It’s five months into quarantine, and wine is officially Employee of the Month in my house. A glass of lush Etna Rosso to celebrate my deadline on Friday afternoon; a taste of Lambrusco on Sunday morning with my grits and asparagus benedict; a bottle of crisp Sauvignon Blanc, opened on Wednesday night while
waiting on take out cooking dinner. It’s all delicious. Breathtaking. Superb examples of the strides modern winemakers have made with bottles listed under $20.
The problem is that while I love to taste things, I’m not a huge drinker. I love the taste of wine and spirits, but I’m no longer in the practice of guzzling a bottle of wine in one sitting (you’re welcome, mom) which means that there tends to be at least one bottle of wine dying in my refrigerator door every week. Which, in this economy of restaurant uncertainty and virtually no federal aid…fucking sucks. I hate feeling like I’ve wasted money, especially on a luxury like good wine. But don’t worry—all hope is not lost! When life gives you oxidized wine, you can make plenty of beautiful, boozy odds and ends.
Read below for three of my favorite ways to repurpose wine that you’ve neglected to keep money in your pocket and Dionysus off your back!
OL’ FAITHFUL: SANGRIA
Okay, yes, you probably knew that this was coming. That’s fair. You’re a smart one, and I can’t pull a fast one over on you that easily. But one thing I’ve learned from working in bars so long is that sangria is a surprisingly intimidating project for a good portion of home bartenders, and I’m here to tell you: don’t be scared. Making sangria is a lot like making a spritz cocktail or kitchen sink omelette. Throw whatever fruit you have on hand in a pitcher, add some sugar and a touch of spirit, and you’ll have a sangria worth bragging about in no time.
The trick to making a great sangria is to be careful with the sugar. It can often turn into something way too sweet if you try to use sugar to cover the flavor of your wine. Remember that wine and fruit have their own residual sugar that will come into play, so you don’t need to add a cup of simple syrup to make a great sangria. Another pro-tip: choose a quality mixer if you’re going to be topping it off with some bubbles. My general rule of thumb is that if I wouldn’t drink it on its own, I won’t use it to top my punch.
I pack my sangrias with fruit, and while I like to keep certain fruits reserved for certain wines (strawberries and blueberries with red; apples and kiwi with white; peaches and grapes with rosé) remember there are no rules! No matter what fruit you have on hand, just be sure to combine it with some form of citrus, such as lemon or orange, to bring out the best in your wine. You’ll also want to store your punch in the refrigerator both while you infuse it, and while you wait to enjoy it, so clear out the fruit shelf and make some room!
Strawberry Mint Sangria
2 cups red wine, preferably a lush red like Rioja or Barbara
1/4 cup rouge vermouth
1 cup strawberries, cubed
2 lemons, cut into wheels
1 orange, cut into wheels
1/2 cup simple sugar syrup (1:1)
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
2 oz brandy or light rum
Mint, for garnishing
- In a large container, combine strawberries, citrus wheels, and sugar syrup. Using a muddler, lightly crush fruit into the sugar, careful not to break the fruit all the way down.
- Add wine, vermouth, orange juice, and brandy/rum to the container. Attach a lid and give the whole thing a shake.
- Store in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
- Pour roughly 5 oz punch into a win glass packed with ice. Spoon strawberries and citrus wheels into the glass with wine.
- Top with sparkling water or wine. Gently stir to combine. In one hand, gently slap a handful of mint leaves and carefully roll the leaves between your palms. (This allows the fragrant oils in the mint to release without tearing the leaves, which can create a bitter, swampy flavor.)
- Enjoy! Best paired with pop hits from the 90s while cleaning your apartment.
A NEW FRIEND: WINE AND TONIC
Adding tonic water to a spirit or liqueur is one of my favorite ways to spruce up a drink and turn it into something crushable. Tonic contains quinine, a bittersweet mixer that is most famous for doing the heavy lifting in the famous G&T. Tonic water has a more complex flavor than soda water, and it can provide the sugar and bitter elements to make a glass of so-so red wine a little more cocktail-esque.
Stirring some rich Demerara sugar syrup into the wine before adding tonic water gives this drink a little more viscosity, which can be lacking due to the strong bitter aftertaste of tonic. As always when enjoying long style drinks, the quality of your tonic water can make or break this drink. Tonic water has been getting a bit of a makeover in recent years, so there are plenty of varieties and brands to choose from like elderflower, bitter lemon, Mediterranean and Indian tonics, and more!
Wine & Tonic
While I do prefer this drink with red wine, it’s also excellent with white and rosé! I also like to “match” my vermouth to my wine: rouge with red wine, dry or blanc with white wine, and lillet or rosa vermouth with rosé.
1 1/2 oz wine
1/2 oz vermouth
1/4 oz rich sugar syrup (2:1)
1. Combine wine, vermouth, and sugar syrup in a rocks glass with ice. Stir well to combine sugar with wine.
2. Pour desired amount of tonic water over wine mixture. Stir again to combine all ingredients together.
3. Cut off a long strip of orange about 1 inch in width. Using your forefingers and thumbs, gently pinch the peel, skin-side facing the surface of the drink, to release citrus oils over the drink. Gently rub the peel over the lip of the glass and twist over the side of the glass.
4. Enjoy! Drink this while listening to Angela Davis recordings (and taking notes).
FUN ‘N FANCY: COCKTAIL CHERRIES
My favorite part of a Manhattan or Last Word is often not the gentle tang of vermouth or herbaceous chartreuse aftertaste, it’s the cherry at the bottom of the glass once the last drop has gone down. Cocktail cherries are delicious, but they can be expensive, and I’m not usually willing to pay $15-20 a jar for cherries that I will normally end up stressing eating without a cocktail to go with them. However, when cherries are in season, I like to can large batches of red wine-bourbon cherries to give as gifts in the chill of whiskey cocktail season. Not only does this make for a pretty cost-effective bulk Christmas gift, but it also serves as a perfect use for that red wine forgotten in the bottom of the bar cart.
Red Wine Bourbon Cherries
2 cups red wine
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/4 cup whiskey
1 orange, zested
1 lemon, zested
2 cinnamon sticks
4 cups cherries, pitted or whole
- Sterilize your desired size of mason jars and tops.
- Heat wine over medium-high heat until it begins to lightly boil. reduce heat to medium-low and add sugar. Stir until sugar has completely dissolved.
- Add orange and lemon zest to syrup and allow to reduce slightly, simmering for about 2-3 minutes. remove from heat.
- Pack cherries into a jar. Pour about 1/8 cup of whiskey over cherries. Add cinnamon sticks. Pour hot syrup into the jars, reserving about 1/2 inch of space between he liquid and the lid.
- Tighten lids over your jars and place in the canning pot with water. Slowly bring the water to boil and process the cherries for about 25 minutes.
- Allow the jars to fully cool. Test lids for vacuum seal. Store all cherries in a cool dark space. If any lids don’t seal, store in refrigerator ands within 10-14 days.
I hope you enjoyed these repurposed red wine recipes! have a friend who is constantly pouring wine down the drain? Be a good friend and forward this page to your favorite forgetful cocktail nerds!