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Bar Blips: Beer and Wine Cocktails For the Win

Posted on Friday, Jul. 31, 2015

In the midst of oppressive humidity and climbing temperatures, it’s easy to want to wish summer away. But I for one always remind myself of the -11 degree temperatures of last winter and suddenly losing two pounds in sweat just to get the mail doesn’t seem so bad. Let’s embrace this last stretch of summer, and what better way then to throw a party! The thing about summer parties is that they always seem to take a life of their own. Perhaps it’s because of the 9pm sunsets, but parties in warm weather seem to just linger on and when you’re serving cocktails it can be a tricky balancing act. Don’t give up on cocktails for your parties, instead serve beer and wine cocktails. These low-proof cocktails are a great way to flex your cocktail creating muscle without sending all your guests home in cabs (remember those things?). You can also add other base spirits to your wine and beer cocktails to serve as modifiers and add extra pizazz. Another great thing about this genre of cocktails is that they are so easy to make for a crowd, and when you’re busy trying to perfect your cannon ball in the pool you definitely don’t have time to play bartender. Here are some quick and easy tips for creating beer and wine cocktails, and a couple of classic recipes that you can really run away with creatively.

Wine cocktails are always a crowd pleaser and can be a great base to showcase some out-of-the-box concoctions. Sangria is probably the most famous of all wine cocktails and when she’s not busy be followed around by the paparazzi, she’s touring the country begging people to stop slandering her name. The biggest sin against sangria, which is common for many cocktails, is that it is usually too sweet. With so much beautiful ripe fruit in season, there is already plenty of sweetness to the things you’re adding to your sangria. Here is a base recipe and some quick tips for how to wade through the sangria seas.

1 bottle white wine (Sauvignon Blancs are my go to)
1/4 cup Cointreau
1/4 cup white grape juice
Sliced strawberries and peaches

1. Make sure you’re paying attention to the type of wine you use. If you decide to use Riesling instead of Sauvignon Blanc, you may have to adjust the other ingredients to maintain balance and harmony.

2. Play around with different modifiers instead of Cointreau to add different nuances to your Sangria. Use St. Germaine, Cocchi Americano, Dolin Blanc, and other types of liqueurs to make your cocktail stand out in a crowd.  

3. Splitting the base is a relatively new way of creating cocktails where you’re using two-3 different types of spirits to create layers of flavor. You can also do the same with a sangria. Use only half a bottle of wine and swap out the other half for something bubbly, or even a wine-based aperitif like Lilet Rose would make for a memorable cocktail.

4. Get fruity with it. Experiment with different types of fruit or fruit simple syrups to give it that fresh summer feel.

5. Get funky and add herbs and spices!

Another great wine cocktail is the amazing mimosa. If you’re having an all-day Sunday event, set out a mimosa bar with different types of bubbles from different parts of the world. And then set out different juices and even fruit simple syrups and let your guests play around and make their own concoctions.

Beer cocktails can be true home runs when done right. The easiest place to start is the shandy. A shandy is typically a lager type beer mixed with lemonade or lemon lime soda. I’ve seen recipes that are equal parts beer and lemonade but I prefer a 3-to-1 ratio. Adjust the ratios to suit your tastes.

1. Experiment with different types of beer. Wheat beers and IPAs are great to use in this beer cocktail. Also, there are so many funky and interesting types of beer that are released for the summer by our local breweries. You really have a large playing field to choose from.

2. Create different infused lemonades to add a different flavor profile. Thyme blueberry lemonade, or a tarragon vanilla lemonade all sound like welcome guests to a shandy party.

3. Don’t be afraid of using other spirits in your shandy. Whether you use a low-proof liqueur or bust out the bourbon, you can really give some oomph to a beer cocktail. Try a half an ounce of gin in your shandy next the time you make a single serving and you’ll pick up exactly what I’m putting down.

4. Lemons don’t need to have all the fun, use different types of juices or sodas. I love grapefruit juice with a nice medium hopped IPA and okay, who are we kidding, some gin.

Want to serve a different type of cocktail at your next party but don’t want too much prep? Try this twist on a classic bubbles cocktail, the French 75.

French Seven Five
1/2 oz lemon juice
1 oz Gin
1/4 oz simple syrup
2 oz hard cider

Add the first 3 ingredients in a cocktail shaker, strain into a coupe, then top with Hard Cider. You can make this into a punch by bumping up the portions to cups and then whisking the ingredients together with a little ice, then adding hard cider.

Don’t forget to come to join us August 30th, where we’ll continue to delve into world of beer and wine cocktails. Just in time for your summer parties, and we all know how crazy they can get! Hope to see everyone there!

Cheers to summer!

Your neighborhood cocktail student and teacher,
Catherine Manabat