Wine 101: Italy Region Deep Dives: Wine-Based Cocktails

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Wine 101: Italy Region Deep Dives: Wine-Based Cocktails

Let’s pop over to Veneto, Italy, where our sparkling wine sponsor, La Marca Prosecco, is made. It’s the land of vineyards, rolling hills and sprezzatura, which sounds delicious but means “effortless style.” You know what else is effortless? Cocktails made with La Marca, like a Candied Sapphire and a Sunset Fizz. Just visit lamarcaprosecco.com for recipes. To try America’s Most Loved Sparkling Wine, La Marca Prosecco, follow the link in the episode description to TheBarrelRoom.com.

On this episode of “Wine 101,” VinePair’s tastings director Keith Beavers sits down with VinePair’s “Cocktail College” host Tim McKirdy to talk about all things wine cocktails. It will blow your mind. Tune in to hear more.

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Keith Beavers: My name is Keith Beavers and I’m on a 30-day peanut butter detox. I’ve had five — five? — jars of peanut butter in the past two months. 

What’s going on, wine lovers? From the VinePair podcasting network, this is “Wine 101.” My name is Keith Beavers and I’m the tastings director of VinePair. What’s going on? So this week, it got a little crazy. I want to talk about wine cocktails, but I don’t really know much about them, so I had to bring an expert in from “Cocktail College.” Let’s get into it. 

Okay, wine lovers, hear me out. I don’t know if you guys know, but I produce some of the podcasts besides “Wine 101” in the VinePair podcast network. And one of the podcasts that I produce is “Cocktail College,” which is hosted by our managing editor and booze expert, Tim McKirdy. Spirits, not booze, but you know. Anyways, I started thinking about wine-based cocktails and what that means because I don’t know. Guys, I can tell you about soil, I can tell you about regions, history, and wine, but I don’t really know anything about wine cocktails. So I sat down with Tim McKirdy from “Cocktail College” on the VinePair network and picked his brain. Guys, it blew my mind. Make some room because your mind is gonna blow. Ladies and gentlemen, “Cocktail College’s” Tim McKirdy.

K: Okay. So this is a very special episode of “Wine 101.” I am actually in the VinePair studios where I usually do work throughout the week. “Wine 101,” I have a separate studio. And today we’re talking about wine cocktails. And the thing is, wine lovers, I love wine so much. And I love talking about it, researching it, and everything. I know nothing about how a wine can be incorporated into a cocktail in a way that the wine actually improves or helps, the sum is greater than its parts and all that. So what I decided to do is, I decided to bring in an expert, and that expert actually happens to be here in VinePair studios. It’s Tim McCurdy, he is the host of “Cocktail College,” our cocktail-focused podcast in the VinePair Podcast Network. And he is going to walk us through this stuff. Because I’m going to ask questions because I don’t know what’s going on and I kind of want to know, because I kind of want to understand wine and cocktails because I kind of want a wine cocktail because I don’t know any cocktail with wine. So Tim, welcome to “Wine 101.”

T: Thanks, man. Thanks for having me. Looking forward to getting into the chat.

K: I mean, chat. You’re going to do most of the talking because I don’t know what I’m talking about. So every week you sit down with a bartender who is an expert, or in love with, a specific classic cocktail. And you go through so much detail. You have a grasp on history, and the science of it all, through all these interviews. So I’m just going to pick your brain, dude. I’m going to pick your brain. I don’t know where to start. I guess the word “wine” and the word “cocktail.” We talk about wine. Let’s talk about cocktails. What is a cocktail? I mean, we’re literally wine people on this side, dude.

T: Well, so I mean, being a loyal listener myself to “Wine 101” as well, I know that this show loves to get into history too.

K: Yes.

T: So I figured that’s going to be a good place for us to start. And just that word “cocktail,” the idea of cocktails. Where do we come up with it first? What does it mean? Is there a specific set of parameters that defines what a cocktail is?

K: What is it, dude?

T: Well, yeah, as it happens there is. So we need to look back to 1806. There’s a newspaper called “The Balance and Columbian Repository.” It was published in Hudson, N.Y. And in 1806, they casually used the term “cocktail” in an article, I forget what the writeup is about. And it prompts a reader’s response. What does this word “cocktail” mean? And so in response to that question, they publish what most people believe to be the first recorded record of a cocktail. It’s the third written mention of the word, but the first definition. And that is: “A stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters.” And, worth noting a few things about that. First of all, if you look at it quite literally, this is essentially an Old Fashioned, and Old Fashioned is the best way to think of this, right? Spirit, you’d have whiskey. Sugar, you’ve either got simple syrup or you’re using a sugar cube. Bitters, Angostura. And that final part, water, is coming from stirring the drink and dilution.

