Musings (more like rambling thoughts) of a Cardiff based lawyer obsessed with food and wine
The sundowner is that rather British of drinks, partaken as the sun (that thing we have been seeing unusually often – thankfully – so far this summer) starts to drop towards the horizon and we feel less guilty about having a bit of booze.
Especially with the current heatwave in the UK, the end of the day is the time for a long, refreshing number (in my book) and the quintessential sundowner is a gin and tonic (once a simple choice of a small number of gins and tonics, now you have about a billion gin and tonic variations to choose from). I am not a huge spirit drinker, but even I have a load of different gins to choose from.
This brings me to the Iberian peninsula, where they know a thing or two about the good old G&T (something the Spaniards are very serious about – with a night out over there not complete without a massive gintonica under your belt). To my mind the Spanish have taken the rather staid 70s “Gerry and Margot” British idea of a G&T and given it a welcome bit of va va voom. This in turn has helped fuelled the revival and boom in gin back here. If you want the Spanish G&T experience in Cardiff, Bar 44 or Curado Bar will do you proud.
Every one has their own personal spin on a G&T (mine is using home dried limes – peel and juice – with the drying process really intensifying the flavour of the lime), but for the purposes of this post I am looking at other long drinks (and variations on that theme ) originating from the Iberian peninsula that are perhaps less well known over here.
A drink than marries the salty tanginess of fino (be it from the Sherry Triangle or, as in the above photo, Montilla Moriles, which was picked up for less than €4 in Montilla earlier in the year!) or manzanilla and the sweetness of 7up/sprite.
No need to get a fancy fino or manzanilla, with a supermarket own brand one more than adequate.
I picked up a litre bottle of Co-op’s own brand fino (for a bargain – at the time of purchase – £5.69 for 1 litre) which is perfectly fine for rebujitos.
Size wise you are looking at serving it in a Spanish style G&T goblet with plenty of ice.
1 part fino (can also use manzanilla)
2 parts 7up/sprite (I do know some who go 50:50, but with a Spanish gin bowl glass that equates to an awful look of sherry/MM);
Slice/wedge of lemon or lime (I used home dried ones);
Squeeze of lemon or lime juice (dried if have it);
Sprig of fresh mint (bruised); and
Plenty of ice.
Super refreshing, it is a perfect drink to cool down after a long (hot) day.
A variation on the good old G&T, this replaces the gin with either fino (from the Sherry Triangle or Montilla Moriles – hence the She&T, Fin&Tonic and the MT) or a manzanilla (from Sanlucar de Barrameda). Again no need for a posh one.
There is (as with gin and it’s botanicals) a seeming natural affinity between the savouriness of fino/manzanilla and the quinine in tonic and this makes (to my mind) for a very fine long refreshing drink. I like to add basil leaves and dried lime (fresh lemon or lime is fine) to the mix.
1 part fino/manzanilla (no need to go fancy with a supermarket own label brand being fine);
2 parts tonic (I prefer standard Fevertree or Franklin & Son, but any will do the job)
Slice of lemon or lime (I use home dried lime);
Squeeze of lemon or lime juice;
Couple of bruised basil leaves (optional – could go for mint or even rosemary)
Serve in a Spanish G&T goblet.
Bit of a marmite drink this – I love it, but some family members and friends are far from convinced.
Tinto de Verano
Whilst we all tend to associate Spain with Sangria, when out there I see far more Tinto de Verano on offer (particularly in Andulacia).
It is, in theory, very simple to make, but deceptively tricky to replicate in the UK due to it containing La Casera Gaseosa (a sort of sweet soda water type drink, that is not that readily available in the UK).
Whilst recipes I have seen refer to the possible substitution of the La Casaera with Sprite or 7up (or even lemon fanta – not keen at all on the latter derivation) to me these impart a totally different (too sweet) taste. The closest I have come to replicating La Casaera Gaseosa is by diluting 7up or Sprite with fizzy water (three quarters lemonade to one quarter fizzy water). To me, however, this makes not half as good an end result as if using La Casaera Gaseosa.
As for the red wine, it should (ideally) be Spanish but nothing too pricey. A joven wine is fine
This number from Lidl is fine at £4.79.
Slightly off piste, I find this £4.99 Douro number (very good on its own for the price) from Aldi also works very well
It is an über refreshing drink after a long day in the Sun thinking about (and then, usually in my case after due deliberation, discounting) doing a bit of gardening. Great “party in the garden” tipple.
1 part red wine (Spanish – nothing pricey, so a joven rioja will do just fine)
1 part La Casaera Gaseosa (or if you can’t get that, a mixture of three quarters clear lemonade to one quarter fizzy water works).
Slice of lemon or orange (optional – I tender to add orange or not bother at all).
Plenty of ice
Drink in highball glass poured from a big jug of the stuff.
A dangerously easy way to down a bottle or two of red wine!!
There has been a real resurgence in the popularity of vermut in Spain. Traditionally it was a Sunday morning drink in Spain which was had after or even before mass (God I love how the Spanish think), but now it is drunk all day. I, personally, think it makes a lovely sundowner
This stuff is the new G&T in Spain and generally of a quality that means you can forget memories of Martini Rossi. Spanish vermut is the real deal.
