Wine Cocktails To Try This Summer

Whether you're trying to clear out your fridge or have a couple of bottles of wines you'd like to extend, a wine cocktail is a perfect solution. Maybe you bought a wine with the express purpose of turning it into a mixed drink or the bottle of red you used for that one recipe is venturing into questionable territory. Whatever the reason, there are countless ways to combine wine, spirits, juice, soda, and assorted extras to make a drink for your next occasion.

Weekend brunch is an excellent opportunity to enjoy a wine cocktail. And if you're going to do it, it's best to mix wine with lighter beverages rather than sipping on a heavy red. Picnics are also great opportunities to serve up one of these inspired cocktails — suddenly, your single bottle of wine is able to serve a crowd.

There's nothing new about wine cocktails, and while some drinks were probably concocted to mask questionable wine, you don't have to start with a lousy bottle. From classic selections like mimosas to creative drinks that highlight complementary flavors, these are the wine cocktails you have to try this summer.

Spritz

The fluorescent orange or red color of a spritz signals relaxation. There are two camps when it comes to this traditional cocktail — Aperol and Campari — and plenty of experimental versions. Both Aperol and Campari are bitter liqueurs made with a combination of herbs, spices, orange, and a slew of secret ingredients that make them impossible to recreate at home. Aperol is lower in alcohol and lighter (both in color and taste), whereas Campari offers a more pungent flavor to match its vibrant red color (via Vinepair).

The quintessential Italian drink is made with a 3:2:1 ratio of Prosecco to bitter liqueur to soda water (via Difford's Guide). The sparkling wine tones down the bitter flavors, offering just the right level of effervescence to make this drink pleasantly refreshing. And if you want to up the luxury factor, just replace the Prosecco with Champagne. Per Martha Stewart's website, it might even be the drink of the summer — certainly high praise for an easy three-ingredient recipe.

It might not be noticeable at first, but this cocktail can pack a punch (especially if you opt for Campari which hovers around 24% ABV). Take a cue from the Italians and serve this colorful drink with a spread of salty snacks for a true aperitivo experience.

Sparkling sangria

There's an endless assortment of wines that are ideal for making sangria, but if you like bubbles, there's only one way to go: sparkling sangria. Pick your favorite bottle of reasonably priced sparkling wine (or splurge if that's your mood) and decide what fruit flavor profile you want. Depending on whether you opt for tropical fruits (like mango, pineapple, and kiwi), berries, or whatever you happen to have in the crisper, your selection of mixers will follow.

There's no clearer way to highlight the arrival of summer than with a pitcher of sangria on a patio. The fresh fruits will keep you hydrated and give you something to munch on in the sweltering heat and whatever juice or soda you add will tame the alcohol content of the sparkling wine and spirits. Whether you choose orange, apple, or cranberry juice or double up on the bubbles with Sprite or ginger ale, you can't go wrong. Tequila, rum, vodka, and gin — you can try a different recipe every week of summer and still not get through all of the possibilities. 

Frosé

There's something undeniably fun about a frosé — like taking your favorite childhood drink and adding a splash of alcohol to the mix. A portmanteau of the words "frozen" and "rosé," this drink is as refreshing as they come. But you might want to skip this concoction if serious wine collectors are nearby — as The Guardian notes: "wine experts are horrified." Of course, you probably shouldn't be choosing high-end wines for this frozen endeavor, but there's a lot to be said about transforming a mediocre rosé into a slushy drink.

The best versions start with an actual bottle of wine combined with vermouth, sugar, and lemon. However, according to Forbes, frosé mixer blends incorporate fruity flavors with corn syrup (and other ingredients) to improve the final texture. You won't get quite the same effect by simply freezing a bottle of wine. If you do want to stick to the basic preparation, a simple frosé recipe entails freezing the wine (ideally in a spacious container to avoid a disastrous mess) and then mixing it in a blender with your choice of sweetener, lemon juice, and frozen strawberries.

Kalimotxo

Before you scorn this duo, it's worth noting that kalimotxo — red wine and Coca-Cola — has been a staple in Northern Spain since the 1920s (via Instituto Hemingway). The original intention was to conceal the less-than-stellar quality of cases of wine served at a festival. It just so happens that the sweet syrupy taste of Coke worked wonders to smooth out the harshness of the wine. Standard recipes swing for a one-to-one ratio of soda to wine, and you're going to want to pour it over ice and add a squeeze of lemon juice to keep this drink refreshing.

According to Vinepair, this easy drinker has since found its way to the U.S., including at a namesake bar in Austin, Texas. Kalimotxo's manager, Rand Egbert, shares how he discovered a taste for it on a trip to the Basque region of Spain, pointing out its compatibility with daytime drinking and light snacks. Plus, since you're cutting the alcohol content in half, you won't feel the effects as intensely on a hot summer day. Although the combo is most commonly associated with Spain, the same drink is served in Chile as "jote" (via Just Globetrotting).

