For variety sake, have you ever considered mixing your wine with beer? Or schnapps? Or vodka? As novel, quirky or absurd as these combinations might seem, they are not unusual. In fact, cocktails made by combining wine with beer, spirits or liqueurs are a longstanding tradition. The Black Velvet, for example, which is a combination of stout beer and Champagne, reportedly dates back to 1861. According to the story, the drink was invented at Brook’s Club in London when the steward, overcome with grief at the death of Prince Albert, created the drink to mourn his death. Some say that the appearance of the drink, which is traditionally composed of Champagne floating on top of stout beer in a flute, resembles the dark armbands worn by mourners.
If beer isn’t your thing, there is a long list of cocktails that combine wine with liqueur and/or spirits. One of the best known is the Kir, a popular French aperitif that dates back to the mid-19th century. The basic Kir is a combination of white wine and blackcurrant liqueur (crème de cassis). Other versions of the drink include the Kir Royale, made with Champagne, the Kir Imperiale, made with Champagne and raspberry liqueur and the Communard, which is made with red wine and crème de cassis. Other cocktails which combine wine with spirits include the Diamond Fizz (a combination of gin, Champagne, lemon juice and sugar) and the Bishop Cocktail (a combination of rum, red wine, simple syrup and lime juice).
Continuing in the tradition of creating beverages that combine wine with other types of alcohol, two major companies introduced “wine fusion” products in late 2012. In the fall, Pernod Ricard introduced Absolut® Tune, a carbonated fusion of Absolut® vodka and Sauvignon Blanc sold in a 750ml bottle with a Champagne-style cork. The product, which is 60% vodka and 40% Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, is 28 proof/14% alcohol by volume. For those who are more partial to beer than spirits, Blue Moon Brewing (a unit of SABMiller) has introduced two new effervescent beer-wine fusions. The products, which are 51% beer/49% wine, are reportedly meant to have a wine-like flavor with a hint of beer. The red version, called Impulse, has juice from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes and the white version, Proximity, has juice from Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Both are 8.5% alcohol by volume and are sold in 750ml wine-style bottles.
As for how successful these new “wine fusion” products will be, and whether they will have the staying power of longtime favorites like the Black Velvet and the Kir, that remains to be seen. In any case, they are further evidence that wine can pair well with almost everything.