Wine cocktails suit spring weather

CJ's on the Bay
Laura Owen takes a left of center look at wine this week, and it works perfectly for spring.
  • Consider the wine cocktail. There are many ways to enhance leftover wine %28if there is such a thing%29.
Two great spring wine cocktail ingredients inlcude Grand Marnier and a quality bubbly.

We know wine and food go together. Enjoying a glass of wine with dinner is natural. But, consider the wine cocktail. There are many ways to enhance leftover wine (if there is such a thing).

Spring is here, so let's start with an afternoon cocktail, white Sangria. Locally grown strawberries and blueberries are beginning to arrive at Farmer's Markets and grocery stores. Here is a basic recipe, embellish as you like.

Pour a bottle of white wine, some brandy and Grand Marnier into a large pitcher. Add some sliced fruit: strawberries, oranges, lemons and a handful or so of blueberries and raspberries. Some fresh mint or basil would cohabitate nicely too. Allow that to sit in the fridge overnight – or at least few hours if you can't wait. When ready to serve, add some chilled club soda (or something fizzy) and garnish with a fresh mint sprig. Serve over ice and sip while welcoming the season of new growth.

Champagne cocktails are a favorite of mine. If it has lost its fizz, it would be just fine for the Sangria recipe. If it is still bubbly, add a slice of peach and a cube of sugar to the bottom of a flute and pour the champagne over. A splash of crème de cassis (blackberry liqueur) with champagne is a classic called a Kir Royale and is sumptuous.

A tip for storing leftover champagne: place a teaspoon in the neck of the bottle (handle in the bottle) and store upright in the fridge. I don't know why it works, but it keeps the bubbly effervescing for a day or so.

Red wine makes a nice cocktail too. Sangria is a given, but how about a red wine spritzer? Use a light red wine like Pinot Noir or Burgundy, cherry liqueur (kirsch or cherry Grand Marnier) and ginger ale. Don't have cherry liqueur? Try cherry juice or apple juice.

Looking for something a little stronger? Try a concoction of equal parts red wine and silver tequila with a squeeze of lime and a touch of agave nectar. Serve over ice, topped with grapefruit soda (remember Fresca and Squirt?).

Owen suggests something off the grill, in this case fish, suits spring wine cocktails perfectly.

Grand Marnier has popped up a couple times here. I can make a great argument that this is a type of wine, therefore worth mentioning in this column. Grand Marnier is a liqueur created in 1880 that is made from cognac (which comes from Ugni Blanc grapes) and bitter oranges called bigaradia. It is wonderful sipped neat or over one or two cubes of ice. It is a highly recommended addition to a margarita.

My preferred way to use Grand Marnier in a cocktail is to fill a shaker with ice, add 1 ½ ounces Grand Marnier, 2 oz each gin and orange juice and 1 ounce Rose's Lime Juice. Shake it and strain it into a martini glass. Refreshing and mesmerizing, prefect for an afternoon on the dock as dinner sizzles on the grill.

Let it be known that these are guidelines. Start with the basics, then tweak as you like. It is spring in Paradise, Cheers.

Laura Owen is executive chef with CJ's on the Bay at the Esplanade. She is a wine connoisseur, and along with Adamo Serravalle of Marco Prime and DaVinci's, and Marco Porto of chop239, is a regular contributor to this column.