A wine cooler requires three things: wine, carbonation and some kind of fruit flavor (either via fruit juice or more exotic means). Here’s how you can make your own.
I’m just old enough to remember when wine coolers were the stuff you drank while attending your first house parties in high school. Since their heyday in the 80s, they’ve largely left the market or been replaced with horrific mixtures of malt liquor and artificial flavoring.
Just because they don’t inspire much confidence doesn’t mean the entire concept is worthless; you can still make some damn tasty versions at home. First though, to clarify, a wine cooler requires three things: wine, carbonation and some kind of fruit flavor (either via fruit juice or more exotic means). As for proportions, I’d just make sure that your drink is more than 50% wine; you can tweak the other ingredients to your own personal tastes.
Here are some versions to get you started.
The Wine Reviver
Wine coolers are an excellent way to make use of that bottle of wine that might have been open just a bit too long or sitting on your wine rack for a few too many years. You don’t want the wine to taste like nothing, but since you’re adding flavors on top of it, a fairly neutral wine works just fine.
A Broad Palate
The most interesting discovery for me was that a really wide range of flavors could be used, especially with the proper base wine: not just obvious winners like orange, watermelon, and cherry, but also Earl Grey tea, cucumber, and even Coca-Cola played nicely with wine.
In cases like the Earl Grey, a fairly neutral base wine like Pinot Grigio seemed to be best, while the cucumber was an interesting counterpoint to a more expressive wine, like Riesling.
Red Wine Is Fine
I’ve long been skeptical of the classic Basque drink kalimotxo, a blend of red wine and cola, because it seems like a waste of red wine…but I gotta say, I’m now convinced. Mixing the two was like drinking a deliciously adult version of Cherry Coke, a favorite of mine as a child. Red wine and ginger beer also worked surprisingly well. I’d definitely lean towards a fuller-bodied red in this situation; an inexpensive red blend is probably your best bet.
Simplicity Is Supreme
The other takeaway for me was that most of the best versions relied on just two or three ingredients; wine, some sort of fruit-flavored soda, and maybe a third note.
That makes putting together a delicious wine cooler much easier than almost any other beverage, and reinforces that making them at home is just as easy as buying them pre-packaged, especially when most “wine coolers” these days are made with a ton of sugar and malt liquor, not wine.
Skip The Ice
Yes, you certainly can put ice in your wine cooler, but I find them more enjoyable to drink when they’re chilled and served without ice. Something about the texture and experience was just better that way.
While summer might be slipping away for some, there are still more than enough sunny afternoons that could be enlivened with the modern incarnation of this old favorite.