The Summer Splendor of the Tinto de Verano Cocktail - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

The Summer Splendor of the Tinto de Verano Cocktail

Story: Emma Janzen

Photo: Emma Janzen

Known the world over as one of Spain’s most notable contributions to the beverage world, sangria remains the king of wine-based summer drinks, but dig a little deeper into Spanish drinking culture and you’ll find another delicious concoction made with red wine that’s just as memorable: the Tinto de Verano.

With a name that means “the red wine of summer,” the simple blend of red wine and soda is always a bestseller during summers in Spain, says Juan Valls, director of the bar show Fibar and owner of El Niño Perdido and Sinners Club in in Valladoid. Invented in the early 1900s at a bar called Venta de Vargas in Cordoba, the recipe originally featured an equal parts split of red wine and Gaseosa, a sweetened soda with bright acidity that offers big citrus aromas. “In the beginning it was called Valgas, because the drink was made with red wine from the old winery region Valdepeñas. It is the most popular option for a super fresh drink with low alcohol and not too many calories,” Valls adds.

Like many drinks that have stood the test of time, the exact ingredients tend to shift a little depending on who you ask. Valls says today it’s most often served with Gaseosa La Casera, one of Europe’s bestselling sodas, though sometimes it’s also mixed with lemon soda (and when mixed with cola, the drink earns its own moniker: the Calimocho, or Kalimotxo). Sometimes the drink gets a splash of sweet vermouth for extra depth, and the ratios of wine to soda also vary depending on the bartender’s taste. Valls likes 2 parts gaseosa or lemon soda to 1 part medium-bodied red wine, with a lemon peel garnish, or 3 parts goaseose to 1 part red wine with a touch of vermouth and an orange slice.

For the wine component, Valls says almost any young red variety will do the trick, it just depends on the drinker’s preference as some will offer a softer and sweeter personality while others will bring a more vigorous structure and punch to the glass. “Tempranillo is the best option because we find it all around the country with good balance and aromatics,” he says. For an option that is a touch more elegant, he suggests something from Rioja or Ribera; for a stronger and more full-bodied profile, a Garnacha, Monastrell or Cariñena, which offers a good acidity as well.

Regardless of the wine and soda used, Valls says the key to making the drink correctly is to always garnish with citrus fruits to add a counterpoint to the richness of the wine (lemon, orange, grapefruit, or lime all work fine), and to avoid unnecessary flourishes. “Do not add sugar, cinnamon, or any other spices, or fruits,” he says. “Keep it simple and the result is going to be better.”

In the U.S., Tinto de Verano is still less known than sangria, though you can find it at many bars that serve drinks and cuisine inspired by Spanish tradition. At Mola in Washington, D.C., owner Erin Lingle uses San Pellegrino Limonata for the soda, since gaseosa isn’t easy to find in the states, paired with a medium-bodied Tempranillo and a lemon wheel garnish. “It’s really simple but shockingly delicious and refreshing when it’s sweltering outside,” she says, suggesting Fever-Tree Bitter Lemon as an alternative soda option. “When it’s hot outside, a plain glass of wine, sherry, or beer can go to your head too quickly and hinder your ability to spend some time eating and drinking with friends. I prefer the Tinto de Verano to sangria because it’s cheaper, crisper, easier to make, lower in ABV and, for the most part, dryer.”

At Hotel San José in Austin, Texas, the drink has been served with orange soda as an alternative to lemon (pictured above), and in the As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning recipe, cold-brew coffee, sherry and tonic take the framework in a different direction. At Tabernilla, a tapas bar in Laredo, Texas, red wine shares billing with port, grapefruit and soda, and at Ernesto’s in New York City, beverage director Sarah Morrissey combines Spanish vermouth with curaçao and Vichy Catalan. “Vichy is a Spanish mineral water that has a very particular salty flavor, but mixed with the vermouth and oranges it really packs a refreshing but interesting punch,” she says. “It’s super close to the original recipe, it just has an Ernesto’s twist by switching the dry red wine with salty dry mineral water and the sweet soda with Spanish vermouth.”

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