K: Right. Okay, okay.

T: So this is the basic template for all cocktails, right? And if you look at them, I mean, most of them generally adhere to this definition, but in this, we’re saying spirits. And yet today is a show about wine cocktails. So rules are meant to be broken, I would say.

K: Amen. Love it.

T: We’re going to get into … So I’ve got three different categories or styles and drinks that I want to highlight.

K: Wait, so you’re telling me that three styles and drinks you want to highlight with wine? So you’re saying that …

T: With wine.

K: … with wine, it’s a common thing. Wine is often… not often, but it is… There is a list of cocktails with wine incorporated in them?

T: Yeah, and so some of them, wine is going to be the mixer. Other ones, wine is going to be the bonafide replacement for the spirit itself in that classic definition. And then the final one we’ve got, that’s kind of like, I think it’s the one you should work towards if you’re making cocktails at home. And it’s kind of the best example of using wine as an ingredient in addition to other spirits. So yeah, that’s what we’re going to cover.

K: Oh my gosh. So we’ll start with the first one.

T: Well, before we do, I’ve got one more little bit of history to tease out here for you.

K: Nice, wine lovers. I guess, and wine cocktail lovers.

T: Wine and cocktail lovers. Definitely after today’s show.

K: Absolutely.

T: So we talked about that definition, 1806. If we look back in history to what many consider to be the world’s first celebrity bartender, Jerry Thomas, in 1862, he published this book called “The Bartender’s Guide.” It’s a book that many people still refer to today. I would say that a lot of the recipes have been updated or the ratios have been tweaked. Ingredients change over time, and so do palates, drinking preferences. But most notable about this book for me is that Jerry Thomas is using wine glasses… 

K: Whoa.

T: As a measurement for ingredients.

K: I mean, what I see in bars, I see these things with measurements in them.

T: The jigger.

K: The jigger. So the jigger wasn’t… It started with a wine glass instead of a jigger.

T: It started with a wine glass. Now I know what you’re thinking here. “Oh my God. A wine glass of gin in my Martini. That’s a…  

K: That’s what I’m thinking.

T: “That’s a boozy, that’s a boozy drink,” right?

K: I’m thirsty.

T: Yeah. So what’s going on there? Well, I did a little digging into this. I mean, I’m sure we can assume, okay, these are not standard, modern-day wine glasses.

K: Sure. We have so many different sizes on Amazon.

T: You have different sizes. I know you favor a 16-ounce one.

K: I go big. It’s 34 ounces.

T: 34 ounces.

K: It’s like a decanter. It’s a glass.

T: It’s wild.

K: It’s wonderful.

T: It’s incredible. Check out his Instagram, you’ll see it in his post.

K: You’ll see it, @VinePairKeith.

T: So I did a little bit of digging into this and nowhere could I find it published exactly what one of Jerry Thomas’s wine glasses would equal in terms of modern-day measurements. However, I did come across a study that showed that the average capacity of wine glasses has swelled from the 1700s, where it would’ve been 66 milliliters, to around 450 milliliters today.

K: Wait.

T: I know, sorry.

K: What was the first number?

T: 66.

K: To what?

T: 450.

K: God.

T: All right. I know. Also, we would like to convert that to ounces.

K: Yeah.

T: 66, we’re looking at roughly two ounces.

K: Aw.

T: Which really does track, because most cocktails call for two ounces of base spirit.

K: That’s amazing. I want more than that in my wine glass. But as a two-ounce pour for a cocktail, that makes complete sense.

T: It makes sense. So it seems to track, even though there’s also some other things that complicate it. Sometimes, Jerry says a small wine glass, a large glass, and there’s also a sherry glass, which is something different.

K: It’s a whole different world.

T: But I think we can roughly say that wine glasses were roughly two ounces back in that time. And also, so wine has this history with cocktails, whether you’re talking about the liquid or not, whether you’re talking about it meeting the classic definition — the glass is there.

K: This is full circle, wine lovers. And this is amazing. And I did not know this was happening. So this is really, really cool. So, cocktails were invented in New York?

T: As everything was.

K: And wine glasses. So, New York and wine glasses, I love it. That’s wonderful.

T: I don’t quite recall where Jerry Thomas would’ve been based, but I’m assuming, whether he was across the Atlantic or whether he was here, there was a similar school of thought when it came to mixing drinks. It seems to be the early standard.