Wine sour

If you're into cocktails or have flipped through a bar menu, chances are you've come across the ever-popular whiskey sour. Well, if you throw some wine in there, you've got yourself a novel drink with classic flavors. Also called a continental sour or a New York sour (although it might in fact have originated in Chicago in the late 1800s), this cocktail is made by shaking bourbon whiskey, lemon juice, sugar syrup, and bitters together, pouring the liquid over ice, and topping it off with red wine, as per Difford's Guide's instructions.

The result produces a layered effect thanks to a tinged red rim at the top of the glass. The red wine provides complexity of flavor and striking color, even though there isn't all that much wine compared to bourbon — about half an ounce to two ounces. Considering that you can opt for an array of whiskeys as well as an endless selection of red wine, this cocktail can be constantly reinvented.

Bellini

If you aren't hopping on a plane to Italy this summer, why not bring some of the Venetian spirit to you? We're not talking about gondolas, though — we're channeling Bellinis, the quintessential summer drink of the coastal city (via Eataly). This is a surprisingly easy cocktail to whip up — white peach puree and Prosecco — but the flavor is on par with multi-ingredient concoctions.

The classic recipe created by Giuseppe Cipriani, owner and bartender of the iconic Harry's Bar in Venice, calls for two parts Prosecco to one part puree. It's hard to think of a flavor that epitomizes summer as much as this duo does. According to Eataly, the name comes from the drink's stunning hue, which is similar to the sunset works of art by local artist Giovanni Bellini.

The best versions are made with summer's freshest produce, but if you missed the peak of peach season and want to experience the flavors on a whim, a number of brands (including one named after Cipriani himself) make a premixed version of a Bellini in a bottle.

Kir Royale

A Kir isn't just an abbreviation of a Kir Royale — the two are in fact different drinks. According to Difford's Guide, its origins stem from the simpler Kir, named after Félix Kir, a hero of the French Resistance who was fond of a drink made with crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) topped with local white wine (Bourgogne aligoté). The high-acid wine is an ideal match for the sweet and syrupy fruit liqueur, although the blackcurrant flavor works with just about any bottle of white wine (though traditionalists only opt for aligoté).

A Kir is delicious, but if you want to embellish it a notch, swap the white wine out for Champagne to create a Kir Royale. Given the natural sweetness of crème de cassis, Difford's Guide recommends a brut nature or ultra brut Champagne, which means no sugar is added prior to bottling. According to The South China Morning Post, a Kir Pétillant uses any type of sparkling wine, whereas a Royale is guaranteed to be Champagne. But unless you have bottles of the latter flowing freely, you're better off picking up any affordable bubbly.

The South China Morning Post calls the two drinks "Parisian pre-dinner favorites," and indeed they make an excellent apéritif with light snacks.

Negroni sbagliato

Negronis are an iconic cocktail made from equal parts of three ingredients: Campari, gin, and sweet red vermouth. But every now and then bartenders slip up, and that's the story behind a negroni sbagliato — or at least that's what the name would have us believe. When translated, it means "wrong negroni." But this "made-in-Milan" cocktail, as labeled by La Cucina Italiana, is the perfect mistake. As the story goes, a bartender accidentally poured sparkling wine instead of gin into the drink, cementing this bubbly beverage into cocktail menus everywhere.

Certainly lighter and fizzier than its gin-based counterpart, a negroni sbagliato is meant for summer. If you're tired of sipping on watered-down Campari spritzes, this bubbly vermouth-laced alternative will quench your thirst without overdoing it on the alcohol content. Keep it Italian with a bottle of Prosecco, or opt for whatever sparkling wine strikes your fancy. And of course, don't forget to garnish it with a slice of orange.

Hugo

This Italian cocktail is a top summer contender. The Hugo was invented in the German-speaking Italian region of South Tyrol in 2005 (via Fine Dining Lovers). Since, the pale green drink has made its way through Europe and across the ocean, charming cocktail aficionados everywhere.

It follows the same simple formula as a classic spritz, using elderflower cordial, Prosecco, soda water, lime, and mint for garnish (via Prosecco DOC). Unlike its bright orange and red counterparts, the Hugo is a lighter low-alcohol version of the bubbly cocktail.

If you've never tried elderflower before, you're in for a treat. Floral aromas and citrusy undertones are infused with a heady sweetness that is beautifully balanced by the soda water and sparkling wine. To make the drink stronger, use St. Germain, an elderflower-based liqueur. All the same, if you're sipping it on a sunny patio, the lightened-up variation will keep things sessionable.

