz is one of our most popular cocktails. It is a good pre-dinner cocktail as Aperol itself is relatively low in alcohol (11% ABV). This engagingly bittersweet drink contains three ingredients blended together:
--3 ounce Aperol
--2 ounce sparkling white wine (ideally Prosecco)
--1 ounce sparkling water.
I’m not sure how the Bicicletta got its name. One source claims it was a reference to the men who grabbed a drink or two at the local bar after work, then swerved back and forth on their bikes as they pedaled home. Somewhat more believable is the notion that Bicicletta is named for the sliced rounds of orange that traditionally garnish the cocktail:
--3 ounces of dry white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc
--2 ounces Campari
--Chilled club soda
--2 slices fresh orange
It is recommended that the cocktail be served in a rocks glass or wine glass, topped off with club soda and garnished with the two round slices of orange.
What can be better than a classic Margarita? A Devil’s Margarita perhaps. As pretty as it is tasty, this cocktail calls for blanco tequila to be generously seasoned with fresh lime juice, sweetened with simple syrup, and finished with a portion of red wine
--1 ½ ounce tequila blanco
--3/4 ounce simple syrup
--1 ½ ounce red wine
--1 slice lime
Place the tequila and simple syrup in a shaker along with two or three ice cubes. Shake together and strain into a wine glass. Pour in the wine and garnish the cocktail with the slice of lime.
A blend of red wine and Coke, Kalimotxo (pronounce it caly-mo-cho) is a favorite cocktail in Spain. Even if you aren’t a fan of Coke, you may find this an engaging drink, and one that’s easy to prepare. Traditional recipes call for equal parts wine and Coke but I find it tastier to be slightly more generous with the wine. Full disclosure: I am not much of a cola fan, but even so I find Kalotxo a surprisingly refreshing cocktail, especially on a hot summer evening, and especially after I reduced the amount of Coke in the drink. This is my version:
Mix together ½ cup red wine (Rioja might be a good choice) and 1/3 cup Coca-Cola, and enjoy the cocktail poured over ice. Garnish it with a slice of lemon if you like.
If there is a more popular all-purpose festive cocktail in America than the Mimosa, I don’t know what it is. Mimosas are a favorite brunch beverage as well as a ubiquitous holiday breakfast or lunch tipple.
For each Mimosa pour into a Champagne flute (or wine glass) ¾ ounce triple sec or other sweet liqueur, 2 oz chilled orange juice (preferably freshly squeezed), and 4 ounces chilled sparkling wine. No need to shake or stir the mixture as that would simply crush the bubbles
The flavor-packed Poinsettia is an elegant and refreshing Champagne cocktail. No need to break the bank, however—with cranberry juice and orange liqueur adding loads of flavor to the mix it would be a waste to use top-tier Champagne in this cocktail. The orange liqueur, however, should be of excellent quality.
For each cocktail: Refrigerate the orange liqueur and cranberry juice for at least an hour before making the cocktails. Combine ½ ounce orange liqueur such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau with 3 ounces Champagne. Add 3 ounces of cranberry juice. Garnish with an orange peel twist.
A vintage drink dating back to the 1930s, the Bishop is based on red wine and rum. Because of the red wine it might be a colorful and festive cocktail for the fast-approaching holiday season.
For each serving:
3 ounces rum
1 ounce red wine
1 teaspoon simple syrup
1 teaspoon fresh lime juice
Place ingredients in a shaker. Add ice, shake, and strain into a wine glass.