All across Spain in tiny tapas restaurants, on beaches, and in homes, Spaniards while away the hours drinking wine coolers – a refreshing mix of wine and soda. These concoctions are low enough in alcohol that they allow one to consume many libations without fear of becoming overly intoxicated, while still maintaining a nice buzz to take the edge off. We’d expect nothing less from a culture that still places a premium on the afternoon siesta.
Depending on the region of Spain that you’re in, a different mix of soda and wine will be the norm, from the sangria-esque Kalimotxo in the Basque region to the Tinto De Verano found in Madrid. You can literally drink your way through the country’s different tastes by simply making a few of these regional cocktails. There’s a restaurant in New York City that makes these Spanish wine coolers extremely well, and luckily it’s agreed to share their recipes.
Huertas is located in Manhattan’s East Village, but step inside and you’re immediately transported to Spain. The food and drink here will convert you into a Spaniard immediately upon first bite and sip – making it easy to see why it’s hard to get a reservation. One of the most popular categories of drinks the restaurant offers are their refrescos. GM/Partner Nate Adler explains: “Refrescos translates directly to ‘refreshments,’ or ‘sodas,’ and at Huertas that is exactly what they are, although we spike them with a little wine to get you on your way. Our ‘refrescos’ are wine coolers, traditional Spanish beverages that simply mix wine and soda. These drinks serve as an intro to our beverage list, as they are meant to stimulate the appetite. While we class them up slightly at Huertas, these drinks are tried and true to what Spaniards drink all day long across different regions of the country. If you want to kick it up a notch, we recommend adding an ounce of spirit, and a particular one to go with each.”
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So let’s take a journey across Spain, starting with the home base for Huertas’ cuisine, the Basque country, and then moving to Madrid, Valencia and Andalucia in the South to sample these delicious wine coolers.
Pronounced Cali-Mo-Cho, this is the summer drink of teenagers and young adults everywhere in the Basque country. It’s simply red wine and Coke. Some people refer to it as poor man’s sangria, but this drink is by no means poor. As tradition has it, Basques will buy a 2-liter bottle of Coca-Cola, pour out half of it, buy a 1 Euro bottle of red wine and fill the Coca-Cola bottle up to the top. The perfect beach drink, Kalimotxo is meant to be poured on the rocks with a squeeze of lemon. At Huertas, they created a riff on the traditional Kalimotxo, by creating a white version with white wine and Sprite as well. It is equally delicious.
- 5 oz red wine–preferably Spanish and juicy
- 5 oz Coca-Cola
- Squeeze of lemon
- Dash of Angostura Bitters
Pour over rocks, stir & garnish with a lemon wedge
Optional Spirit: add 1 oz of dark rum
- 5 oz white wine
- 5 oz Sprite
- Squeeze of lime
Pour over rocks, stir & garnish with a lime wedge
Optional Spirit: 1 oz of gin
Agua De Valencia
Valencia is known for its abundance of oranges, and this Mideastern provence is close enough to Cava country that there is an abundance of that too.
- 3 oz Fanta orange (although at Huertas they use a house orange syrup)
- 3 oz Cava (Spanish sparkling wine)
Pour over rocks, top with soda water, garnish with an orange wheel
Optional Spirit: 1 oz of vodka
Tinto de Verano
Translating to “wine of the summer,” this drink is found most often in Madrid. Huertas uses their house made red vermouth, but red wine is a good substitute. It is also fun to add fresh fruit and let it sit in the wine overnight for a sangria-like outcome.
- 0.5 oz citirc acid syrup (Simple syrup with a teaspoon of citric acid) — or a squeeze of lemon and a squeeze of lime
- 3 oz Huertas red vermouth (they sell it to go, or substitute Spanish red vermouth like “Casa Mariol” or a nice full bodied Garnacha)
Add ice, stir, top with soda water and garnish with macerated fruit
Optional and recommended spirit: 1 oz gin
The refresco from Andalucia utilizes the dry, crisp delicious fortified wine known as Sherry. This drink is one of the most popular mixed drinks in the south of Spain. With or without rum, this refresco drinks like a dark and stormy and is great anytime of year.
- 2 oz Manzanilla Sherry (or any dry sherry)
- 0.5 oz ginger syrup (or 4 oz Reed’s Ginger Beer)
- Squeeze of lime
Stir ingredients over ice, top with Angostura Bitters, garnish with a lime wedge
Optional and recommended spirit: 1 oz dark rum