Marisa Chafetz / Supercall

3 Wine Coolers You’ll Actually Want to Drink


Wine coolers have a bad reputation—and with good reason. During the 1980s, the slightly fizzy, low-proof malt beverages were marketed to people who hated the taste of alcohol but still wanted to join in on the fun of drinking, resulting in sweet, neon-colored drinks that tasted more like soda than wine. But wine coolers don’t have to be packed with artificial flavors. In fact, they can be made with actual wine and real fruit at home. And when you do that, it turns out, they can taste really good. Even bartenders are making their own wine coolers now, and you know you can trust them.

When we opened Horsefeather, I wanted to do a cocktail program that focused on wine-based syrups,” says Ian Scalzo of San Francisco’s Horsefeather and the just-opened Last Rites. “This kind of led my train of thought when I started naming the cocktails to start researching wine coolers. So on our opening menu, we had all the drinks [named after things like] California Cooler, Cisco, Thunderbird, Sun Country, etc. We have since moved away from these names (exhausted most of the options) but the Sun Country and California Cooler have become staples that will be on our menu forever.”

Looking at the California Cooler, you’d never guess it’s a wine cooler in the traditional sense of the word. It’s not sickly pink or poured from an oblong bottle, and it’s not inscribed with swooping italic lettering. And yet, the drink does, in some ways, follow the classic formula of wine, fruit, liqueur and fizz, albeit in a far more sophisticated way than any wine cooler we’ve seen with its combination of Sauvignon Blanc syrup, celery juice, gin, lime and sparkling wine.

At RedFarm in New York City, bartender Shawn Chen also offers an upscale, nuanced take on a cooler. Called the Very Berries (which actually could be the name of a bottled cooler from the ‘80s), it’s made with Chenin Blanc, white wine vinegar and Italicus liqueur, along with muddled berries. Chen calls it an “improved version of a wine cooler,” explaining that the white wine vinegar in particular provides an “added level of complexity.” Those are not words you would ever think to read about a wine cooler, and yet here we are.

So put your prejudices aside and try your hand at one of these wine cooler variations at home. They are ordered according to ease—from the most basic to the most advanced—so you can jump in wherever you feel comfortable.

Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
You need just four things to make this ultra-simple, foolproof wine cooler: wine (preferably white or rosé), good fruit liqueur, fresh fruit and something bubbly. And you just need to remember one simple formula: four, three, one—aka, Manitoba’s area code. That means four parts wine, three parts bubbles and one part liqueur. As long as you follow that and use good ingredients, you’ll wind up with a refreshing, fruity cooler every time.

The Essentials

White Wine
Something Bubbly
Fruit Liqueur
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
The secret to a more sophisticated wine cooler has been hiding in your kitchen cabinet this whole time: white vinegar. Just a few dashes give the drink a tasty tang and add intriguing complexity. Those flavors and attributes are further coaxed out by Italicus, an Italian aperitivo liqueur flavored with bergamot and rose petals, amongst other botanicals. This cocktail is the perfect drink for a wine cooler or spritzer lover who wants to dip their toe into the nuanced world of mixology. It requires some muddling and some double straining, but the end result is still in line with the familiar flavors of an ultra-refreshing wine cooler. “This low-ABV drink instantly transports you to the coast of Italy with its bright flavor and aroma,” says Chen. Who doesn’t want that?

The Essentials

Chenin Blanc
Marisa Chafetz / Supercall
This elegant cocktail may be named after a trashy, pre-packaged Sangria-esque beverage, yet it is anything but. The cocktail swaps out the usual wine with a wine syrup, specifically a Sauvignon Blanc syrup spiced with fresh horseradish and thyme. Celery juice joins the syrup along with gin, lime juice and sparkling wine. “The inspiration for the California Cooler was to take a savory and slightly spicy flavor profile and reinterpret it into a light and refreshing cocktail,” Scalzo says. “It is celery and thyme forward with some herbaceousness from the gin and horseradish, with the sparkling wine keeping it light on the palate.” If you’ve grown out of the old-school wine coolers and are pining for something new, then look no further.

The Essentials

Spring 44 Gin
Celery Juice
sparkling wine

Published on

More From Around The Web