Travel bites: Red wine with Coke is the drink of summer

Travel News from Stuff - 11-12-2023
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My brother-in-law has an intriguing palate. He finds capsicum too spicy, fancies bland carbohydrates over anything with real flavour, and thinks red wine with Coke is one of the best drinks ever. But I have to give it to him; this bizarre recommendation he picked up on a football trip in Spain is actually pretty grape.

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The combination of red wine and Coca-Cola sounds like the kind of drink a teenager would create from the dregs in their parent’s liquor cabinet. Or, a beverage of survival if marooned on a desert island with only two ingredients by your side. But, leave any preconceptions behind, it is far more delicious than it sounds.

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Kalimotxo, pronounced cal-ee-mo-cho, is fun to say and even funner to make. All you need is an equal measure of red wine and a fizzy cola-based mixer. It’s as easy as stirring them together over ice in a highball glass. Add a wedge of lemon if you feel like flashing up the deep-purple cocktail, but the two main ingredients are what really make it sing.

The same combination goes by various names around the world. In South Africa it is known as katemba, in Chile it translates to black vulture, while Argentineans call the stuff Jesus juice.

In Spain, the pairing of red wine and cola has been enjoyed as far back as the 1920s, before Coke was widely available in the European nation. There, it was also given various names, including Rioja libre and tincola, until the early 1970s when two friends needed to mask the taste of 2000 litres of wine. It is believed the pair balanced out the sour liquid with the soft drink, and the rest is history – kalimotxo has since become a go-to in Basque Country.

Situated along the northern coastline on the Bay of Biscay, bordering Spain and France, the autonomous region is best known for its txakoli (sparkling white) and Rioja (light red) wines. The latter is your best option for a traditional kalimotxo, but that’s not to say you can’t use any old wine. Some say the cheaper, the better.

So what does it taste like? Think of kalimotxo as a carbonated version of sangria where the tart and zesty characteristics of the red wine are balanced out by the sugar of the Coke, with notes of the fizzy drink’s vanilla, cinnamon and citrus flavours. It essentially makes horrible red wine more palatable, while the caffeine delivers the perfect pick-me-up for the afternoon or evening ahead. It is a refreshing and effortless option to whip up on the hottest of days – no swirling or sniffing required.

It’s a Spanish classic, and this year kalimotxo should be New Zealand’s drink of summer. Cheers to you, Brian.

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