Note: No, there are not any photos on this post. Yes, I agree, it needs photos. But I don’t have a library of appropriate photos to add and if I wait until I have photos, this very important information will just sit in my head unleashed for the world to appreciate. So, I’m inviting people who have photos or additional ideas to comment or contact me to share so I can add photos or ideas. I’d love to see your photos or hear your ideas. That’s how I came up with many of the thoughts in this post – from others sharing ideas with me.
At a recent party I attended, a guest brought a hostess gift that I could not appreciate. It was one of those bottles of wine that I consider an abomination. I won’t even type its name here. My friends tried to get a picture of me with the bottle but I deflected their attempts. Finally, I posed with the bottle, making a face of terror. I decided I’m not a wine snob. I recently came up with a much better description for myself: Wine Geek.
I really like wine. I try to learn as much as I can about it – although I’m a slow learner because I have a lot of other things on my schedule. I have favorite varietals (Can you say syrah? I knew you could!) I also have my favorite low-cost but delightful finds. But – I have standards. And I have found through trial and error that white wine that costs less than $5 a bottle gives me headaches. I don’t know why, but every time I have tried one, it has happened – or the only times I’ve gotten wine headaches, it turned out I drank a cheap white wine.
A few weeks ago, while browsing Pinterest, I saw a pin that added to my list of wine abominations. I immediately showed it to the friends who shared in the terror of the bottle at the party. As a joke. The picture showed a bottle of (cheap) moscato and a bottle of Sprite Zero, with the caption suggesting that this might make a fabulous beverage for upcoming holiday parties.
Pardon me while I cry a little.
Really?? Because (cheap) moscato isn’t sweet enough you should add an artificially sweetened soda to the party? Oh heck no.
Now. I’m not insulting moscato. I have several friends who prefer sweet wine and like moscato. I’m insulting cheap moscato. With artificially sweetened soda. PLEASE, people! For the love of all that is good and grapey and winey, let’s just leave the moscato and diet soda to college students who don’t know any better? Heck, no. Let’s just encourage this latest abomination to go AWAY.
A few years ago, I met a friend who only drank sweet wines like moscato. I asked her to let me have a chance to help her find even more wines she might like, and maybe even help her develop a broader appreciation for wine.
Now, see what I did there? I did NOT say moscato is bad wine. I did NOT say that people who like sweet wine are bad. No, no, no! I appreciate that people like what they’re comfortable with. They know that they’ve tried this before and they liked it. It’s safe.
So as a real life Wine Geek, and a friend to many people who either prefer a sweet wine or who may be looking to try something new, I would like to offer, an upgraded alternative to the Pinterest Wine Spritzer Abomination (PWSA). (Because “Upgraded” sounds less judgmental than Classier. But really, it’s that, too. Sorry, I’m just saying it like it is. You will either appreciate my honesty or find me annoying. I hope it’s the former.)
To start off – let’s look at…
Adrienne’s List of Reasons People Might Elect to Drink a Wine Spritzer:
- Wine goes further than Hard Liquor – 5 oz per drink instead of 1.5 oz per drink.
- One Word: Bubbles
- They want to drink something on the sweet side.
- It’s cheap.
- Diet soda has fewer calories.
So, how can I meet those needs with my updated suggestions? Just in time for holiday celebrations –
Adrienne’s Helpful Upgrade to the PWSA
First off, I’m just going to strike #4 right off my list: It’s cheap. Like I said, cheap booze gives me a headache. No thank you. Nothing is worth a headache. This is true of wine and hard liquor, by the way. Yes, it is possible to find an inexpensive alcohol that is delightful. One of my favorite red wines costs less than $10 at Trader Joe’s. Go figure. But as a general rule, I’m cautious about cheap booze.
Next off the list, #5: Diet Soda. No. Just say NO. I really do not try to be a radical health Nazi. I promise. But there’s just no reason to put more artificial junk in my body than necessary. Getting myself off diet soda was one of the happiest things I’ve ever done. Yes, on very rare occasion I might still have sugar soda – usually ginger ale, occasionally 7-Up. But diet stuff? Never again ever. So nothing here will have as few calories as the PWSA. Sorry. But I can totally offer some better alternatives, in my opinion.
So now back to the top of the list: Fewer calories than hard liquor? Check! We’ll stick with the wine family. Not a problem for me. Wine. Geek. I’m on this.
Number two: Bubbles. Well, hello, we don’t need no stinking soda to create bubbles! The wine industry has taken care of this for us, bless them: Champagne! A-ha
I always considered champagne or sparkling wine as something to save for a special occasion. Then I met two friends who enjoy an occasional glass of sparkling wine instead of a still wine at dinner or as a before dinner drink. The more I learned about different ways to serve sparkling wine the more I realized I was missing something fabulous.
