From mulled wine to sangria, wine has been a part of the classic cocktail repertoire for quite some time. And though wine cocktails may not be especially new to the beverage world, wine cocktails currently are trending across the Valley. From syrups to infusions of dessert wine, local bartenders are using vino to invigorate their cocktail menus.
As far as the history of wine cocktails goes, Champagne and sparkling wine are the most familiar additives. They appear in lesser-known cocktails such as the Old Cuban and Seelbach, as well as brunch staples including the mimosa and French 75. More ubiquitous wine cocktails include those made with vermouth (a fortified wine) such as Manhattans or martinis, both of which appear on cocktail menus worldwide. Lillet and Cocchi (aromatic wines) are used to make classic, if less commonly known, drinks such as the Vesper or Corpse Reviver #2.
One of the most popular wine cocktails, the New York Sour, first rose to prominence in the late 19th century. Made by slowly pouring red wine over the back of a spoon onto a whiskey sour, the New York Sour features a float of red wine that excites an otherwise traditional cocktail. A popular model for using wine in cocktails today, its influence is widespread.
Here are four of our favorite modern wine-infused cocktails that you can find at Valley bars and restaurants.
A Punchup at a Wedding The Clever Koi
Redemption high-rye bourbon, port, red wine syrup, fresh orange juice, nutmeg garnish
This wine cocktail is an overachiever because it uses not one, but two types of wine. Playing on the vanilla and oak flavors inherent in both rye whiskey and wine, Clever Koi's Punchup at a Wedding ($10) is complex yet focused. Along with vanilla, we tasted hints of candied strawberry from the port, along with baking spices including nutmeg and cinnamon. While the drink falls along the same lines as a classic Blood & Sand cocktail, made with scotch, cherry brandy, sweet vermouth, and orange juice, we liked A Punchup at a Wedding for its refreshing creativity.
Grape Expectations at Crudo
Aviation gin, Chareau, grapes, lemon, Sauvignon Blanc syrup, orange bitters, green grape garnish
Also making use of a wine syrup, Crudo's Grape Expectations ($12) is a light, easy-to-drink wine cocktail. Working from the traditional model of a Gin Daisy, Grape Expectations throws a little excitement into the mix with the addition of Chareau (aloe liqueur) and a Sauvignon Blanc syrup. We tasted sweet green grapes with an astringent grip from the Chareau and orange bitters, while the Sauvignon Blanc syrup added a subtle grass and grapefruit base to this easy-to-enjoy cocktail.
Cherry Bourbon Sour at True Food
Buffalo Trace bourbon, lemon, cherry bitters, Pinot Noir float, lemon twist garnish
As the closest iteration of a New York Sour on this list, True Food's Cherry Bourbon Sour ($11) is a delicious reminder why certain drinks are considered classics. With the inclusion of cherry bitters, the Cherry Bourbon Sour takes on a hint of red summer fruits, while the earthiness of the Pinot Noir float plays nicely with the bourbon. While it seems silly to drink a boozy cocktail at a restaurant as health-focused as True Food, it helps to remember that red wine is (sometimes) really good for you, too.
Willcox Well at Pizzeria Bianco
Tequila, Sand-Reckoner 11, Ancho Reyes, lime juice, citrus wedge with chili powder garnish
A new addition to Pizzeria Bianco's cocktail menu, the Willcox Well ($12) makes use of an Arizona wine — specifically, Sand-Reckoner 11, a desert Zinfandel. Mixing in tequila and the popular poblano chili liqueur, Ancho Reyes, this drink is a uniquely Arizonan take on a classic Sangaree, a precursor to sangria that's been around since 1774 (at least). It's typically made with red wine, citrus, sugar and spice. With vegetale, sweet, and spicy flavors, the Willcox Well is complex and hits all the major palate points we enjoy in a cocktail.