K: Now, full disclosure here, I do produce the “Cocktail College” Podcast. It’s really great, I get to sit in a lot of these interviews and as I’ve been listening to these episodes and producing them, it really is amazing how, just because I did mention New York because we’re in New York and I’m a New Yorker, but what’s really amazing is that it started in New York, but it went global pretty damn quick.

T: Yep.

K: That’s amazing. Just in cocktails, in general.

T: Yeah. Real quick.

K: That’s amazing.

T: It spread far and wide.

K: Is there any indication at all in history of when wine is… it doesn’t really matter, I guess. When wine is incorporated into a cocktail doesn’t matter because we just want the wine with the cocktail. Cocktail with the wine.

T: Well, I mean, we can dig into some of them. I don’t have the dates here, but we can definitely highlight some of these ones where I can be like, “This is definitely more of a historical drink and this is a newer one.”

K: Cool.

T: But if we want to look at that first category of using…

K: Yeah. I’m excited about the first. How about these categories?

T: Let’s make some drinks. Yeah, let’s talk… 

K: Let’s do this.

T: …about drinks. So that first category, using wine as either the base or actually, in more instances, the mixer.

K: The mixer. So that means… Okay, so you put that in first and you mix everything into it.

T: Yeah, or you’re adding it to a concoction that maybe already contains some other ingredients or a base spirit.

K: All right.

T: Worth noting on this front that most of these, actually all of them that I have listed here, we’re talking sparkling wine.

K: Oh, that makes sense. I mean, I guess if cocktails are… Are cocktails celebratory?

T: Absolutely. I would say so.

K: So sparkling wine has a perception of celebration.

T: And also, just think about it, there’s a lot of cocktails out there, highballs, where we’re using soda water where –

K: Right, carbonation.

T: Carbonation. So if you bring Champagne or Prosecco or other sparkling wine styles into the fold, you’re getting the carbonation, but you’re getting flavor as well.

K: I mean, it’s a win-win.

T: It’s a win-win situation.

K: Interesting. Sparkling. That’s cool.

T: And so I would say maybe one of the most notable — not the most notable, but the classic one you can look at here, that I think riffs on that definition of the cocktail, is the Champagne Cocktail.

K: Wait, it’s just called Champagne Cocktail?

T: It’s called the Champagne Cocktail.

K: That’s really interesting because usually, they have such crazier names.

T: Yeah.

K: All right. Just, okay here’s a Champagne Cocktail. Cool.

T: Exactly. And so you would classically include… Well, we look at that definition again, right? Spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters. The Champagne Cocktail is composed of Champagne, one sugar cube, Angostura bitters, and garnish with a lemon or orange twist. Now, okay, we are missing the water there. You could turn around and say, this cocktail is easier to make with simple syrup. So – 

K: Instead of the sugar cube?

T: Instead of the sugar cube, so equal parts sugar and water.

K: There you’ll get your water.

T: If not, you’re going to soak that sugar cube in a little bit of water and maybe those bitters as well, just so that it’s going to dissolve in the wine easier.

K: That was my next question, is the sugar cube into a cocktail — you want that to dissolve, so you’re going to do something to it to make that happen.

T: Yep.

K: Okay.

T: So that is Champagne taking the place of a spirit. Now, some folks might be listening to this, and some folks might know cocktails and they’ll say, “Well, I’ve heard that drink is also made with brandy and sometimes Maraschino liqueur.” There are riffs out there, maybe they were doing it at some point in history, but I would say the modern-day, accepted version of this drink is that. So this is, quite literally, the Champagne Cocktail.

K; Okay, wine lovers, I am now, once we get off of this, I’m going to tell Tim that he needs to do an episode on the Champagne Cocktail. Because I got to know everything about — you’re taking Champagne and you’re just altering it with that.

T: Yeah.

K: Why? We got to… What’s up? It’s like, one, you got to book somebody now.

T: Yeah, and I think if you look at it does make sense. So you have Champagne, which I would assume for this one we’re using something pretty dry, a brut.

K: Yeah.

T: And then you’re adding sweetness, on the one hand, with the sugar, you’re taking it away or you’re countering it, on the other hand, with the bitters. And then you’re saying, “I’m just finishing this with a little zesty lemon twist.”

K: Of all the complicated cocktails out there, this one really blows my mind.

T: Very simple.

K: Wow. That’s crazy. Someone’s like, “I want to alter Champagne.”

T: Yeah.

K: So do I.

T: But still keep it balanced.

K: Oh, but it’ll still be delicious.

T: Right.

K: Have you had one before?

T: I’ve had one, maybe two.

K: Okay.

