Red Wine and Coke (aka Kalimotxo, Cocavino)

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The first time I ever drank alcohol (Mom, stop reading now) was at a party at Jeff Dakin's house. I was 16, I think, and there was Budweiser in cans. As I couldn't stand the taste of the champagne of beers, I emptied a can into an oversized, plastic cup and mixed it with OJ, which was all I could find in the Dakin family fridge that struck me as even plausible to combine with pissy lager. And so my career in mixology began .

I remember being so embarrassed by this that I only did my mixing when nobody else was in the kitchen, but I also remember coming up with a name for my concoction -- the Rosebud -- which means I must've talked to other kids there about it, or at least that I saw the humor in what I was doing.

If I'd known then about red wine and Coke, think 0f how boldly I could've plundered Mr. and Mrs. Dakin's wine stash instead of making do with OJ'd-down, mass-produced swill. Imagine my rapt, pimple-pocked audience as I explained that rendering cheap booze palatable for consumption was a noted hallmark of youth across the seas! Think about what a precocious, pretentious ass I would've sounded like, expounding upon my own multiculti self-awareness. (Why, I may as well have checked my humility at the door and enrolled as one of Suri Cruise's classmates at Avenues!)

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In Spain, red wine and Coke -- sometimes known as Kalimotxo or Cocavino -- are often mixed together to drink at parties or street festivals. It's kinda considered a kids' drink (as in "these crazy kids today," not "my kid just turned 9 months old") because, as my behavior chez Dakin evidences, an adolescent's bank account mandates the purchase of cheap, less-than-desirable-tasting bilge, just as a teenage mindset is a prerequisite for believing that mixing dolla hooch with Coke sounds like an awesome idea.

Myriad suggested ways to prepare/guzzle red wine and Coke: Sometimes Kalimotxo is served in a short, glass tumbler; other times it's served in a "tall" glass, except for those other, other times when a "one liter, plastic drinking glass" is what's called for. Then there's that thing where you half-empty a two-liter of cola, pour your one-liter bottle of vino in, and voila! You've just bartended up a party-sized batch that comes in its own, cooties-friendly, communal chug jug.

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Likewise, varying flavorings abound. I've read that ouzo, blackberry liqueur and a lime twist are all good ideas (not all at the same time). So when I decided it was time to try my hand at red wine and Coke -- grownsed-up style, mind you -- I systematically worked my way through the options. My findings:

- I started with just red wine, Coke and a healthy-sized lime twist. Getting that hit of citrus up the nostrils before diving in was palate-confusing, but in a good, refreshing, smile-inducing way.

- Instead of blackberry liqueur, I did a 15ml of creme de cassis, as that was the closest facsimile I had on hand. This combo tasted like a good imitation of bad wine. It was like church wine, really -- very heady and juice-like in the way cheap, sugary booze often is.

- I will admit, I did not try doing a dash, nor a splash, nay, nary a drop of ouzo. That just sounded nasty.

- Ultimately, straight-up, equal parts red wine and Coke was what I liked best. The drink was pleasingly crisp rather than syrupy sweet. Still a curious bugger, to be sure, but one I could easily envision myself enjoying around adults my own age, which is probably how old Mr. and Mrs. Dakin were at the time, now that I think about it.

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The Kalimotxo

4 ounces red wine

4 ounces cola

Lime twist (optional), to garnish

Pour red wine, then cola into a large, ice-filled tumbler or stemless wine glass. Garnish with lime twist if desired.

Tasting Notes

Ice is key here. I simply cannot recommend this beverage at room temperature, even though I'm sure it's often consumed that way, what with its bottle-swigged-at-street-fests rep. Don't. Use lots of ice! (Pre-chill your red, in fact.)

I made this using a Spanish Garnacha. It is literally the cheapest red wine they sell at my nearest SAQ (about $10), but it's not bad at all. (We drink it at dinner all the time.)

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The Champagne Martini

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I have seen recipes for champagne martinis that call for just vodka and sparkler. I have come across others (more than I would have guessed) that all swear by a spoonful of raspberry puree in the bottom of the glass, with some fizz and whatever else on top. And I have read that just bubbly and Cointreau is what constitutes a proper Champagne Martini -- if "proper" is even a descriptor we can properly use when discussing a cocktail that bears, at best, a second-cousin resemblance to a proper-proper martini-martini.

