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The Subtle Art of Red Wine + Cola
May I suggest Spanish soda-wine cocktails for our American holiday?
Last week, I praised “One Plus One” cocktails, and extolled the virtues of easy soda + spirit drink. This week, I’m doubling down on lazy bartending.
First, I have written a piece on my relationship with sangria for Anne Byrn’s wonderful newsletter Between the Layers:
Before we talk about sangria, we must talk about the truth. I know that sangria conjures images of flamenco and bullfights and Costa del Sol. But the reality is that Spanish people do not drink a lot of sangria. Sangria, in Spain, is mostly a drink for tourists. Which is fine! We’re all tourists somewhere, and we all love delicious drinks!
Like me, Anne has been a fellow in Substack’s Food Writers Intensive fellowship, a sort of newsletter incubator for 11 food-and-drink writers who have been meeting on Zoom and Slack over the past three months. Check out Anne’s newsletter, and read my thoughts on sangria!
Next, if we’re going to talk about sangria, we should also talk about the kinds of casual wine-plus-soda cocktails that people in Spain actually drink. I mentioned the Calimocho, the (infamous?) blend of red wine and Coke last week. In my piece for Between the Layers, I talk about the wider category of Iberian wine + soda drinks:
To be clear, people in Spain do enjoy wine cocktails, and there is a whole universe of wine-plus-soda drinks that Spaniards love. Among them is the Calimocho (red wine mixed with Coca-Cola), the Rebujito (fino sherry mixed with 7-Up or Sprite and garnished with mint) and the Tinto de Verano (red wine mixed with 7-Up or Sprite and a squeeze of citrus). Yes, these drinks sound vaguely trashy, but trust me, they are delicious over ice on a hot day, and a good use of last night’s leftover wine.
These wine-plus-soda cocktails are all ridiculously simple to make, but they also give a template for creating drinks that could potentially (maybe?) be (slightly?) more creative and complex. In an effort to make them a little more classy, I’m tapping my old friend Oscar Diez, a Spanish winemaker and bartender, to add his take on the classic wine-plus-soda cocktails.
Oscar is based in Toro, a small town in Castilla y León, where his winery Bodegas Díez Gómez produces tempranillo and verdejo (I particularly like his barrel-fermented verdejo). Before took over his family’s vineyards, though, Oscar ran a bar called Discoteca Q in Toro (which at that time was a town of 10,000 with 100 bars!) and won numerous bartending awards, including one for “Best Gin Tonic in Spain,” noteworthy in a country that has elevated this drink to an art form.
Even as a winemaker, Oscar is committed to what he calls “Wine Mixology,” using wine in building cocktails. Each of his wines actually has a cocktail recipe on the label. When I saw him in May at a wine fair, Oscar was mixing up a variation on a mojito with verdejo wine, and a crazy cocktail made with gin, raspberry syrup, lime juice, his big Tinta de Toro (aka tempranillo), garnished with a sprig of rosemary. What follows here are Oscar’s twists on three classic wine-plus-soda cocktails.
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There is no better use for leftover red wine than a Calimocho. You will be surprised (and perhaps disturbed) by how well an oaky tempranillo blends with cola. This fancified version of the classic adds Grand Marnier to the mix for more, uh…complexity. Crianza tempranillo (with at least one year in oak) works best.
½ ounce Grand Marnier
2 ounces tempranillo wine, preferably crianza
3 to 4 ounces Coca-Cola
Dash of Angostura bitters (optional)
Orange or lime wedge
In a large wine glass filled with 4 or 5 large ice cubes, add the Grand Marnier, then the red wine, then the Coca-Cola. Stir gently, then add citrus wedge.
I may have consumed a few of these at the Feria de Jerez back in May (that story coming later this summer). There are numerous variations of the Rebujito (some with muddled fruit) but it’s always garnished with mint, which heightens the aromatics in the sherry and gives the drink a crisp, fresh quality—in spite of the sweet lemon-lime soda.
2 ounces fino or manzanilla sherry
4 ounces 7-Up or Sprite
In a wine glass filled with 4 to 5 ice cubes, add the sherry, then top with lemon-lime soda. Stir gently, and garnish with mint sprig.
Summer Q Wine
Oscar’s rendition of the classic Tinto de Verano. Use a fruity young (or joven) tempranillo for this one.
¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
2 ounces tempranillo wine, preferably young and fruity
3 to 4 ounces 7-Up or Sprite
Orange and/or lime wedges
In a large glass filled with 4 or 5 large ice cubes, add the lime juice, then the wine, then the lemon-lime soda. Stir gently, then add the citrus wedges.