The Mixology Talk Podcast, Episode Fifty

When choosing a drink, wine and cocktails have a lot of characteristics in common. Here’s how to choose!

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In today’s Episode…

We’re talking about wine! … and Cocktails.

As a bartender, you’re going to need to know about cocktails for sure – but you’ll also need to know about wine and beer. Today we’re talking about how to help customers choose their drink – whether it’s a cocktail or a glass of wine.

The Palate

Thought wine and cocktails are made very differently, there is some similarity in the way you’ll describe the flavor.

1. Acidity

Wine covers a full spectrum of acidity – from the tart wines of Germany to the very low acid California Chardonnay. With wine, the acidity comes from the type of grapes used, the weather where they are grown, and how the wine is made. For cocktails, on the other hand, the acidity is decided by the bartender or the recipe.

When helping a guest make a decision about their drink choice, get a sense of their taste for acidity.

2. Sweetness

In wine, sweetness is often described as “fruit”. If your guest is looking for something more on the sweet side, you’ll want to choose a wine that’s low in acidity and high in fruit. Alternatively, late harvest or fortified wines may be another good choice.  For cocktails, fruit drinks are often a good choice for the sweet-toothed guest, or you can always go ahead and adjust your recipe to kick up the liqueur or simple syrup a bit. Either way, definitely ask your guest what their taste is for sweetness. Chris and I prefer VERY different things when it comes to sweetness!

3. Body

This describes the drink’s viscosity – how it “feels” in your mouth or the “weight” of the drink. In cocktails, the body comes from the ingredients you use. Using things like cream or egg whites will make the drink “heavier”. In wine, of course, I don’t recommend adding egg whites or cream. (Ha!)

“Body” in wine is most dependent on the alcohol content. 12.5% alcohol is considered “light bodied”, 12.5-13.5% is “medium bodied”, and 13.5 and over is “full bodied”.

The Pairing

If you work in a restaurant, you’ll definitely get questions as to what goes well with the food a guest has ordered. Here are a couple of tips for helping people choose wine or cocktails that go well with their food.  (If you’ve been listening a while, you may remember we talked about pairing on Episode 14 as well. If you missed it, check it out!)

As a very high-level, general rule:

  • Lighter Foods such as pasta, fish and salads: aim for a drink with higher acidity, lower sweetness and a lighter body.
  • Heavier Foods such as steak or red meat, heavy pasta dishes and fried foods: aim for a drink with a heavier body and higher alcohol content.

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Thanks for Listening!

Being a bartender means you’re going to have to know at least a little about wine. I hope this has been a helpful episode, and definitely let me know any tips you have for helping guests choose wine at your bar!

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