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Calimocho: Summer drink pick of 2012

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Mayor Michael Bloomberg is mothering Manhattan again by proposing a ban on sugary drinks in containers over 16 ounces. So he can't be entirely happy that cocktail eminence and historian David Wondrich has proposed adding insult to injury by suggesting that the Calimocho, or Calimotxo, or Kalimotxo is the perfect drink to lug to the beach this summer. Say Coney Island. Or, we guess, South Padre. Not that he's ever been to South Padre.

Calimocho, by its various spellings, would be the name in Spain, in Chile it would be Jote, and in Hungary, the term for a fifty-fifty mix of Coke and red wine (presumably bull's blood) would be Boros kóla. "Coke and red wine make a perfectly delightful combination when mixed about 50-50 and well iced. The wine cuts the sweetness of the Coke and the Coke adds zing to the wine." So sayeth Wondrich, adding "and it travels." His instructions are simple: Take a 1.5 liter bottle of Coke, pour out half (your choice as to where), pour in a .75 liter bottle of cheap, dry red wine, pour over lots of ice in a red Solo Cup. Repeat.

When queried on the topic, local bartenders tended to get a bemused, WTF look. "I'll try anything" — with an implied "once," said Don Marsh, proprietor of the newly opened 1919 bar at Blue Star, who respects and has actually met Wondrich. (They bonded over a mutual dislike for Patron tequila.) "He knows more than I do," said Marsh, still looking skeptical. "California reds often have a cola quality already, and I guess Coke couldn't hurt pinotage," replied Bronson Ketchum, head bartender at Biga on the Banks. (Pinotage is a South African red wine grape that many, Ketchum apparently among them, tend to deride for what are often called Band-Aid qualities.)

These were not exactly encouraging responses, so it was clear what had to be done next: try the sucker. There was no problem rounding up a bottle of cheap red. Whole Foods often has good specials on modest wines, and I happened on a 2010 Groundswell red table wine from California — made from organic grapes, no less. It was on sale for $5.99. On its own, the wine was a tad tutti-frutti, but really not bad, and it was perfectly happy to have you toss in a few ice cubes. The problem was with the Coke.

Apparently, in the everything-is-bigger-in-Texas world, two-liter, and even five-liter, containers are more the norm. (Who has refrigerators big enough to stock this stuff? And where's Bloomberg when we really need him?) But it was cheaper to buy the two-liter than a six pack or a chilled single from the cooler, so I went with it. I also cheated by measuring out 3/4 of a cup of each into a tall glass, being fresh out of red Solo cups. The ice I was cool with. And the result?

Meh. The color was slightly muddy, and there was no reason to get all wine geeky about one flavor boosting another, but the drink was at least reasonably refreshing. It tingled. Yet I couldn't help but think that with very little additional effort, a really good drink might be concocted. A Sprite 'n' white, for example.

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