BOSTON, MA — Wine lovers are always looking for an excuse to get wine into the conversation, even in the cocktail world. Vermouth is a kind of herb infused wine plus brandy blend, and that goes into a lot of classic cocktails, but wine itself as an ingredient is rare. Here’s the most basic recipe for a red wine cocktail. Feel free to substitute dry white wine or even your favorite dry rosé.
Cherry Old School
We call it an Old Fashioned because that’s exactly what it is, the very first cocktail: a little sugar water (sugar won’t really dissolve in whiskey) plus a little lemon juice, and your whiskey, of course. The good news is, sugar does dissolve in wine, so it’s a short walk to the red or white wine Old Fashioned. We made this one with Cerasuolo, a zippy bing cherry like red wine from Sicily.
2 oz Cerasuolo di Vittoria
1/2 tsp turbinado sugar
1 small sprig each: oregano, basil, and mint
Combine, shake 20 count, wait 20 count, repeat till the sugar dissolves, then let steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Add 2 oz rye or corn whiskey and stir gently. Strain into a rocks glass over a giant hipster ice cube. Dash of bitters optional, since the fresh herbs contribute a lot of bitterness even steeping just a few minutes. Garnish with 1/8 spritzed lemon and a sprig of oregano.
2017 Baglio delle Fate Cerasuolo di Vittoria (Vittoria, Ragusa, southern Sicily, southern Italy, about $15.99)
After decades of toiling away in a kind of anonymous bulk wine purgatory, the wines of Sicily are finally having their moment in the sun. As tastes and trends go authentic, tracking after the natural / organic / sustainable niche, places where that kind of farming is easier to do have natural brand and product advantages.
Cerasuolo means cherry red, and a big bunch of bright tart cherry flavors form the first wave, followed by after flavors of rosemary, green tomato leaf, and black pepper. The color is light red and pretty, but the flavors are loud with the bass turned up.
DRINK WITH? Grilled meat is going to love this wine, but it’s light enough to go with a meaty grilled fish like tuna or swordfish. Saute up a pan full of mixed oil-cured olives for a perfect match too.
DRINK WHEN? This is one of those no-time-like-the-present wines. It will be fine to drink for five to seven years easily, but the thing I love about it right now is its freshness and youthfulness, which will settle a little over time. If you had two bottles, drank one now and saved one for January, the second bottle will remind you of summer.
PERFECT FOR? Buying wine for wine lovers can be a challenge, but this is going to be automatic for the Italian wine lover on your list.