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 Blackbeard

Guest post by Sean Lorre, PhoBlograpHusband.

Hello Readers! It's been quite a while since I last guest posted. As a matter of fact exactly four months, or in other words one semester of grad school. To my dismay, my writing and research of late has more to do with the Blues Brothers, Randy Weston and Fred Astaire than bars and cocktails. OK, it's not such a bad gig, but I did miss the rigorous mixological testing required to write a post!

Today I bring you the Blackbeard, a cocktail I've only found in one bar, once, more than fifteen years ago. Picture it if you will: My 21-year-old self, along with a certain friend I will only identify by his initials (TMO) are whiling the Spring 1997 semester away in London as part of the Syracuse University International Live Abroad and Pretend to Study Program. Spring break comes and we're off to Edinburgh, Scotland to meet up with my friend Andy, a true Scotsman -- gregarious, burly (former national U-19 rugby player), and generous to a fault -- who I met while working as a camp counselor the year before.

After a long evening of carousing and paradin' about the city, Andy suggests that we drive out to his hometown of Musselburgh for a nightcap at his local pub. TMO and I have never passed up a free drink in our lives, so we consent to the 10km trek in search of the perfect end to the evening. And found it we did! It was on this night that I was introduced to the Blackbeard, perhaps the most perfect last drink I've ever had.

The Blackbeard

1 1/2 ounces Kraken Black Spiced Rum

5 ounces homemade cola

about 2 ounces Guinness Stout

Mix Kraken and cola in a Imperial half-pint glass (or whatever 10 ounce-ish glass you happen to have on hand), top with Guinness (from a tap if you can, if not the draft cans/bottles will do fine).

Tasting notes

The original Blackbeard calls for Captain Morgan, Coke and Guinness, but we just couldn't resist trying a few substitutions. We found the Kraken added a depth to the flavor that the Capt. couldn't muster (while keeping the pirate theme in place) and the homemade cola... well, that stuff makes everything better!

So just why is this fairly odd-sounding, Frankencocktail a great way to end a night of drinking? Why have I been bugging bartenders for years to recreate this for me? I've never really been able to really pick apart just what it is... I think perhaps it has just the right mix of creamy texture (from the Guinness), sweetness (from the Coke) and kick (from the rum) that has something to do with it. What I do know is, that when made right, the Blackbeard leaves you with a warm, content, time-to-take-the-last-train-home feeling.

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The World's Greatest Jack and Coke

Now just hear me out.

Back in July, out of semi-desperation, I bought a pre-bottled, pre-mixed, $11 Jack and Coke from a vendor at a Mets (again, just hear me out!) game. It was surprisingly good, actually rather delicious, with no chemical sheen to the taste and a proper balance of liquor and cola. I noticed, perhaps for the first time, that Jack Daniel's is well suited to the and-Coke genre. Bourbons almost blend in too well, with too much overall roundness to the highball; rye whiskeys can work but can also go down scratchy. Jack and Cokes are smooth up front and finish with a pleasantly peculiar, sour twist. Duly noted.

This post, however, is more about the Coke part. Not long at all after that Mets game, the Times ran a story on The Rise of the Hipster Soda Jerk (not its real title). And yes, the piece read as a cavalcade of waxed mustaches, sassafras, seltzer siphons and suspenders, but also the notion that "soda" oughta be "special" -- uttered by not one but two of the jerks quoted.

Instantly, I vowed that I couldn't agree more, and swore that someday I'd attempt the homemade cola syrup recipe that accompanied the story. And thus, the seed for the World's Greatest Jack and Coke was planted, germinating for several months before finally taking root over the Christmas break, when we finally got around to buying ourselves a SodaStream (Merry Christmas, Martelorres!) and sourcing the three ingredients that neither my home pantry nor the supermarket 'round the corner kept in stock: dried lavender buds (food-grade); whole vanilla bean (yes I know I should have this); citric acid. The first two I got at Whole Foods, but the citric acid was a BITCH to find. (I finally did at a bulk/health food store.)

So: What is it like, to make your own cola? Pretty low-key, not as intimidating as the recipe reads on paper. You basically grate and crush a bunch of stuff (citrus peels, star anise, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger) and simmer it. Then you strain it and mix the resulting liquid with a buttload of sugar. (Seriously, the amount of sugar will make you think twice.) Most of your time will be spent grating, then minding your simmering pot, then stirring in your sugar until it dissolves. But I did all this while having about 10 friends over and managed to ignore my syrup for long stretches without harming it.

The Times' recipe notes that caramel color powder is optional. I did without because I was dying to see what cola looked like when it wasn't forced to look like fudge pop. Dear The Coca-Cola Company: Why do you insist on making this stuff the color of cow dung? My syrup came out the most splendid, sunny, optimistic, adorable shade of orange. It was fucking translucent! Like the dawning of the age of Aquarius, like tomorrow, tomorrow, I love ya, tomorrow.

Alright, enough already. We break out the SodaStream, carbonate our filtered tap water, bippity boppity boo, put it together and what've you got?

Folks, you will love go apeshit for this cola. You will kvetch and clutch your pearls and Facebook-post about it and just die for this stuff. THIS is what you get when you look up refreshing in the dictionary. And what you'll find incredibly nifty is that it tastes like Coke but also tastes nothing like Coke. I mean, your tastebuds will get intuitively that this is cola -- not orange pop or root beer or flavored seltzer -- but then again, if this is cola, why am I getting this undeniable grace note of pure lavender? And why does this lavender taste so right in what is still undeniably cola?

Mixed with a shot of Jack and a squeeze of lime? Yeah, it's the World's Greatest Jack and Coke.

The World's Greatest Jack and Coke

1 1/2 to 2 ounces Jack Daniel's Tennessee Whiskey

About 3 ounces homemade cola

A quarter of a lime

Fill a highball glass with ice. Pour in your Jack, then your cola. Top off with a squeeze of lime.

Tasting Notes

We actually bought an airplane bottle of Jack just for this drink, which is technically 50ml, or 1.7 ounces. So that's why I said 1 1/2 to 2 ounces above, to taste.

You'll also note in our pics that we used one of our big-ass ice cubes for this, as I think is wise for any highball drink. Welcome to the rock!

The Times' cola syrup recipe can be found here. I followed it to the letter except: 1) I didn't whirl the white and brown sugars together in a food processor before combining them with the simmered liquid; 2) I used coffee filters instead of cheesecloth to strain my simmered mixture.

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