In many a Spanish bar it is on tap (de grifo) poured directly from the barrel.
There are two distinct varieties of vermut in Spain:
Serve it neat over ice, with a slice of orange (or a curl of just the peel if you are feeling fancy) and a green olive (latter optional). You can add soda to make it a longer drink.
I like the rioja based Lacuesta Vermut, which you can buy (or drink in the Bar) at Curado bar (£8.95 for the standard and £12.95 for reserva). Lovely herbal aromas, with bitter orange, macerated herbs and notes of vanilla on the palate.
Bar 44 also have both the Northern and Andulacian style vermuts on offer.
A drink not dissimilar to sangria, zurra ( more formally known as zurracapote) is red wine based with fruit (traditionally peaches and lemons), sugar and cinnamon added to the mix.
The whole shebang is then left in a cool place to infuse for a couple of hours or even days.
It rather goes against the grain putting fruit and sugar in wine, but it is very refreshing stuff in a large glass with lots of ice
1 bottle of rioja (cheap);
500ml of water;
100 – 200g brown sugar (recipe I saw said 200g but that leaves a too sweet end product for me).
Rind of a lemon (then half itvand chuck it all in);
3 peaches or nectarines (quartered); and
1 cinnamon stick.
Mix the wine, lemon rind and lemon halves and sugar in a saucepan over heat until the sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool down and then transfer to a glass jug and leave to infuse for a few hours/ days in the fridge.
Drink in a long or bowl glass with loads of ice.
Cold I find it a bit sweet so tend to cut it with an quarter to an equal measure to fizzy mineral water.
In the winter this would I think make a nice mulled wine recipe.
A bonus is the wine infused peaches make a killer dessert.
As a lover of red wine, the idea of adding cola to it fills me with utter horror if I am honest. Having said that I happily drink tinto de verano and rebujito and is this really much different? I think so, but perhaps it is the wine snob in me that makes me slightly bristle at the thought of wine and cola.
On a recent trip to Pais Basco (the Basque Country), however, a surprising number of the Basques (who generally have impeccable taste when it comes to food and drink) partook of a concoction of red wine and coke to stave off the (unusually) hot weather.
Whilst (as I understand it) this mix originated in Northern Spain, it seems there are versions of it across the globe. Jesus juice in Argentina, Katemba in South Africa, Jote in Chile and Bambus in Croatia.
As such pretty much any cheap red wine can form the base (Basques tend to use the cheap as chips Don Simón which comes in tetrapaks). I couldn’t bring myself to buy an über cheap wine, so got this Aussie number from Lidl (£4.89).
As it happens it was pretty grim on it own, so no great loss in adding coke to it.
1 part cheap red wine (and I mean cheap)
1 part coca cola
Plenty of ice
Serve in a decent sized tumbler glass.
It was not as bad as I was expecting and surprisingly refreshing. Whilst the coke dominates (which with the wine in question is no bad thing), the wine tones down its sweetness and you do get a bit of fruitiness. Sort of a poor man’s Sangria, which is what in reality it is intended to be I suspect. Have to say more of a fan of tinto de Verano, but whatever floats your boat and it is better that pouring a crap red down the sink I suppose. 😁
This is my invention (I think) and is a mix of manzanilla (don’t use anything remotely fancy, so supermarket own brand is perfectly fine) and the fruit/vitamin drink Purdey’s (which is a mix of grape juice, apple juice, sparkling water and botanical extracts – use the standard silver rather than black fruit black label one).
Very simple to make (as it is by me it had to be)
Serve in a tumble (as it is 50:50 ratio it is a bit too hefty for a Spanish G&T goblet) with a big chunk(s) of ice.
It is a slightly odd combination, but I find the sweetness of the fruity purdey is nicely tempered by the salty, savouriness, of the manzanilla. I find it is quite moreish and Mrs. SF, who was very sceptical at first, was won over (no mean feat I can tell you).
Moving now from Spain to that other Iberian peninsula country, with port the drink Portugal is famous for (seriously worth checking out their other wine offerings – great quality and still very reasonable prices).
Most people, when hear mention of port, think ruby or tawny. White port is much less well known,
but makes an excellent aperitif on its own and also a long refreshing drink when mixed with tonic.
1 part white port (e.g. Graham’s white chip port, well chilled);
2 parts tonic (standard Fevertree or Franklin & Son);
Slice of lemon, lime or orange (optional);
Spring of mint (optional); and
Plenty of ice.
Drink in a Spanish G&T goblet or highball glass.
Not a crisp as a G&T, it has a light sweetness and citrus character to it that works rather well with the tonic (all elements need to be served chilled).
All of these drinks offer something a bit different to your standard G&T and work a treat in quenching the thirst during the summer months. Each have their own merits (some I like better than others), but my personal favourites out of these are the rebujito (so refreshing) and the tinto de verano (ditto) with the P&T a close third . Each marry soft drinks with wine to make a distinctly different drink from that of the base components. Nothing fancy, but they hit the spot after a warm day.