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TO QUOTE American wine writer, Jason Wilson: "Beware:
using your favourite wine in cocktails is a sure-fire way to
scandalise the serious wine aficionados in your life." Now, I
am a traditionalist where wine is concerned, as I believe it
should be drunk as it was intended by the wine makers.
However, I am not blinded by this and do know that mixing
wine has been a custom and practice by many wine cul-
tures, and more so since the early 1900s. I remember being
told by a former French boss, that it's tradition in France for
children to have wine with dinner; however, water or fruit
juices are added, presumably to dilute the alcohol content.
"I am ombibulous," H.L. Mencken (American journalist/edi-
tor/essayist) famously wrote. "I drink every known alcoholic
drink and enjoy them all." Mencken wrote this, of course,
during simpler times, namely, Prohibition, in those dark days
when any drink was welcome. I somehow like Mencken's
notion of the "ombinbulous" person as an ideal drinking
companion --- someone with an open mind and heart.
Nearly a century after Prohibition, we could really use more
self-identified ombibulous drinkers. That is because our era
has become the domain of the specialist, the narrowly fo-
cused and the geek. In my many years in this business of
wines and spirits I have learnt there is a bedrock truth:
There are Wine People and there are Cocktail People. And
the chasm between the two is wide and deep.
I have had wine aficionados say to me that they do not
drink wine cocktails, yet alone any other cocktail. I remem-
ber reading an article by US cocktail historian, Dave Won-
drich, in which he wrote, "What do you expect from Wine
People? Wine People suck." While he may have been joking,
it is still a harsh, knee-jerk sentiment. And yes, too many
Cocktail People still live by the cliché that wine is "stuffy".
And too many Wine People live by the misguided idea that
cocktails are gauche. I do not expect to see too many Wine
and Cocktail People holding hands at bars and singing "Jean
and Dinah", but I think wine cocktails are a safe way to start
a dialogue. Wine People need to loosen up a little and see
it's not abomination to mix a little wine with some spirits.
Cocktail People might also learn to embrace wines. If for no
other reason than you cannot simply drink cask-strength
whiskey, vodka and rum every day.
When I think of wine cocktails, I somehow think of Italy and
Spain, where there are serious traditions of mixing with
vino. In this part of the world, especially in the US, however,
the wine cocktail trend has been gaining serious traction.
But it's really just a return to the early days of cocktail-mak-
ing, when wines such as Port, Sherry, Champagne, Madeira
and Sauternes were standard ingredients. Wine-based
cocktails seem to speak to many Trinidadians' jitters about
drinking hard liquor. "It has to do with lighter palates, people
wanting something a little lighter," says mixologist Devon
De Leon took some time out from his busy Carnival sched-
ule to talk to me about what's trending this time of the year
at fetes and parties. De Leon, who has been in this business
for well over 15 years --- over seven of those on cruise ships
alongside some of the best in the business --- is not at all
surprised about patrons' preference for wine cocktails. De
Leon says that while most cocktails are requested by
women, there's also is a strong pull from the men. The most
popular wine cocktails seem to be made with Proseccos,
Champagne and Moscatos. When mixed with other spirits
and fruit liqueur they tend to whittle down the alcohol con-
tent, which delights our already sweet-trained palates. I re-
ally had a good chuckle when he told me that men really
enjoy cocktails, but that to maintain the "macho" image
they ask that the cocktails be served in whiskey-type
glasses rather than traditional cocktail glasses. Come on
guys, real men drink cocktails from cocktail glasses!
Devon De Leon has worked with some of top alcohol
brands like Patron, Absolut, Grey Goose and many wines
like Proseccos, Moscatos and Champagnes. He shares with
us two signature recipes, which he and his team have been
serving up at all-inclusive fetes this Carnival.
THE CELEBRATION COCKTAIL
1 1/2 oz GREY GOOSE® Cherry Noir
1/2 oz ST-GERMAIN® Liqueur
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 oz pomegranate juice
1 splash champagne
1. Combine first 4 ingredients in a shaker.
2. Shake vigorously and strain into a cham-
3. Top with champagne and present with a
1 1/2 oz Absolut Apeach
1/2 oz Amaretto
1/2 oz fresh lemon juice
3 oz Moscato d' Asti
1. Mix first 3 ingredients with ice cubes.
2. Pour into chilled Martini glass and top up
with Moscato d'Asti.
Next week, we are right into Carnival, I will
continue to look at cocktails in
general and how this wave of
change in consumption of wines
and spirits is really changing the
dynamics of the industry. Also I
will be sharing some more
recipes from the very talented
mixologist and barman extraordi-
naire Devon de Leon for your
"wining" sessions on the road for
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