T: I’ll be honest, I like drinking my Champagne rather than mixing with it.

K: Yeah. Okay. But I got to try one, though, I got to now.

T: Yeah. Or I do think I favor some of these other ones that use Champagne, maybe a more interesting way, with other ingredients. There’s a classic right here, the Death in the Afternoon.

K: That’s a cool name. I mean, is it? Yeah. It’s cool.

T: And, yeah. Who do we associate that with? Isn’t that a Hemingway book?

K: Is that a Hemingway book?

T: I don’t know. But it’s a Hemingway cocktail.

K: Yeah. Or a vampire.

T: I am immediately exposing myself here as somewhat of a philistine when it comes to Hemingway.

K: Me too, man. 

T: But I didn’t grow up in…

K: Yeah. I’m an American and I just don’t know.

T: Yeah. But anyway, he came up with a cocktail. It’s maybe an ounce of absinthe, or maybe a little bit less, and then topped up with Champagne. Nothing else.

K: What’s it called?

T: Death in the Afternoon. And I think it’s probably quite a literal name in this sense, where it’s like, this is a boozy drink.

K: Yeah. You’re going to bed early.

T: Do I necessarily think that these are two ingredients that were born to go together?

K: Absinthe?

T: I’m not sure.

K: Yeah. I just…

T: Absinthe and Champagne…

K: I’m getting a hedonist vibe.

T: Yeah, that’s what it is. I think this drink speaks more to Hemingway’s enduring legacy and…

K: Of hedonism.

T: …and what people think of him as a person rather than, “Oh my God, this is an incredible drink. How’d you come up with that?”

K: How’d you take those two things? Was it two ounces? What is it?

T: Yeah, I think I’ve even seen some people doing even equal parts, which I think is going way too far.

K: Yeah. This is all the first category.

T: This is still the first category.

K: Okay. This is cool.

T: I would say another one that’s more notable, but that’s on this front, is the French 75.

K: Now I’ve had that because there has been an episode of “Cocktail College” — go listen to the French 75, because every time I finish a “Cocktail College” podcast, I run out and try to find the cocktail. This one’s cool.

T: Yeah, so this one I think takes our original Champagne Cocktail and we see an evolution. And into that drink, we have simple syrup again. We’re adding fresh lemon juice and a base spirit. And classically, people in the cocktail world, they love to debate.

K: Oh, okay.

T: Classically, this may have been a Cognac drink. It’s also made with gin.

K: So it could be a… Okay, so there’s two ways of topping it off, or that last ingredient could be either gin or…

T: And if we’re looking into the geekiness of how to make this, my recommendation would be measuring out your lemon juice, simple syrup, and your spirit. Personally, I’m going with gin in summer and Cognac in winter.

K: Ooh. So it can be seasonal. You can have both.

T: So you can use… Yeah, you can have both. You can enjoy both.

K: Because I was thinking I’d be more in the Cognac camp, but then I also love gin, so I would want to know what that’s like. And now that you’re giving me seasons on it, I’m going to do that.

T: Yeah, go with that.

K: That’s awesome.

T: So I’m going to shake up those ingredients with ice, and I’m going to strain them into a Champagne flute. Then I’m going to top with my chilled Champagne. And hey, probably go for a little lemon twist again as the garnish. So if you see what we’re doing there, we’re taking the Champagne Cocktail one step further by introducing that base spirit.

K: And just one more thing, so what is this category called again? Using Champagne as the base?

T: So I’m unofficially calling this using wine, typically sparkling wine, as the base and/or mixer.

K: Sweet. This is great. This is great.

T: Another couple in this realm that – 

K: Oh wow. Let’s do it.

T: Yeah, we got three more to get through by the end – 

K: Oh man. All right.

T: Some will be real quick. So very simple. I’m calling this the… basically, sparkling wine is the base of the drink, brunch: Bellini, Mimosa.

K: I mean, I guess I assume that we wouldn’t talk about that one.

T: I call those cocktails.

K: But if Death in the Afternoon is two…

T: Yeah, yeah.

K: …ingredients, and so is a Mimosa and a Bellini. So let’s do this.

T: Yeah. So Bellini is fruit puree mixed with sparkling wine. Classically peach puree.

K: Right.

T: Mimosa: orange juice, sparkling wine. I’m going to kick that one back to you because back in your restaurant days, I imagine you served a lot of Mimosas, especially on weekends.

K: Yeah, what we did is we did Mimosas, and our version of a Mimosa is a glass of Prosecco topped off with a little bit of orange juice. There wasn’t a half-and-half, it wasn’t pitchers. It was like, you wanted to be a little hazy and you wanted to be like, “Oh, is that orange juice or is that wine? I can’t tell.” That’s kind of how I wanted it.

