kelly magyarics

washington, d.c.-based wine, spirits & lifestyle writer / wine educator

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The Wine Cooler Gets a Face Lift

When Owen Thomson of DC's Bourbon was formulating cocktail recipes a few months ago for a throwback of a high school party called "Billy's Parents House", he thoughts back to the types of beverages he used to drink at high school parties. Memories of cheap, cloyingly sweet wine inspired plans for grown-up versions of the once ubiquitous but often mocked wine cooler.

Owen and Bar Pilar's Adam Bernbach set out to create more mature versions that while just as refreshing, are more balanced and complex than their Bartles and James or Boone's Farm counterparts (yikes, but horrible memories those bring back for me...) Syrups infused with fruit juices and purees, sugar, water and herbs serve as the basis for the drinks, and a bit of experimenting with different wines allowed them to find the right bottles to pair with the flavorful and aromatic syrups.

Owen plans on serving his coolers on Bourbon's patio this spring and summer. If you are thirsty in the meantime, the syrups can easily be whipped up in an afternoon, and keep in a covered container in the fridge for a few days or a week. Here is a recipe he shared with me for his favorite combination so far--keep your eye out for a Wine Enthusiast print article in the next few months giving a bit more info about them:

Grapefruit Honey Rosemary Wine Cooler
Courtesy of Owen Thomson, Bourbon, Washington, DC
½ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
2 long strips of grapefruit peel (as little pith as possible)
1 cup honey
1 ½ cup water
Leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs
Chilled herby Sauvignon Blanc (from New Zealand or the Loire Valley)

Add first five ingredients to a medium pot. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Strain out solids. Store in refrigerator in a container with a tightly fitting lid for up to one week.

To make the wine cooler: Add ice and a 2:1 ratio of Sauvignon Blanc and syrup to a glass. For a more pronounced wine flavor, use a 3:1 ratio of wine to syrup.