Remember wine coolers? Turns out they're not actually all that cool these days.
But don't put that cork back in the bottle just yet. Why not mix up a few wine cocktails, which — unlike their commercial predecessors — are quite sophisticated and of-the-moment.
"Wine-based cocktails are something that I think have really taken off," says Amy Currens, wine director at Prospect, a restaurant serving contemporary American cuisine in San Francisco's South of Market neighborhood.
Wine cocktails are a year-round drink, but they're especially good for summer, adding a fun touch to backyard barbecues and pairing well with grilled meats thanks to their grape underpinnings.
One of the cocktails served at Prospect, named appropriately enough the Prospector, consists of blended scotch, Benedictine, bitters and Madeira, the fortified wine from Portugal. "Those red fruits that come out through the Madeira would complement roasted meat," says Currens. "I can see a good brat and a Prospector."
A classic wine cocktail is the Americano, which is part vermouth and part Campari, a liqueur. Another standby is the Bellini, a mix of sparkling wine, usually Italian prosecco, and peach puree. And in general, sparkling wine is an easy way to incorporate wine into a cocktail, providing fizz and a boost of flavor.
At the Bluestem Brasserie in San Francisco, the Violet Femme cocktail uses red seedless grapes, absinthe, cabernet sauvignon, sparkling wine, simple syrup and bitters. And the Briar Patch celebrates the season with macerated summer fruit, gin, lime and sparkling wine.
Port and sherry make good additions to a cocktail, as does moscato, which is often fruity and little fizzy. Sonoma County-based Redtree Wine has come up with some cocktail recipes for its Redtree moscato wine including Bumble & Bubbles, made of 3 ounces of prosecco, 1 ounce moscato, and two dashes of orange bitters.
It's probably not surprising that wine has popped up as a cocktail ingredient given the trend of inventive drinks recipes that focus on using fresh and unusual ingredients.
The advantage of wine as an ingredient "really boils down to two main things," says Bluestem Brasserie owner Adam Jed. "First of all, wine adds a really unique flavor profile to cocktails. The other is that wine, especially sparkling wine or Champagne, adds an inherent lightness that soda water, syrups and other ingredients do not. It's that unique texture that really makes wine cocktails stand out from the crowd."
Ready to mix up your own grape cocktail? Here's the recipe for the Prospector.
Start to finish: 5 minutes
2 ounces blended scotch
3/4 ounce bual Madeira
1/2 ounce Benedictine
3 dashes bitters
Combine all ingredients in a large tumbler filled with ice. Stir and serve.
(Recipe from Prospect Bar in San Francisco)