The wine cooler has a bit of an identity problem. Is it a wine spritzer? A wine cocktail? Sangria? And what about that wild child moment in the ‘80s when it was the hottest thing?
Luckily, this cocktail conundrum is easily solved. As Gertrude Stein might put it, wine cooler is wine spritzer is wine cocktail is sangria. And the versions being whipped up today have nothing in common with the cheap, mass-produced products of 30 years ago.
“Mixology has been raised to this new chef-like heights and wine, in a way, is the bartender’s hottest ingredient right now,” says Mike Dawson, senior editor at Wine Enthusiast. “Cutting-edge bartenders are taking these wine-based drinks to new heights, and creating these New Age coolers, along with countless variations of the sangria and classic wine cocktails like the New York Sour.”
Summer is the perfect time for wine coolers, since it’s the one time of year even the most dedicated vinophile toys with dropping a fistful of ice in a glass.
What should you use when making your own wine coolers? Look for a wine that has a fair amount of acidity to it, i.e. “yes” to sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio, “no” to chardonnay that’s spent a lot of time in oak barrels.
For red wines, Spanish wines are, not surprisingly, a good choice since sangria is a Spanish invention. Tempranillo makes a good choice.
Here are a few more suggestions on ways to make your wine cooler-spritzer-sangria-cocktail pitcher perfect.
Dark Island Cooler
Start to finish: 5 minutes
1/2 vanilla bean
4 ounces cabernet sauvignon wine
1 ounce spiced rum
2 ounces pineapple juice
Split the vanilla bean in half lengthwise and scrape the seeds into a tall glass. Add the wine, rum and pineapple juice, stirring to combine. Add ice and top with seltzer water.
Start to finish: 10 minutes
3/4 cup watermelon chunks
1/3 cup frozen peach chunks
1/2 ounce lemon juice
6 ounces prosecco sparkling wine
In a blender, combine the watermelon, peaches and lemon juice. Puree until smooth. Using a mesh strainer, strain into 2 sparkling wine flutes, then top with prosecco.