Wine Pairing Isn't Just for Food: 6 Wine Based Cocktails to Try

by JJ Buckley Fine Wines

Chilled glass of sangria with elegant spiral fruit garnishThe words “mixed drink” or “cocktail” often conjure up images of liquor combined with a mixer (club soda, ginger beer, orange juice) and topped with a garnish. Some call for simple syrup or a squeeze of fresh lemon or lime juice. The one ingredient you don’t usually hear called for is wine. 

Wine often gets a reputation for being a libation you enjoy as-is. Many wines offer unique, complex, and nuanced experiences on their own. However, it can also make for a pretty incredible cocktail. If you’ve never thought about wine cocktails before, now’s a perfect time to start expanding your beverage horizons.  

Why Mix Wine with Other Ingredients?

Wine pairing typically involves the fine art of matching wine and food to elevate your dining experiences. The idea of mixing wine with other liquids into a whole new beverage might seem foreign or even wrong. Contrary to what some might tell you, though, combining a red, white, or rosé wine with other ingredients to craft a whole new drink can lead to some delightful experiences. 

Wine cocktails have been around for a long time and you may have heard of at least one, the Kir Royale which is made from sparkling wine and creme de cassis. But their reputation for being a bit odd kept them out of the spotlight. Even so, they developed a strong following and continue to gain popularity. For one, they offer even more ways to serve your favorite varietals. Combining wine with other mixers (juice, soda, etc.) creates new ways to enjoy unforgettable pairings. It also enables you to get creative and (literally) mix it up a bit. 

Mix Things Up with These 6 Wine Based Cocktail Ideas

One of the best things about mixing cocktails with wine is that there are so many possibilities. You can even alter a few ingredients in some recipes to create flavor variations. Whether you’re on the fence about giving them a try or you’re just not sure where to start, here are a few ideas that might turn you into a wine cocktail enthusiast.  

1. Wine Spritzer

Wine spritzers are simple to put together, making them one of the more popular wine based cocktails. Light and refreshing, they’re an ideal summertime libation (although you can serve them for any occasion). Fill a chilled glass with ice and add four ounces of wine and two ounces of club soda. Garnish it with a complimentary slice of fruit, and serve. 

You can use white, rosé, or red wine here. Rosé and red wines like Grenache or Pinot Noir offer fruitier flavors. An orange slice or fresh strawberry makes an ideal garnish. For a white wine variety, try using Sauvignon Blanc and garnish it with a lemon slice. 

Fun fact: If you use a bubbly wine like Champagne or Prosecco, the drink is called simply a "spritz". 

2. Sangria

Sangria is another summertime favorite. It’s also more potent than it might seem at first, thanks to the addition of spirits. There’s a lot of room for creativity with this wine cocktail, so let’s start with an easy one.

To start, you’ll need three lemons, three limes, and two oranges, all cut into slices. Add those to two chilled bottles of red wine, one cup of brandy, and half a cup of sugar. Finally, add two peaches and a pint of strawberries, sliced. Pour the mixture into glasses with ice and then top with club soda. 

As a Spanish wine cocktail, we recommend using Tempranillo or Grenache. You could also try substituting with rosé or even a white and using different fruits. Sangria leaves a lot of room for creativity.   

3. Mimosa

If you’ve ever eaten Sunday brunch at a restaurant, you’ve probably seen mimosas. It’s another super simple mixed drink consisting of equal parts Champagne and orange juice. An orange slice on the rim of the Champagne flute tops the whole thing off. 

If you want to kick your mimosa up another notch, try using a mix of orange and pineapple juice. Or, swap the orange juice for grapefruit juice, cranberry juice, or even apple cider. Use Prosecco instead of Champagne for some extra sweetness. 

4. New York Sour

The beautiful New York sour tastes as good as it looks. First, combine four ounces of bourbon with one ounce of lemon juice and half an ounce of simple syrup in a cocktail shaker.  Add some ice and give the mixture a good shake.

Next, strain the liquid into a lowball or Old Fashioned glass filled with ice. Finally, add an ounce of red wine to the top to create a gorgeous two-toned beverage and garnish it with a twist of lemon.

For more depth of flavor, use maple syrup instead of simple syrup, or use honey to make it a Gold Rush. If you ever find yourself hosting a 1920’s theme party, you could also try adding foamed egg white to the top. 

5. White Wine Mojito

The white wine mojito is a wine lover’s twist on the classic rum cocktail. Chill a bottle of white wine and two cups of sparkling lemonade in the fridge. Mix the two into a large pitcher and add the juice of two fresh limes. Right before you’re ready to serve, mince three-quarters of a cup of fresh mint and add them to the pitcher and stir it to combine. After pouring the drink into a glass, add a slice of lime and mint sprig to garnish. 

The type of wine you choose for this drink is up to you. You can never go wrong with an herbaceous Sauvignon Blanc. Riesling and Pinot Grigio are also excellent options. 

6. Champagne Cocktail

Champagne is already a fizzy drink. A Champagne cocktail is even fizzier. Perfect for toasting the New Year (or any other occasion you wish), this mixed drink requires only a few ingredients. First, drop a sugar cube and a dash of bitters into a Champagne flute. Then, slowly pour five ounces of Champagne into the glass and serve. If you don’t have Champagne, that’s no problem. Another sparkling wine will do just fine.  

Beyond Wine Pairing and Food: Craft Some Tasty New Concoctions for All Occasions

Wine may be delightful alone or paired with a complimentary meal, but wine cocktails are a creative art all their own. These ideas are but a glimpse of the many possibilities. With near-endless combinations of ingredients, you’ll be able to craft an incredible drink for any occasion. 

Are you looking to express your creativity and try your hand at making wine cocktails? JJ Buckley Fine Wines has a broad selection of varietals to meet all of your needs. Check out our selection or consult with our wine specialists for some extra help.