Jungle juice and sangria: Whenever someone mentions drinking those two wine-based cocktails, everyone else in the room starts talking about how great (or crazy) that night was. Remember trying “jungle” juice back in college?
- Dump a minimum of eight different wines and liquors into a huge container (a bathtub or kiddie pool is not out of the question).
- Add various juices and sodas and stir.
(Boy am I glad that there weren’t cell phones at those parties I was at 15 years ago. Nobody needs to see my “good old days” on social media.)
Anyway, then you got older and a little more sophisticated (maybe), and you started enjoyed sangria, sipping on the subtly sweet taste of wine mixed with brandy and chopped fruit at a restaurant or summer get-togethers. The point is, you’ve been enjoying wine-based cocktails for a good while now, likely because they’re so darned delicious.
So what makes these drinks taste so amazing? The answer is balance. Wine can be used as both the dominant and a supporting ingredient in a cocktail. Much like a food pairing, the acidity level (the brightness that you feel in the back of the mouth, like drinking a lemonade) and fruitiness of wine can be used to accent, tone down, or complement all kinds of liquors, juices, and fizzy sodas.
Here are five of my favorite wine-based cocktails, each one all about that tasty balance:
Sparkling Wine Mojito
Whenever I order a mojito (a cocktail made with rum, muddled mint and lime, soda, and simple syrup), it always taste different than the time before. My tip for a mojito upgrade? Add sparkling wine instead of soda water, and the acid and sugars of the wine will make the mint and rum more pronounced and the wine even tastier!
I have to start with this simple yet classic mix with peach puree and prosecco (a slightly sweet Italian sparkling wine with lots of peach and pear and a touch of earthiness). In this drink, the prosecco carries the flavor while the fruity notes arrive at the finish.
This cocktail is from the Basque region of Spain. It’s a 1:1 ratio of red wine like a Tempranillo and Coca-Cola on the rocks. Something so simple and relaxing to enjoy, this Calimocho can be enjoyed for adults and even teenagers!
Late-Harvest White Wine and Campari
I was turned on to Campari and orange Juice by one of my guests in an Italian restaurant I used to work at here in Las Vegas. He told me that he loved the bitter orange, cinnamon, and cherry notes of the Campari tempered by the tangy-sweet orange juice. To create the perfect beverage, you need a touch of sweetness. By adding a late-harvest wine that was left on the vine for a longer period of time, you’re matching the bitter Campari with an intense, concentrated sweetness to create a delicious and refreshing cocktail.
Red Wine Hot Chocolate
I never thought that adding wine to hot chocolate would be so amazing! The slight bitterness from chocolate along with its creamy sweetness needs a dry and heavier wine for a warm, decadent finish. Don’t forget the whip cream!
Oh and by the way, I also created a guide of trying different styles of red wines with sangrias in an article called Wine Craft: One Sangria Recipe (6 Ways) Perfect for Summer. Cheers!