A disclaimer: wine appreciation is highly subjective not only according to individual palate. A person, on his own, may even contradict himself at some point. What is superb bottle or cocktail concoction may immediately become drab depending on one’s mood or even the kind of weather, season or event. I privately call this phenomenon a version of terroir for, er, humans. So you would have to excuse me if an entry in this list would not pass your discriminating taste.
Fresh fruits such as strawberries, orange, lemon and passion fruit will not fail to add freshness and a bit of zing to wine. It allows for a perfect summer drink or an easy signature beverage. There is this to die for Brazilian Fruit Twist, which is basically wine, smothered with fresh seasoned passion fruit. A freshly squeezed mango juice also provides an additional dimension to champagne. And, of course, who wouldn’t enjoy the classic Sangria, which is an incredibly red punch that, naturally, originated in Spain. Fruits are also imperative as cocktail decors. There are numerous drinks that are kept from being glorious without the right fruit garnish.
Cocktails assume a mantle of exoticism and a hint of mystery and adventure if you throw in a dash of spices to liven things up. Consider the Carrot Bloody Maria with its clever use of black pepper and hot sauce. OR, if you are game for a bit more intensity, you would not be disappointed by the Don Julio Hot Nantucket Night with its extra helping of pepper and jalapeno to further rough things up. Perhaps my favorite would be the Brazilian cachaca, which – for sheer heat and brawn – will undoubtedly transport you to the scorching Ipanema beach without much delay. If you would like to experiment, you have ginger, cinnamon, garlic, coriander and a host of other spices at your disposal. Just remember that most spiced cocktails are best served in winter.
My favorite herbs that, in my opinion, could truly give wine cocktails depth and texture are basil and mint. But others like thyme, cilantro and sage could do the trick just as well. Often, cocktails infused with fresh herbs are great for summer. I would like to call your attention to this drink called Benton Park Swizzle: an excellent version of the Queen’s Park Swizzle. It has gold rum, lime and Fernet with fresh mint leaves thrown in for good measure. It is as awesome as the concoction called Sage Advice, a Benedectine and bourbon affair, brought together by sage and grape juice.
If you think that your cocktail could not flourish or assume the spirit of spring, think again. There are drinks that call for edible flowers. The Creme de Violette, for example, could not have emerged without the violets that give the cocktail its blue color. The drink, Tom Nichol, also requires a bunch of chamomile. It is, of course, imperative that the flower is edible, fit to be eaten such as the elderflower and lavender. The juice and the petals could be both useful and totally delicious when paired with the appropriate wine.