Cocktail Queries: 5 Great Cocktails to Make with Wine

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Cocktail Queries: 5 Great Cocktails to Make with Wine

Cocktail Queries is a Paste series that examines and answers basic, common questions that drinkers may have about mixed drinks, cocktails and spirits. Check out every entry in the series to date.

Best part about opening a bottle of wine: Having that first glass of wine with dinner.

Worst part about opening a bottle of wine: Having a third a bottle left, and not particularly wanting any more of it, but feeling bad about throwing it away. It’s a familiar feeling to those of us who crave novelty—even if a wine is good, sometimes you just want to move on to something else rather than continuing to empty the bottle.

As in so many other things in life, though, cocktails are the answer. There are in fact quite a few classic and modern cocktails that incorporate numerous styles of wine as major components in their flavor profiles. And we’re not just talking about champagne, either—although there are certainly numerous cocktails that call for sparkling wine, you can also find cocktails that will help you finish that bottle of shiraz or pinot grigio as well.

Some of them, in fact, you probably already know. Almost any drinker could tell you that sangria is a wine-based punch, after all. Perhaps you’ve also sampled classic cocktails like the French 75, made with champagne, or the especially ubiquitous aperol spritz, which traditionally features prosecco. If you look closely, these cocktails are all around us, so in this piece we’ll try to serve up a few slightly less common ones that you may not have sampled before.

Here then are five cocktails we’d recommend to make with an open bottle of wine.

New York Sour

The New York Sour is an easy twist on the traditional whiskey sour cocktail, but one that any lover of red wine will want to immediately memorize. My wife, in fact, loves the New York Sour so much that she’ll go out of her way to suggest opening a bottle of red wine just so she can make them later with the remainder.

A classic whiskey sour combines rye whiskey or bourbon with fresh lemon juice, simple syrup, and the optional egg white to create a drink that is equal parts sweet and tart, with a foamy quality if the egg white is used. A New York Sour, on the other hand, simply adds dry red wine to the party, and is traditionally served with the wine as a floater (poured over the back of spoon on top of the drink), which visually gives the drink an attractive, two-level effect that makes it particularly Instagram friendly. You can choose to drink it this way, or you can then stir the drink to fully incorporate the wine flavor throughout—this is what my wife prefers. Either way, the red fruit notes of the wine pair beautifully with both the acidity and sweetness of the punchy whiskey sour. Here’s your recipe:

— 2 oz whiskey (bourbon or rye)
— 1 oz lemon juice
— .75 oz simple syrup
— .5 oz red wine (which can be increased to your taste)
— 1 egg white (optional)

To make, simply add all ingredients except for the red wine to a shaker, fill with ice, and shake thoroughly until well chilled. If you’re wondering why this is a shaken rather than stirred drink, check out our guide here. Then simply strain the drink into a rocks glass over ice, and pour the red wine over the back of a bar spoon to float it on top of the New York Sour. If you want to fully incorporate the wine rather than floating it, simply stir.

Cork County Bubbles


This is another spin on the whiskey sour, but one that goes in a significantly different direction by changing the whiskey in question from American to Irish, and the wine from a full-bodied “New York” red to a zippy, sparkling champagne (or whatever sparkling you’ve got). Throw in some sweetly herbaceous Chartreuse, or another herbal liqueur of your choice, and you’re really taking this drink in a new and interesting direction.

This is one of my favorite cocktails for making use of an open bottle of champagne, especially because I also don’t tend to drink a lot of Irish whiskey—but it works lovely here, paired with bright lemon and the gentle sweetness of honey. I tend to add a few more ounces of champagne to my cocktail than specified in this recipe to lengthen it, but I do agree that a champagne flute is the perfect serving vessel for it.

— 1 oz Irish whiskey
— .25 oz yellow Chartreuse
— .5 oz fresh lemon juice
— .25 to .5 oz honey syrup, to taste
— 1 oz sparkling wine

Add all ingredients except for sparkling wine to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well, then strain into a champagne flute. Pour in the sparkling wine to top and gently stir to incorporate. Garnish with a lemon twist, or a fresh berry.

Champagne Cocktail

A true classic, and one of the oldest cocktails on record, you’ll often see the so-called Champagne Cocktail being made without any kind of spirit, omitting the brandy or cognac that forms that backbone of this drink. Suffice to say, that modern preparation should be considered a mistake—it’s just sparkling wine with a bit of sugar and bitters. Do not leave out the brandy, and enjoy this more substantial version of the sparkling classic instead.

— 1 oz brandy or cognac
— 4 to 6 oz champagne or other sparkling wine
— 1 sugar cube or 1 tsp sugar
— 2-3 dashes aromatic bitters (Angostura, etc.)

To build the classic Champagne Cocktail, place the sugar cube at the bottom of a champagne flute, and saturate it with several dashes of aromatic bitters—you can use whichever variety you like, but you’re never going to go wrong with the classic Angostura. Give that a moment to soak in, and then add the brandy. Swirl a bit to combine. Then add the sparkling wine, and very gently stir to incorporate. Do not over-stir, or you’ll knock the carbonation out of the drink. Garnish with an orange slice, and drop in a maraschino cherry if desired.



This refreshing Italian wine cocktail takes some cues from the Aperol spritz but keeps the ABV on the lower side, omitting the gin and instead focusing on lambrusco, the unique, lightly sparkling style of Italian red wine. To that, it adds Cappelletti aperitivo, which falls somewhere between the citrusy sweetness of Aperol and the more muscular bitterness of Campari. The result is a drink that combines refreshing fruit flavors and light carbonation with solid bitterness and hints of spice. It’s delicate, sophisticated, and probably unlike anything you’ve had before. If you can’t find the Cappelletti, you can sub in Aperol or Campari, but you’ll have to control for sweetness with the former and cut back on the latter to avoid the drink being overly bitter.

— 4 oz lambrusco wine
— 1 oz Cappelletti aperitivo
— 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters

Combine all ingredients in a chilled champagne flute and combine by gently stirring, as to not release the carbonation once again. Express a lemon peel above the glass and garnish with lemon twist.

Negroni Sbagliato

If you know cocktails at all, then you know that the negroni is an endlessly adaptable drink—almost any aspect of its construction can be tinkered with or swapped for something else, and the results somehow tend to still be viable. To be perfectly honest, though, I’ve never been a big fan of the classic negroni—the combination of gin, Campari and sweet vermouth tends to read as too one-dimensionally bitter and dry for my taste. I’d much rather go for the popular bourbon variant known as the boulevardier, but you can also make sparkling wine into the star of the show as well.

This is known as the negroni sbagliato, which simply calls for sparkling wine such as prosecco (in keeping with the Italian theme) to be used in place of the gin. This adds some additional gentle sweetness to the drink by removing the resinous gin flavors, resulting in a rather more balanced negroni profile. If it’s still too bitter for your taste, you can always reduce the amount of Campari as well. But if you’re simply switching out the gin, it couldn’t be simpler.

— 1 oz prosecco
— 1 oz Campari
— 1 oz sweet Italian vermouth

Build in a lowball glass filled with ice. Add Campari and vermouth before stirring. Top up with sparkling wine, and then stir gently once again to incorporate, without losing too much carbonation. Garnish with an orange twist.

Jim Vorel is a Paste staff writer and resident liquor geek. You can follow him on Twitter for more drink writing.

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