T: And I’m glad that you say that because Prosecco here, I would definitely advocate for. Those first three ones we covered, I’d say, yeah, I’m probably using Champagne.

K: That makes sense.

T: I want a drier profile. I maybe want some kind of savoriness to it or not just fruit.

K: Right.

T: These other two, though, I’m thinking we want it to be fruit-forward.

K: Yeah. Yeah. Fruit-forward, just a dollop of the fruit juice to go with the wine.

T: And I think Prosecco is just a really good, fun candidate for that.

K: It is. Prosecco is one of the most… It’s like if Champagne is perceived as a celebratory drink, I feel that Prosecco can be perceived as a daily celebration. Where Champagne is, you know, got to spend on Champagne. But with Prosecco, you can celebrate every day.

T: It’s just good times, isn’t it?

K: Yeah. Maybe you want to have… And that’s the thing, wine lovers, and it’s been confirmed from an expert here, mostly Prosecco with a dollop of orange juice in your Mimosas will just open up in front of you.

T: Yeah.

K: It’s awesome.

T: It’s a really fun way to spend Sunday morning.

K: Yeah, I love it. I do it a lot. This is New York.

T: One final drink in this category.

K: Okay, while we’re still in category one, do this.

T: It’s a very notable one if you’re listening to this. These are evergreen episodes. But if you’re listening to this when it comes out, in the week that it comes out you might have seen some rumblings about this drink in recent times.

K: Oh boy. Should I be nervous?

T: The Negroni Sbagliato.

K: What is this?

T: The classic Negroni, as many people listening will have enjoyed, equal-parts mix of gin, sweet vermouth, and Campari…

K: It’s delicious.

T: …or bitter red aperitivos. Other ones are available and there’s some great options out there. That’s the classic, though. The Sbagliato replaces that gin with sparkling wine.

K: Wait, replaces?

T: So we’re taking out the gin, so we’re going sweet vermouth. We’re going a bit of red aperitivo. We’re going to stir those up, chill them. And then we’re going to top it up. We’re going to serve it on the rocks and we’re going to top it up with Prosecco.

K: I mean, kind of, man, my first thought is I’m thirsty and I want it. It sounds awesome. Now I would miss the gin because the gin has the stuff. It’s got the juniper and the herbs and all – 

T: It’s got the punch.

K: Of that punch. It’s got all the stuff that kind of wakes your ass up. But, I don’t know. So can a Negroni Sbagliato be a brunch drink as well?

T: I say so, or I’d say it’s a great aperitivos, stimulates the appetite.

K: Right, right, right.

T: It gets your stomach ready for eating as well. The reason people might have heard of this in recent times is, a famous person recently said, “I like a Negroni Sbagliato with Prosecco.” And a lot of folks took that “with Prosecco” to be some kind of innovation. Now classically, any sparkling wine can be used. But look, this is an Italian – 

K: This is Italian.

T: This is an Italian cocktail.

K: Man, you got to do Prosecco.

T: You got to do Prosecco.

K: I mean, yeah, it’s Tuscany. It was invented in Tuscany, right? In Florence? The Negroni? Is that right?

T: I’m not sure about that.

K: I believe because I… Well, I went to the place in… 

T: Okay, cool.

K: …Florence that was adjacent to the original place because it’s now a Prada –

T: It’s not Verona, then? Or Venice? No, no.

K: No, no. It’s in Florence. And the original bar is now a Prada store or something like that. So right next door to it is this old, this new place, and it’s where it was. So yeah, it’s Tuscany. So I know the Veneto is where Prosecco is from, but let’s be real.

T: Yeah, we’re bringing it together.

K: Let’s do a Prosecco… And the thing is, with Prosecco, it seems like a better partner to the other ingredients tha … Because Champagne, it seems like the other cocktails are just kind of not really shining through, but it’s like, it’s Champagne, then this, then this, and this. This is this, this, and this, and then… Champagne? No, Prosecco. And have you had one?

T: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. It’s a classic drink. It’s a great drink.

K: So without the gin, what’s up?

T: We’re talking lighter. We’re talking – 

K: Little sweeter?

T: Yeah, lower ABV, sweeter, fruitier.

K: You can have more of them.

T: You can definitely have more of them.

K: That’s kind of cool. I kind of like that.

T: No, it’s really nice. It’s a really nice way… Especially in summer. I think it’s a great summery drink.

