Wines and Punch Drinks
Wines and Punch Drinks
Wine — the fermented juice of grapes — has a long and venerable history. Probably the oldest of the world’s alcoholic drinks, it was certainly known in ancient Egypt and in classical Greece. Comparative latecomers to viticulture, the Romans planted vines throughout southern Europe as their empire spread. When that empire fell, the Church stepped in to save the vine and wine-making lore, as it did with so many aspects of civilisation during the Dark Ages. In the fullness of time, the situation changed and the vineyards of Europe nearly all passed out of the Church’s control, although a few are still kept by some orders of monks.
Wines may be red, white or rosé, sparkling or still, sweet or dry. They are produced in many countries including France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Yugoslavia, Greece, the United States, Australia and South Africa. They vary enormously in quality, type and price.
The most suitable wines for mixed drinks are of medium quality and, correspondingly, of medium price. It is a mistake to buy cheap, rough wine that is virtually undrinkable on its own in the belief that its nastiness will be concealed by the other ingredients of a punch: It will just make a nasty, undrinkable punch. As a general rule, use still wines for punches and sparkling wines for cocktails.
The one exception to the medium quality rule is champagne — the queen of wines. Ordinary sparkling wine makes excellent cocktails, but for a special occasion, there is nothing like real champagne. Also, of course, no substitute will do for Champagne Cocktail.
Port is a fortified wine from Portugal, although several other countries produce a ‘port-type’ wine of variable quality. The finest ports — vintage, crusted and late-bottled vintage — are less suitable for mixed drinks than ruby port, a younger, blended wine.
Sherry is a fortified wine from Jerez de la Frontera in Spain, although, like port, it is often imitated. It ranges from pale and dry to dark and sweet.
Vermouth is not strictly a fortified wine. Rather, herbs, unfermented grape juice and spirit are added to a wine base according to each producer’s secret recipe. It may be red or white, sweet or dry. Italian vermouth is sweet and red, French vermouth is dry and white and Bianco is very sweet and honey coloured. A good stock of vermouth is essential to a cocktail bar.
Cider, made from fermented apples, is rarely used in cocktails but is a useful ingredient for economic punches.
Click here for a fabulous refreshing Summer Fruit Punch Recipe