Off the Vine
Wine cocktails bring out the best of the bar
Wine-inspired libations are as old as the art of mixology, and the vino-centric cocktails of today are taking cues from the old faithfuls of yesteryear. One of the earliest “real” cocktails was the Champagne Cocktail, made with bubbly, bitters and sugar. And, of course, it’s almost inconceivable to think where the modern cocktail would be without fortified wines like brandies, vermouths and aperitifs like Lillet and Dubonnet to mix with. But for a true wine cocktail, a mere splash of champagne or vermouth won’t do. The latest spirited interpretations use wine as the primary ingredient—a classic technique being rediscovered by local vino spots, including Robust Wine Bar & Café.
Robust’s popular grape-based concoctions tend not to be overly boozy, so they’re perfect for leisurely sipping on a fall evening. Two wine-inspired favorites, according to General Manager Frank Romano, are the Sparkling Mojito and the Champagne Cosmo. The mojito is made with non-vintage sparkling wine and a mint-infused simple syrup with a squeeze of lime. Using bubbly gives the drink body and sparkle, and the mint syrup eliminates the need for muddling (making life easier for the bartender). The Champagne Cosmo can also be made with pinot grigio, which Romano actually prefers. He says the lack of bubbles makes the pinot more of a blank canvas that accentuates the Cointreau, cranberry, lime and touch of simple syrup that go into the drink.
“We have people come in all the time asking for a Cosmo or a martini,” Romano says. “We wanted to come up with something refreshing and a different twist on the wine experience.”
Being a wine bar that offers some 40 wines by the glass, there’s not a lot of room for extra spirits and other ingredients behind the bar, so getting creative with the vino on hand instead of introducing yet another bottle into the mix makes sense, and obviously there’s plenty of raw material for experimenting.
The popularity of these cocktails has recently prompted the bar staff to add four more winecentric concoctions to the list: the Black Velvet, with cava and Guinness; the Black Diamond Watermelon Cooler, featuring watermelon purée and grenache blanc; the Triple X Champagne Cocktail, which adds St. Germain, simple syrup and lemon to the bubbly; and the Grand Mimosa, which replaces traditonal O.J. with Grand Marnier.
Photo credit: Photos by Johnathon Pollack