Questionable Tastes TM_PG_SPANCOCT_AP_002

Red Wine + Cola, BFFs 4ever

Forget sangria. If you really want to pretend like you're in Spain, make a wine-plus-soda cocktail.


If I say “wine” and “cocktail,” most Americans will jump immediately to one thing: Sangria. In fact, they might even exclaim something like this: “Woohooo, sangria!” No discussion of wine cocktails can truly begin until we discuss sangria. So I may as well start with a full confession: I do not like sangria.

In fact, I do not like it so much that I actually may have put together an ebook on wine cocktails simply in order to convince people to leave their lame old sangria behind. But soon enough, I realized this was silly on my part. I mean, who am I to tell you not to drink sangria? If you happen to like soggy fruit soaked in cheap wine, by all means, enjoy yourself.

My problem with sangria is two-fold. First, it’s almost always made incorrectly. For the record, sangria is not simply chopped fruit dumped into wine. No, true sangria should always have a significant portion of brandy and also possibly a small amount of liqueur. Ask what they put in your sangria at your local happy hour and most likely it will make you sad.

Meanwhile, sangria is sold to us as something that clichéd “hot-blooded” Spaniards slurp down like water during long Spanish summers. This is stretching the truth. In Spain, tourists drink sangria. It was actually introduced to Americans at the World’s Fair in New York in 1964. In reality, Spanish people drink a whole panoply of wine and soda cocktails, but generally not sangria.


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Now that we’ve got the sangria issue out of the way, why don’t we focus on what people really drink in Spain. There is actually a whole milieu of wine-plus-soda cocktails that Spanish people enjoy. In fact, you might even say there is — using the term very loosely — a tradition of enjoying basic cocktails that are simply a mix of Rioja wine and soda (usually Coca-Cola, Sprite, or 7-UP).

The most famous — or infamous — is the Calimocho, equal parts red wine and Coca-Cola, served in a tall glass over ice, with or without a squeeze of lemon. This is a sort of “poor man’s sangria,” and still popular among young drinkers. It’s also known as Kalimotxo in Basque Country (where it was invented) and had been known as a Rioja Libre during the 1970s.

The Calimocho is a surefire way to scandalize the serious wine aficionados in your life. Which is always fun. Once, at a little get-together, I opened a decent bottle of Rioja, poured some into a highball glass filled with ice, then topped it with an equal measure of Coca-Cola. Those watching were aghast. “That’s like a hobo drink,” said my friend Erin. Wine and Coca-Cola is a surprisingly delicious concoction, especially on a hot afternoon. The oaky tempranillo stands up to the Coke, and it’s a perfect use of what remains in the bottle from the night before. Call it a guilty pleasure or a dirty secret, but Coke with a big, fat red wine can be pretty satisfying.

The Calimocho, however, isn’t the only popular wine-and-soda libation in Spain. Add Sprite or 7-UP to the red wine instead of Coke and you have a Tinto de Verano — or “summer red wine.” Sometimes, bartenders add a splash of rum, or maybe a citrus slice, but the Tinto de Verano is generally simple, and tasty.

From there, if you add fino or manzanilla sherry, instead of red wine, to the 7-Up or Sprite, you’ll have a light, refreshing drink called a Rebujito. (Sometimes this drink is misidentified as a sherry cobbler, but a rebujito is much simpler, with no muddled fruit).

These wine-plus-soda cocktails are all ridiculously simple to make, but they also provide a template for creating drinks that are slightly more creative and complex. To that end, I’ve called on my good friend Oscar Diez, a bartender in Toro, Spain, to give me his takes on the classic wine-plus-soda cocktails.

Though Toro is a small town of 10,000 people, there are over 100 bars in town, and people come to Oscar’s bar, Discoteca Q, from miles around. And why wouldn’t they: Oscar has won numerous mixology awards in Spain, including one for “Best Gin Tonic” in a country that has elevated this drink to an art form.

What follows here are Oscar’s takes on the three classic wine-plus-soda cocktails, plus another that’s a surprising, wine-y take on the caipirinha.

TM_PG_SPANCOCT_AP_006 Calimocho Premium

This fancified version of the classic Calimocho adds Grand Marnier to the mix for more complexity. A tempranillo wine with some oak aging works best, so look for crianza rather than joven.

  • Ice cubes
  • ½ ounce Grand Marnier
  • 2 ounces tempranillo wine, preferably crianza
  • 3 to 4 ounces Coca-Cola
  • Large orange peel
  • Lime wheel

In a large wine glass filled with 4 or 5 large ice cubes, add the Grand Marnier, then the red wine, then the Coca-Cola. Add orange peel and lime wheel, and stir gently.

From Oscar Diez of Discoteca Q in Toro, Spain

Summer Q Wine

TM_PG_SPANCOCT_AP_008This is a rendition of the classic Tinto de Verano. Use a young or joven tempranillo wine for this one.

  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces tempranillo wine, preferably joven
  • ¾ ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 3 to 4 ounces Sprite or 7-Up
  • Orange and lime wheels

In a large wine glass filled with 4 or 5 large ice cubes, add the lime juice, then the wine, then the lemon-lime soda. Add orange and lime wheels, and stir gently.

From Oscar Diez of Discoteca Q in Toro, Spain


TM_PG_SPANCOCT_AP_003Most renditions of this drink have some kind fruit added or muddled. This is garnished with mint instead, which heightens the aromatics in the sherry and gives the drink a crisper, fresher quality.

  • Ice cubes
  • 2 ounces fino or manzanilla sherry
  • 4 ounces Sprite or 7-Up
  • Mint sprig

In a wine glass filled with 4 to 5 ice cubes, add the sherry, then top with lemon-lime soda. Garnish with mint sprig, and stir gently.

From Oscar Diez of Discoteca Q in Toro, Spain



A red take on the famed caipirinha, with tempranillo wine and brandy instead of cachaça. Use a rich, bold Spanish brandy like Cardenal Mendoza, Duque d’Alba, or Lepanto.

  • Half of a small orange, cut into wedges
  • Crushed ice
  • 1½ ounces tempranillo wine, preferably crianza or reserva
  • 1 ounce Brandy de Jerez
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Large orange peel

Muddle orange wedges and sugar in a tumbler or old fashioned glass, then fill with crushed ice. Add wine and brandy, and agitate with bar spoon. Top off with more crushed ice if necessary, and garnish with orange peel.

From Oscar Diez of Discoteca Q in Toro, Spain

Jason Wilson is the author of Boozehound: On The Trail of the Rare, the Obscure, and the Overrated in Spirits and the wine series Planet of the Grapes. He previously wrote the drinks column for the Washington Post, which has won awards for Best Newspaper Food Column three times from the Association of Food Journalists. Wilson is director of the Center for Cultural Outreach at Drexel University, which also publishes The Smart Set. He is series editor of The Best American Travel Writing, was previously the food columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News and Philadelphia Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @boozecolumnist


  1. Isaac says:

    Coke and wine is a very popular mix among the youngsters in Spain for more than 20 years. They drink it in the streets (botellon they call it) and mix coca cola with the cheapest posible wine in half litre plastic cups. The mix is called calimocho. 🙂

  2. Isaac says:

    Should have the full article before posting. Very well researched indeed 🙂

  3. I agree with all you have written. I’ve lived in Spain for 11 years and it is only the tourists that drink Sangria. However, the red wine and cola is a very popular drink amongst the younger Spaniards.

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