French 75

A cocktail classic, the French 75 first came on to the scene during Prohibition, according to Liquor.com. Lemon juice and sugar (or simple syrup) are shaken with gin and ice, poured into a flute, and topped with Champagne. Depending on who's making it, the gin might be swapped out for cognac (and of course, any sparkling wine will do the trick).

If you know a thing or two about guns, you'll recognize the cocktail's name, as it comes from the French 75-millimeter light field gun commonly found during World War II. According to Chilled Magazine, the gun was an important emblem of optimism around the same time the drink became popular. And truth be told, after a couple of French 75 cocktails, you might definitely be feeling a sense of optimism. Endless variations can be mixed up to suit your preference, but whatever you choose, this is a boozy sweet-and-sour concoction that is sure to fire up your summer events.

Mimosa

The king of bottomless boozy brunches, mimosas are a tried and true pairing for eggs, pancakes, and other morning foods. Per Chilled Magazine, the standard recipe consists of equal parts orange juice and sparkling wine — whether you used freshly squeezed juice or Champagne is up to you, but the formula is basic. As the story goes, British film director Alfred Hitchcock popularized the drink in the U.S., recommending it as a hangover remedy during lunch with friends (via "The Oxford Companion to American Food and Drink").

Nonetheless, the classic formulation stuck and quickly gained popularity. Of course, this straightforward drink is the ideal slate from which to experiment. You don't have to put a ton of effort into making something just as simple, yet far more exciting. Take blood oranges, for example. They are slightly sweeter than the normal orange, with a subtle hint of berry flavor that sets them apart. Swap regular OJ for blood orange juice (extra points if it's freshly squeezed), and combine it with your favorite sparkling wine. Choose a bottle of rosé bubbles to highlight the reddish hue and show off this vibrant summer drink.

Lambrusco negroni

Twists on classic cocktails are easy to love because they're both familiar and novel. Negronis are a fun drink to experiment with (like the sbagliato), and the Lambrusco negroni is a great example of that. Campari is an acquired taste for many people given its inherent bitterness. And combined with gin and vermouth, it can be a lot — especially if you're looking for a patio sipper.

That's why a Lambrusco negroni is the perfect solution. It maintains this drink's vibrant color while making it subtler, fruitier, potentially sweeter, and lower in alcohol. Keep it simple by swapping the Campari for your choice of Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine from Italy, that comes in an array of styles — from sweet to very dry (via MasterClass). Match the volume with gin and vermouth, add an orange peel as a garnish, and this lighter summery version is ready for the pool.

Blackberry rosemary wine spritz

Although spirits play an undeniably important role in the creation of a cocktail, recipes free of hard liquor can be equally enticing. Take advantage of fresh summer produce and mix up a simple wine cocktail with juicy blackberries. This drink can easily be modified, so try a few versions before picking your favorite.

For starters, this cocktail works great with white, rosé, or red wine as the base. You'll want to start with a tall glass or an oversized wine goblet. Add a small handful of blackberries to the bottom and muddle them with fresh rosemary sprigs (and a sprinkling of sugar if you have a sweet tooth). Top the glass halfway with your choice of wine and finish it off with soda water.

A serving of fruit, half the alcohol content of a glass of wine, and a deliciously herbal flavor — think of it as the perfect summer elixir. It will take you from a sunny picnic to an early evening cocktail hour. It's also fun and tasty enough to serve at a party. 

Ice wine iced tea

We're not talking about loose leaf ice wine tea, a product sold by Canada. Instead, we're talking about the real stuff: Canada's greatest wine export by value — ice wine. Although it is most commonly associated with Canada thanks to the country's consistent production, ice wine actually originated in Germany (via Ontario Wine Appellation Authority).

Grapes are harvested late in the season when they're still frozen on the vine. The result is intensely sweet, fragrant, floral, and honeyed, with sufficient acidity to keep the flavor bright. All the same, it's the kind of wine you sip as a dessert or paired with just the right balance of flavors.

It's not quite cocktail territory off the bat. But served over ice and mixed with a citrusy ice tea, well, that's another story. The tea livens up the densely flavored wine which sweetens the tea in turn. Serve it with an extra squeeze of lemon juice, and you might just start regularly stocking ice wine. Given its hefty price tag ($50 to $150 for a 375 ml bottle, per Forbes), you'll be glad you're cutting it with iced tea!

Sparkling limoncello

It's not quite a staple in most U.S. bars, but limoncello deserves a spot on your at-home cocktail menu. Made with lemon peels, sugar, and a high-proof neutral spirit, this bright yellow digestif is a splash of the Amalfi coast in a glass (via La Cucina Italiana). You can start from scratch by making your own liqueur, but we can think of plenty of other ways to spend a hot summer day.

