How does a wine bar stay on trend when everyone is suddenly into cocktails? Create cocktails that mimic the flavors of wines, of course.
The cocktails at Bascule in Chicago don’t actually contain any wine, but no one would likely fault you for assuming otherwise. When I visited, the list of house cocktails included drinks like the “Riesling Cocktail” and the “Sparkling Wine Cocktail.” But these names are only intended to hint at the inspiration behind each drink, not its contents.
Bar co-owner and sommelier Jason Prah explained the concept that he developed with his head bar man, Ian Pfeffer. “When opening the wine bar I realized the importance and popular trend of craft cocktails and wanted to offer house cocktails that would still stay relevant to the concept,” he said Prah. “So it was decided that we would make cocktails that would evoke the flavor profiles of certain wines without using wine in the drink itself. We figured this way the cocktail crowd would have some connection to wine even if they don’t drink it.”
Prah and Pfeffer tried recreating a number of wines as cocktails: Chardonnay, Rioja, even the coveted and complex Barolo. “We discussed first which varieties or types of wine would be most interesting in cocktail form and then looked at which spirits could facilitate those flavors,” Prah told me. “
The Cabernet/Bordeaux cocktail, which was on the menu when I stopped in, was clearly still a cocktail in taste in appearance. The bar isn’t attempting to trick whiskey lovers into drinking a big red wine; instead, the intention was to show how similar subtle flavor profiles could exist in both beverages. This particular cocktail had added ingredients like black peppercorn and vanilla, common notes described in Cabernet.
Bascule’s most interesting experiment, and their most popular, has been the Riesling cocktail. The key to the scotch-based drink is a roasted peach ice cube that, while melting, changes the mixed drink’s character from Dry Riesling to a sweeter version. As the ice cube dissipates, and the peach infuses into the drink, the similarities between wine and cocktail really shine through, and you begin to realize these crazy wine guys at Bascule might be on to something.
If you want to try making a Riesling cocktail at home, Prah was gracious enough to share the recipe with us below. Just make sure you take extra care with that roasted peach ice cube. Much like selecting the right grapes is the key to a good Riesling, nailing that flavored cube is the key to mastering the wine’s cocktail version.
1.5 OZ of blended scotch
.5 OZ of fresh Lemon juice
.5 OZ of a house made honey liquor (1 part Honey, 1/2 part vodka and 1/2 part water)
.5 OZ of simple syrup
Shake all ingredients in a cocktail shaker with ice and pour over a roasted peach ice cube*
* - You’ll have to head to Chicago to get one of Pfeffer’s ice cubes, but you can get close but substituting roasted peaches into this recipe and removing the thyme.