K: God. Great. So now I got summer, I’ve got Negroni Sbagliato. And what was the other thing I’m drinking in the summer?

T: Well, Mimosas. You’re having – 

K: Mimosas.

T: French 75 made with gin.

K: French 75. This is going to be a good summer. Let’s get through the winter, quick.

T: All wine. And I guess worth noting here too, we’re not going to dive into this too much, but we’re including sweet vermouth in that drink.

K: That is a –

T: It’s a wine.

K: Technically it’s a wine.

T: You have a vermouth episode.

K: Yep, it’s technically wine.

T: And people can go back there. And look, without vermouth, we’re missing some of the world’s great cocktails. My favorite: the Martini.

K: Right.

T: We’ve got the Manhattan.

K: I mean, these are amazing. I mean, they’re just…

T: You can stop there and you…

K: …phenomenal.

T: …can say two of the world’s most iconic cocktails.

K: Two of the world’s most… Amazing.

T: But you have the Negroni. So the cocktail world is already massively indebted to the wine world via vermouth.

K: That’s amazing. This is mind-blowing stuff. So are we moving on to category two?

T: We’re ready to.

K: I’ve got to start taking notes.

T: So category two is another… It’s a single ingredient we’re talking about, here. And it’s in a similar vein to vermouth. But let’s talk about sherry.

K: Woo. There will be a sherry episode next season, in-depth. But let’s get into it.

T: So we’re going to get into this one. Again, this is a style of wine, it ranges in sweetness levels, profile… 

K: Many tiers.

T: Many tiers. It’s similar to vermouth. But why I think this deserves more recognition for this section, or for this podcast than vermouth does is because we’re not adding anything to it.

K: No. This is a unique wine made in a specific way.

T: You’re making a wine, you’re letting things happen in-barrel and when it’s aging. But we’re not adding anything to it. And that’s why I think that this is more of a bonafide… 

K: I feel that.

T: …wine ingredient than, say, vermouth is.

K: Wine lovers, wait ‘til we talk about flor.

T: Flor. So good.

K: Season 4, guys.

T: So I’m going to talk about two things here. One: a very classic sherry cocktail where sherry takes the place of the base spirit.

K: Okay.

T: It’s the Bamboo.

K: You did an episode on this recently.

T: We did an episode on the Bamboo.

K: Yeah.

T: Typically, mixed in equal parts, you have sherry, and our good old friend there, dry vermouth.

K: There he is.

T: And a couple of dashes of bitters. I would split it between some Angostura bitters and some orange bitters. And I’m going to garnish with a twist.

K: All right.

T: It’s going to be similar-ish in profile to something like a Manhattan, this drink. But it’s going to be much drier, because no whiskey, and we’re using dry vermouth. But this is a historic drink and one that’s very forward-thinking because it’s also a low-ABV cocktail that feels like you’re drinking something that’s maybe boozier, or it looks boozier.

K: Right. Right. Because sherry has some depth to it, and it adds depth and weight to the cocktail. So you feel you’re also getting that textural weight as well, while the dryness is happening at the same time. And the dryness of the sherry, does it come through in the cocktail?

T: A hundred percent. Yeah.

K: That’s cool.

T: As well. Yeah. Because –

K: It’s 50/50. It makes sense.

T: 50/50, and we’re using dry vermouth as well.

K: Oh, right, right.

T: And we’re not adding any simple syrup or sugar here, so… All right, maybe doesn’t quite adhere to the classic. I mean, it depends what sherry you’re using as well because you could split that one and a half ounce of sherry that I would use for this. You could do three-quarters of an ounce of something like a fino.

K: Oh, that’s wild.

T: But then you might want to go three-quarters of an ounce of something sweeter.

K: Would you put an oloroso in there?

T: You could do an oloroso, yeah. But something that maybe has some sweetness there and just makes it infinitely more complex.

K: That’s cool.

T: So the Bamboo. But then – 

K: It says sherry, but it doesn’t say which one, or what kind.

T: Yeah, you just go for it.

K: That’s cool. I love it.

T: Rules are meant to be broken.

K: Wine lovers, experiment with the stuff.

T: And then just a general word here on sherry and how much it’s been embraced by the bartending community in recent years.

K: It really has, so much more than the wine community. So much more.

T: We like to talk about this as being maybe something that somms love and something that somms champion. I want to bet that they don’t sell as much as they would like to, even if they’re really passionate about it. I actually know some friends that opened a sherry bar and it’s not around anymore.

K: I’ve been to a few of them and they were wonderful, but they’re not around anymore.

T: No.

K: Just cannot take hold.

T: Which is a shame.

K: It is.