Instead, grab a bottle of limoncello and decide how hard you want to go. Adding some bubbles, whether it's sparkling wine or soda water (or a combination of the two), is your recipe for success. A fizzy lemon-forward cocktail is our idea of a refreshing summertime drink. It'll also give you a reason not to wait until after dinner to pull out the bottle of limoncello. Make sure your mixers are chilled before pour them all over ice for an extra cooling effect.

Sauternes with scotch and brandy

If you've found yourself as the owner of a bottle of Sauternes (a French dessert wine made with grapes affected by botrytis, a form of rot, as per Wine Folly) then we have the perfect combination for you. First of all, don't get too thrown off by the notion of rot — you won't notice any off-flavors. Instead, Sauternes takes on a floral, honeyed aroma with notes of tropical fruit and butterscotch.

To add layers of contrasting flavors to this intensely sweet and perfumed wine, we recommend stirring about two parts wine to ½ a part of both cognac and whiskey. For a similar cocktail, Difford's Guide recommends using a peated whisky, which is characterized by its smoky flavors. This style makes the ideal complement to the fruity honeysuckle flavors of the wine. Meanwhile, cognac adds additional elements of taste across the spectrum of sweet, spicy, bitter, and fruity flavors. This is undoubtedly a potent drink, so if you're looking for a porch pounder load up on the ice!

Sparkling sake

Though it gained popularity in the West as an accompaniment to sushi, sake has so much more potential. And if you've only been drinking it solo, this rice wine is about to get much more interesting. You can buy a bottle of sparkling sake, which is typically produced either through the fermentation process or via the injection of carbon dioxide (via Sake Guide).

We're going to take it a step further and recommend mixing a regular bottle of sake with your favorite sparkling wine. Drinking sake solo offers mild, sweet, and nutty flavors, but top it off with equal parts Prosecco, cava, or Champagne, and layers of complexity pop up. A slice of cucumber or squeeze of lime elevates the whole concoction. Whether it's a fruitier style of bubbly or a traditional method of fermentation with notes of brioche and almonds, the result is multisensory. Enjoy your sparkling sake as an early evening aperitif or as a toast to the long days of summer. 

Rosé Lillet spritz

Rosé is an obvious wine choice in the summer months, but you don't have to drink it solo. Thanks to its wide range of fruity, herbal, and spicy flavors, it can be an excellent base for a number of cocktail creations. To pair with this summery wine, we're grabbing a bottle of Lillet, a fortified wine blended with citrus liqueurs (via Wine Enthusiast). It comes in a white, rosé, and red version, depending on the wine grapes used in the process. We'll let you pick your favorite for this drink, though a double rosé sounds delicious!

For the spritz element of this cocktail, the ball is in your court. To keep it light (ahem, day drinking), we recommend soda water. However, if you're celebrating or serving this drink up with food (it works great for picnics and barbecues), it's worth getting a bottle of sparkling wine to top it off. The measures can be experimental here — just keep in mind that Lillet has an ABV of around 17%.

Apple cider orange wine

Apple cider, whether it's boozy or not, is the perfect complement for hot summer days. You get your share of fruit in liquid form, and the light effervescence is sure to keep you refreshed. Plus, cider comes in so many shapes and forms, from lightly sparkling to extremely carbonated, and bone dry to syrupy sweet. There's also a whole host of apple varieties to experiment with. 

Sometimes, cider can taste a bit flat, which is why we're mixing it with orange wine. Made with white grapes left on the skins (not oranges), this style of wine offers complex flavors, some tannins, and often an aromatic, tea-like quality (via Wine Folly). Depending on the flavor profile you're going for, aim for a 1:3 ratio of wine to apple cider to keep this drink pleasantly balanced. Likewise, you'll be able to adjust for sweetness based on the cider you choose. Orange wine is the best way to infuse any standard apple cider with a unique hint of flavor while allowing the cider to lighten up the alcohol content of the wine.

Orange wine mezcal

If you have some orange wine leftover, this cocktail is sure to hit the spot. We like a 2:1 ratio of wine to mezcal, but you can adjust for booziness depending on your preference. Much like tequila, mezcal is made from a number of varieties of agave plants, per Advanced Mixology. During the distillation process, mezcal sits in terracotta pots heated with lava rocks, charcoal, and wood. And that process comes through in the flavor, which is characteristically smoky.

Some styles of orange wine showcase a similar flavor profile due to the skin contact with the grapes. Together, the effect is the perfect cocktail for a fiery hot summer night. A flavor bomb with subtle aromatics and fruit notes, this drink is a showstopper. Serve it over ice to keep it refreshing, and garnish it with a squeeze of lime to brighten the flavor. This is peak summer heat in a glass.