My new favorite acronym is MINO -- Martini in Name Only. It was, I will admit to you devout drinkers, a fact of life I had to swallow (straight, no chaser) when I agreed to author a cocktail book called The Big Book of Martinis for Moms. Clearly, not all 175+ recipes in the book are vodka- and or gin-based, for one thing. Believe you me, I did strive to make as many of the book's recipes fall in line with a classic martini's most hallowed guidelines. As it turns out, Mom does not live on vermouth alone.

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Anyway, I wasn't down with all of those other Champagne Martini variants referenced above. Just vodka and bubbly? Too stiff and fumey. With a spot of jam? I'm intrigued (and inclined to adopt a British-nanny affect), but sounds messy, so pish-posh, ol' chum, and fanks but no fanks! (Besides, I don't think moms need any more messes to clean up. For that matter, do any of us?) Cointreau and champagne? OK, but can't we do better than that?

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Here's better.

The Champagne Martini

3-4 ounces champagne

3/4 ounce Cointreau

1/2 ounce Luxardo maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Fee Brothers Peach Bitters

Combine Cointreau, Luxardo, and Fee Brothers Peach Bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass. Stir briskly for about a minute with a bar spoon. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Top with champagne.

Tasting Notes

Obvs, you can use either capital-C Champagne (du France) or little-c champagne (sparkling white wine) for this recipe, just whatever you have on hand.

For that matter, you can forego big-C Cointreau and just use little-t triple sec if that's what you've got.

Lastly, speaking of drink-it-if-you've-got-it, I find this is a great recipe for leftovers. Like when you need something to do with that opened bottle of bubbly, and who doesn't always have way too much triple sec on hand? (I swear my bottle of triple sec predates Will & Grace.) Leftovers -- they're not just for moms!

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The Gushing Groom

Wedding season's sprung up early this year here at the blog. Last week, besides my trucking down to NJ to attend Cousin Mark's fiancee's shower, one of you e'd me desperate for help with a groom's cocktail to serve at his upcoming nuptials. Why desperate? Because of when upcoming: This very gracious gentleman, Jon, e'd me on a Wednesday needing a recipe for the reception on Saturday. Ladeeeeez, dudes and wedding planning OMG AMIRITE??!?

Obligatory awwwWWW! pic of Mark and his fiancee, Molly!

Now, let it be known that a) I lurve weddings (all the more so having had my own); b) I think the idea of a bride's cocktail and a groom's cocktail is an idea whose time has come (the PhoBlograpHusband and I had his-and-her cakes; how rated-G were we?); c) I am happy to be asked by Jon and whomever else to help them craft their own wedding's signature cocktails. ("If there's something you'd like to try/Ask me I won't say now/How could I?")

In Jon's case, he and his betrothed had already settled on a Her recipe, cheekily named The Blushing Bride: Prosecco (a blush sparkler!), Aperol and OJ. Go, Jon! I consider that a fantastic wedding cocktail for several key reasons:

- A simple recipe with few ingredients means it can be churned out fast and/or in large quantities.

- It's a pretty color.

- Non-cocktailers will be put at ease by its two more familiar, quotidian ingredients (OJ and bubbly), thus assuaging any trepidation they may have about the less-familiar third (Aperol, an Italian liqueur which of course wouldn't hurt a fly).

So, that left the question of what kind of cocktail to craft for Him. As Jon put it, "I love alcohol and love Scotch and bourbon... can you think of a drink that most people can drink? I can handle any type of liquor, but I have seen people turn down 21-year-old single malts because they don't like the taste!" I hear you, Jon.

The Him cocktail should reflect the Hers in certain ways, I thought, so I wanted to tie in the Aperol, make it a motif throughout. Scotch + Aperol = quite interesting and good, really. And then I thought we'd mimic the Blushing Bride's fizz by adding either club soda or ginger ale (it wound up being ginger ale). Oh-so-many reflective motifs -- where's my Master's in Critical Cocktail Theory, please?

I further recommended to Jon serving The Gushing Groom in a likewise flute, as pictured in this post, but Jon told me he went with double old-fashioned glasses. Jon, that is just such a right-on, manly-it-up choice. (His exact words: "Some guys might be flute-averse.") Please quit making me look bad, Jon.

The Gushing Groom

1 ounce The Arran Malt 14-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

1/2 ounce Aperol

2 dashes Angostura Bitters

Ginger ale to fill

Combine Scotch, Aperol and bitters in an ice-filled mixing glass and stir briskly. Strain into ice-filled double old-fashioned glass. Top with ginger alge.