T: I mean, I love drinking sherry, but…

K: I have a theory, I want to go into all that in my episode next season, but-

T: Stay tuned. But the bartending community has championed sherry and they’re using it in drinks. Now look, is this going to save the sherry industry? Not when you’re using it one ounce at a time.

K: Right. It’s true.

T: But… 

K: It’s got to be a busy bar.

T: Yeah. Yeah. It’s got to be a very busy bar. But they have, and I think the best place to start with this, you look at a classic cocktail, like a Martini. I’m going to break it down into equal parts gin, sherry, stir it, strain. It’s classic, it’s a 50/50 Martini. And it really… The sherry shines more than vermouth does. Or it takes you to different places of complexity and savory notes, and it’s just a really great way to allow sherry to thrive in a cocktail.

K: That’s awesome. Because vermouth has specific organic elements entered into the situation to give it more complex aromas and sensory. Sherry is a wine made like it’s made, and it gives what it gives, based on the way it’s made, which is really kind of awesome. And it’s called a 50/50 Martini.

T: 50/50 Martini, and again, yeah, if you really want to give that ingredient equal billing in a drink and allow it to shine… That’s where I’m going when I’m thinking sherry.

K: 50/50 Martini, another episode on “Cocktail College.” Guys did get into it.

T: And, I think just another point, if you’re out at bars and you’re looking at the cocktail list and you see the bartender using sherry in other drinks, go for them. Try them. It’s a great ingredient.

K: Very cool. You should try one of these or just say, “Hey, can you give me something with sherry in it?”

T: Yeah, yeah. “Do you use sherry in any of your drinks?” Or, “Do you know any drinks where I could try that?” And yeah, it’s really wonderful.

K: “Do you know how to do a 50/50 Martini?” Sherry, okay. Very cool. I mean, I know about sherry, I never… And again, I’ve heard through “Cocktail College” sherry mentioned, but I didn’t realize how much of an impact it can have on a cocktail. Very cool. So that’s the second category?

T: That’s the second category down.

K: Wow. It’s a shorter category with more impact.

T: Which you’re going to see in the next one as well because the next category is a category of one.

K: Okay.

T: This is what I like to think of as the ultimate wine cocktail.

K: Wow.

T: Now, it includes less wine than most of the drinks we’ve mentioned before. But here we’re introducing still table wine into it, so it’s not sherry, either. Red wine, specifically.

K: See now, this is I’ve never heard of ever.

T: And I’m not talking Sangria, I’m not talking…

K: Right.

T: Those are great drinks, but I’m talking about a bonafide cocktail. This is the New York Sour.

K: See, I’ve never heard of this one, I’m already excited.

T: This is a wonderful drink. And it basically riffs on the classic Whiskey Sour… 

K: Okay.

T: …which is going to be either rye or bourbon mixed with lemon juice and simple syrup, shaken up, and then strained and served.

K: Okay.

T: Now, there’s a couple of things to consider here with the classic Whiskey Sour. Are you including an egg white into that mix to give it a nice texture, a nice foamy head? I’m all for it, but you don’t have to do it.

K: It’s a lot of work.

T: Are you serving this drink on the rocks? So when we talk about that, we mean over ice and in a rocks glass, an Old Fashioned glass, like a tumbler.

K: Are you about to talk about dilution?

T: Well, we can talk about dilution.

K: We don’t need to. You guys, listen to “Cocktail College.” A lot of talk about dilution.

T: All I’m saying there is, I think it works in either. I think the purists go on the rocks and in a tumbler. I personally like it served up. So, in a classic cocktail glass or a Martini glass with no ice. I think that works really well too.

K: Okay.

T: So where does the New York Sour differ? To that drink, we’re going to finish it off.

K: So you’re just making a whiskey sour?

T: You’re making a whiskey sour. And then we’re finishing it off with a red wine float.

K: Okay. How do you do a red wine float?

T: Great question. So you’re going to take a bar spoon. You’re going to turn it upside down and to the back of the spoon, which should be placed roughly over the middle of your drink, as close to the surface as possible, you’re going to slowly pour red wine onto that.

K: Okay.

T: If you do that well, with a steady hand, you’re going to have this phenomenal-looking drink that’s almost like yellow-ish, in a way, for the whiskey sour part, which is the base. And then there’s going to be this floating layer of red wine on top.

K: That’s so cool.

T: So when we talk about how it’s served and the egg white, these arguments, I’m definitely not adding egg white to my New York Sour. I think we’re complicating matters.

K: And with ice, I don’t know.

