Tag Archives: wine spritzer

What to do with all those gift wines?

Turn them all into wine spritzers and keep your party going!

Gift wines. There. I said it. A bottle quickly picked up at the market, thoughtfully bought, but random nevertheless.

Guests can’t help it. Buying a random bottle of wine for a house party is like bringing a bouquet of flowers not knowing the home décor or gifting a box of candy to someone who can’t eat sweets (I grieve for them, wherever they may be).

A random bottle of wine is just that—it’s random. It isn’t necessarily bad, and you’re not being elitist for liking only certain kinds of wine. But there it sits. Those bottles of Merlot and over-oaked Chardonnay, all sitting there in the back of your collection, gathering dust.

Now, if you’re a real elitist, you toss the bottles out unopened. And that’s a shame unless of course, the bottle is spoiled. But there is such a thing as letting such collections grow too big.

I have a friend who believed that when people said that wines grow better with age, he literally thought they meant any wine from any vineyard. We took a look at his “collection” one day before a party he was hosting.

Nearly all were gift wines from various dates. He did well to lay them down and store them on their side in a rack (to keep the wine in contact with the cork). A few were expired (yes, ordinary, everyday wine will expire) and had to be tossed out. Many were okay. A few years ago, his brother dropped off several bottles of Le Fade Vigna del Doge, a decent kind of everyday red wine from Dele Venezie, Italy. I recognized it as the type that sidewalk cafes serve for midday meals. The corks were okay, and the contents were still clear.

Most of this collection were not the types of wine I’d want to serve straight from the bottle at a party as I would with ones from a favorite vineyard.

But, there are things you can do with these random wines, even those over-sweet and barely drinkable cheap bottles, that can keep the conversations going at a party that’s already in full swing. It’s a little trick that makes them useful at just about any gathering, and it makes almost any wine reasonably tasty in a glass (despite themselves). What I’m talking about are wine spritzers.

No recipe needed.

We poured the wine into tumblers over ice (something you would NEVER do with a good bottle). We filled each glass to about ¾ full. Use a LOT of ice or one big rock of ice. Then we topped the glasses with a splash of sparkling water, but make sure you use an unflavored variety otherwise it will completely change the flavor and you might be really unhappy with the result. You can use seltzer or your favorite club soda depending on your preferences. By the way, do you know the difference between a seltzer, sparkling water, and a club soda? There are subtle distinctions that aficionados of bubbly water recognize. But, that’s for another post.

Finally, give each glass a big squeeze of fresh citrus. For a fancy touch, garnish with a slice, wedge, something of peeled citrus. And keep some Angostura bitters on hand for guests who want to kill any cloying sweetness.

Doesn’t that sound delicious? It is. Check out my Gift Wine video to see how easy it is up close.

Now for the strategy to this idea. Hold your wine spritzers for the second-half of your party. By this time, you’ve already served the special wines you planned for the party but you’re just not ready for everyone to leave. No worries! Your guests have warmed up to each other and are more focused on the conversation. The spritzer gives them something that’s light and easy to sip between fists of nuts and laughing.

And you can thank those random gift bottles of wine for the extra fun.

Two Drink Recipes, for a Nice Summer Afternoon Spritz

Enjoy an afternoon wine spriz

Bringing you 2 fabulous spritz drinks to help you keep cool during California’s dog days of summer-early fall.

It’s not the end of summer in California until we endure those final “dog days” through early fall. It’ll be boiling here until Halloween! Sad for most kids because they’ve started school by now. Nice for us adults because we can sneak a dip into the pool with a nice spritzer before the kids get home from school!

When entertaining at home, we look for smooth, refreshing adult beverages for our guests. The easiest and most refreshing are the spritzes; a simple combination of wine (sparkling or not) and soda.  You can add liquors or bitters to alter the flavors. They’re really the easiest of cocktails to mix. You can watch me mix the Aperol Spritz here on my video.

Fun fact: Why are the last of the hottest days of the year called “dog days”?

Answer: Because at that time of the year, the constellation Canis Major (the big dog) starts appearing in the sky. The brightest star in that constellation is Sirius, which in Latin means dog – thus, the star is known as the dog star.

And I thought that it was just because dogs tend to lay about and snooze during the day when it’s hottest. I’ll figure out how to work this bit of trivia into my next cocktail patio party when I serve these simple and refreshing drinks. As always, use the largest ice cubes you can to avoid diluting the drinks.

I’ll start with the Aperol spritz I found on Epicurious.com.

If you love the taste of grapefruit and are excited about a drink that blends the taste of orange and some bubbly, then you’ll really enjoy this drink. It’s become one of my most favorite—especially during those hot “dog days.”

Pour into a large wine glass filled with large rocks of ice, and stir:

  • 2 ounces of Aperol (an Italian apéritif with a complex orange flavor).
  • 2 ounces of sparkling white wine (I use Valdo Prosecco, extra dry in my video)
  • 1 ounce of freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (prefer “ruby red” variety).
  • A “splash” of soda water to taste.
  • ½ Grapefruit wheel as garnish (also “ruby red”).

Maybe citrus isn’t your flavor. That’s okay. Here’s another recipe from Epicurious that’s a bit sweeter. The base is the French liqueur St. Germain, made from elderflower. So, prepare for some floral brightness from this spritz.

Pour into a large wine glass filled with large rocks of ice, stir gently:

  • 4 ounces of sparkling white wine (again, I suggest Valdo Prosecco, extra dry)
  • 1½ ounces St. Germain liqueur
  • Splash of club soda to taste
  • A sprig of fresh cut lavender to garnish

Serving tip: I prefer serving these drinks in large stemless wine glasses. There’s a lot of liquid and ice here, and the drink might be a little top heavy if you try to mix and serve these spritzes in stemware. Either drink goes well with cold cut fruit to fight off the heat of the afternoon. Makes me think of sitting back on a balcony, enjoying a sunset overlooking the Grand Canal in Venice with friends.

Enjoy!