There are many sparkling wines to consider. From France, we have champagne. From many other regions, they may be called sparkling wine. They might be described by the method used to make the wine bubbly such as méthode champenoise. Have you ever heard of prosecco? This is an Italian sparkling wine that seems to have gained popularity recently. I know I’m leaving out several more. The point is: No matter what you call it, there are a variety of sparkling wines available readily available in stores. In the lovely state of California, we can buy wine in our regular grocery stores. (Did you realize that in other states, you have to go to special stores to buy wine? Hello? I feel so sorry for people who have to shop at Trader Joe’s locations without a delightful wine selection. How do they find lovely bottles of Bastardo??) In addition, I shop for sparkling wines at Costco, grocery stores like Vons/Safeway, BevMo, and Hi-Times in Costa Mesa.
Some of my favorite sparkling wines include Scharffenberger, Castoro Winery and others. In specialty stores, I ask the opinions of experts. In grocery stores, I gauge my decisions on price. I really don’t like to spend less than $10 for a bottle of sparkling wine.
Number Three: Something Sweet
Ok, now the fun starts!
Mimosa – Hibiscus – Bellini and more
I’ll start with sweet but in keeping with requirement number 1 – something that will last longer, more to drink with a lower alcohol content – Juice drinks
Juice blends very nicely with sparkling wine. Many people know Mimosas – orange juice and sparkling wine. Yes, many people consider this a breakfast drink, but let’s back up to the PWSA – moscato is often considered a dessert wine, but people drink it out of context. If the goal is sweet, why not drink a Mimosa? You could even get fancy and add a splash of pomegranate juice! Alternatively, sparkling wine with cranberry juice is called a Hibiscus A Bellini is sparkling wine mixed with peach juice
The simple guideline for these juice and sparkling wine drinks is to mix them 50-50, 1 to 1, equal parts. Pour the sparkling wine first, then add the juice.
But wait… there’s more!
It all started with a Kir Royale. A Kir Royale is a classic cocktail made with crème de cassis, which is a currant liquor. But the really fun part is you don’t have to stop with crème de cassis! Now, these recipes will have a higher concentration of alcohol because they add liquor to the sparkling wine. But, they do upgrade the PWSA and provide a sweet, bubbly drink.
Looking around online, the recommended proportions of liquor to sparkling wine vary from 1 part liquor to 3 parts champagne, to 1 tsp in a full glass to 1/5 liquor to 4/5 champagne and on and on. Whenever we’ve made them at home, we start with a little bit of liquor, taste it, and if we want more, we add it. So here’s my suggested instructions:
Pour sparkling wine in a flute and add ½ ounce (or 1 tablespoon) of liquor. Taste it and if you want more, add more, a little bit at a time until the sweet factor meets your need.
Now, about that “why stop with crème de cassis?” – Here are some fun ideas for all sorts of “Royale” cocktails!
- Grand Marnier – or – Cointreau –or- Creole Shrubb – These are all orange flavored liquors.For me, this particular combination really ignited my interest in the whole Royale idea. A few years ago, a group of friends and I dined in a fine restaurant where we ordered the tasting menu. Upon learning that it was one friend’s birthday, the chef directed our server to bring us champagne with a splash of Grand Marnier to make it special. You may have heard of the first two liquors, the third is actually rum based. Yes, I do happen to have all three in my cabinet, but, I admit, Creole Shrubb is a bit obscure. Don’t expect to find that one in as many bars or homes.
- Chambord – Black raspberry liquor, yummm.
- Cherry Heering – This is a cherry flavored brandy. Yes, it’s in my cabinet.
- Crème de Violet – a violet liquor – purple and flowery and one of the ingredients in a couple of my favorite cocktails so, yes I have some on hand. I confess, I haven’t tried this one yet but it’s on my list to try this season!
- Which leads me to St. Germain – It’s elderflower liquor and I’m seeing it pop up here and there. I might have to try this one, too. I bought a bottle without a plan for how to use it. Googling around, it looks like this might be an option…
There are many champagne cocktail recipes floating around but these options are quick and simple, much like the PWSA – two ingredients, and you’re done!
And meanwhile, if you want to watch the calories and alcohol content, I vote for a glass of water in between cocktails instead of watering something down with diet soda. Add a twist of citrus to make it festive and tasty between cocktails.
So, what do you think? Might you consider upgrading your cocktail? Do you have a suggestion for something to add to your sparkling wine? Or a photo to add to this helpful guide? Tell me!