T: With ice… See, most of the classic recipes out there, you’ll see this served with ice. Personally, I think this is such a stunning-looking drink, I would do it in a big old Martini glass.

K: Amen to that. And I got to say, there was an episode you did of “Cocktail College.” I don’t remember the person, but I remember, I’ll always remember this forever. You got to tell me what it is because the listeners have to know. You had somebody on who said they made a Bloody Mary with no ice. And the way he describes how you should make it, to enjoy it that way, blew my mind, to the point where I need to try that, and next time I get a Bloody Mary, I need to go to a place that is okay with doing that or make it on my own, because that’s just a phenomenal idea. And the whole thing about dilution, the reason why I brought it up is that when it comes to wine, wine’s enemy is water. I mean, we don’t want to put… 

T: It’s a great point.

K: …ice in wine. We chill wine, but we only chill it slightly. We don’t want it to… So it makes sense to me to have something having a red wine floater, just to literally just be layered on top of that. And you do all the things. So when you make the whiskey sour, it’s a cold drink, and then when you pour it, you strain it into the glass. Does the wine have to be chilled?

T: Yes. I would chill the wine. And that’s a great point, too, because you’re mixing up that drink first, and then adding the wine as a float. Now, why are we doing that? I would say aromatics. You’re adding a new ingredient into the equation. But also, like you say, water is the enemy of wine. So if I’m including that in my shaking tin, and I’m shaking it with ice, we’re diluting the wine…

K: Right. It’s going to ruin that.

T: …in that mix.

K: It’s going to ruin everything.

T: I think it’s going to put everything off balance.

K: It really will. And this is the dumb question. What wine? I mean if… 

T: Great one.

K: …It’s the New York Sour, what is it, like a Long Island Cabernet Franc? What is it, like a Finger Lakes Merlot? Is it like a… I don’t know. What’s really cool is it’s probably just a really great, everyday red wine.

T: I would go with something fruit-forward.

K: Yeah, you think a red blend?

T: I would go with something… Yeah, a red blend, maybe a Merlot.

K: Merlot.

T: A Malbec.

K: Yeah. Yeah, the density.

T: I’m probably avoiding tannins.

K: Right. No Cab.

T: No.

K: No Nebbiolo

T: No, no. Definitely not.

K: Not even Barbera.

T: I think we want something full-bodied.

K: Full-bodied.

T: Maybe Zin.

K: Yeah. I think like you said, Zin, red blend, and Merlot. Those are the ultimate… And then maybe Petite Sirah.

T: Yeah. If you wanted just pepperiness in there.

K: Yeah, just like densely concentrated red wines with that deep, dark fruit core.

T: And also think about color.

K: That’s what I’m saying. Imagine a… 

T: Just visual impact. So imagine… 

K: Imagine Merlot.

T: Yeah.

K: Just popping through that color.

T: Yeah.

K: Or a Malbec. Those would be beautiful.

T: Yeah, I think that’s it. So to me, it’s the epitome of a wine cocktail.

K: Oh, man. You know, when I asked you to come on here, I had no idea this is what… I thought you were like, “Well, sometimes you can pour… Sometimes you get some Dolin and then you get some red wine. You want to chill it, you shake…” I didn’t know this is where we were going with this, and this is phenomenal. And like every episode of “Cocktail College,” now I want to go and try all these.

T: Yeah, I think you got to get this. We got to get you one of these made up and you can post it when the episode goes live.

K: We need to start doing that. Come to the mountain.

T: New York Sour.

K: I love it. I love it.

T: New Jersey Sour.

K: New Jersey Sour. What do we got? Well, we got to put, I don’t know what, I can’t think of it right now. We’ll find some Jersey wine. Just some Jersey wine.

T: There we go.

K: Wow, man. Thank you so much. This has been so enlightening. Wine lovers, I hope you’re as mind-blown as I am. This has been awesome. Thanks, Tim.

T: My pleasure.

K: See you guys next week.

T: Happy mixing.

 @VinePairKeith is my Insta. Rate and review this podcast wherever you get your podcasts from. It really helps get the word out there.

 And now, for some totally awesome credits. “Wine 101” was produced, recorded, and edited by yours truly, Keith Beavers, at the VinePair headquarters in New York City. I want to give a big ol’ shout-out to co-founders Adam Teeter and Josh Malin for creating VinePair. Big shout-out to Danielle Grinberg, the art director of VinePair, for creating the most awesome logo for this podcast. Also, Darbi Cicci for the theme song. Listen to this. And I want to thank the entire VinePair staff for helping me learn something new every day. See you next week.

Ed. note: This episode has been edited for length and clarity.