Tasting Notes

Of course, you can use ginger beer instead of ginger ale. You can garnish with a lemon twist, an orange twist, or whatever sprig or blossom is a part of your groomsmen's boutonnieres.

Scotch is not 1000% my bag, but the Arran Malt (coincidentally, a wedding gift we received) is a fave of mine because it's not super-peaty. Then again, it's not super-easy to find on your average liquor-store shelf, either. I mean, really, it's no coincidence that the only reason we have it is because its expense counts as "really nice wedding gift." So to sub, Sean recommends plain, old Dewar's, or Johnnie Walker Black for a shelf up. You all might have even better suggestions, which you should totally leave in the comments.

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The Remix to Ignition

Did you know today's National Hangover Awareness Day? I did as of 90 seconds ago! Which is when I saw a tweet about the more-a-promotional-stunt-than-actual-commemorative-day Day. Although it makes sense, when you read the press release think about it: The Monday after the Super Bowl, in fact, clocks more calls in sick to work than any other day of the year.

If there were an official Five O'Clock Press Release in response to the NHAD press release, nobody would read it it would read:

"We here at the blog appreciate that easing up on the gas can be a wise move for some, fo' sho'. We also encourage imbibers to experience many different kinds of alcoholic highs; all the better to one day happen upon the hangover that works best for you! So don't kill the headlights and put it in neutral, bros! Instead, try downshifting just a gear or two and spending your post-Bowl happy hour with an enjoyable, easygoing, 100% vino-derived cocktail, comprised entirely of lovely aperitifs and fortified wines. No harsh liquors or swilly beers that'll stick in your craw come morning! We like to think of it as the Remix to Ignition*: A newly jiggered kind of cocktail with a pleasant, rounded buzz, definitely not a buzzkill!"

*No lawsuitable copyright infringiness intended towards His Eminence R. Kelly, composer of said musical masterpiece in question, "Ignition (Remix)." That's actually one of my all-time favorite songs. It reminds me of my old friend Mike, whose levels of inebriation could be calibrated thusly: Level I - fake British accent. Level II - Choosing this song at karaoke. Level III - Roaring like a lion. Level IV - Destroying other people's mailboxes. Level V - Throwing own TV off balcony. If only he'd drank a Remix to Ignition before singing the remix to Ignition... think of all the poor mailboxes that would've been saved.

The Remix to Ignition

3 ounces Lillet

1/2 ounce dry vermouth

1/2 ounce port

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 dashes Peychaud's Bitters

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake (no need for over-vigorousness), strain into stemless wine glass that's got a few handsome ice cubes a-waiting in it.

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The Breakers 75

Remember how I spent New Year's Eve pouring various champagne cocktails, including The World's Greatest Champagne Cocktail, because God forbid I let a single drop (of nastily cheap bubbles, mind you) go to waste? Well, I almost let many, many drops go to waste, as I've just now realized that I never blogged the Breakers 75.

I'm going to admit, I don't entirely "get" this cocktail. For example, I don't entirely get its name. The "75" is referencing the French 75, no? But "Breakers," does that mean... waves? Is this a cocktail for surfers? Was it invented at some cheesy, "nice" restaurant in the  80s? (For some reason, when I picture the word "Breakers," that's what I picture: A Reagan/Miami Vice-era notion of good taste and fine dining, spelled out in cursive neon. Probably bread plates that look like seashells, that sort of crap.)

Given, then, that this sauce is not awesomesauce, I encourage you all to put on your cocktail thinking caps and consider this recipe the basis of something more special-er. For example, I highly recommend using the finest Champagne (capital-C if you can) you've got, and/or the best gin. Me no think gin and champagne go so nice-nice together otherwise.

And if you wind up going too crazy on the experimentin', there's little that can't be fixed with a dash of bitters and a hit of sugar. (That goes for life-in-general, too, yo.)

The Breakers 75

(Can I admit I'm not 100% sure where this recipe came from, because it was New Year's EveI was drunkI was really drunk we referenced so many cocktail books that night in our quest to bring you all the world has to offer? Although my guess is that it was this book.)

Champagne, about 3 to 4 ounces

1 ounce gin

1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice

Pour gin and lemon juice into the bottom of a champagne flute. Top with your bubbles. Down the hatch.

Tasting Notes

In addition to using the best gin and capital-C Champagne you've got, I highly suggest shaking the lemon juice and gin together in an ice-filled shaker tin to get them nice and chilled before building your drink.

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