Two Basque Country cocktails for the waning days of summer: Basque sangría (Zurracapote) and red wine-cola cocktail (Kalimotxo).

Basque sangría /Zurracapote

With August coming to a close, I realized recently that I had yet to make a batch of sangría at all this spring or summer, which is very out of character for me and something I had to rectify immediately. Our building was having a get-together–the first that we’ve had in probably two years now–and I found a perfect reason to try a new-to-me recipe: Basque sangría, or zurracapote.

Something that you should know about Basque Country in general is that aside from the gintonic, cocktail culture is not like you’d find here in America. When a big part of your food culture is spending the day walking around to various bars, eating small bites and drinking at each stop, quaffing stiff cocktails is generally not a good idea, and so that’s why beverages like cider and txakolina flow freely and the cocktails that you find in Basque cookbooks like Baque Country and The Basque Book typically are wine-based.

Most of the ingredients for kalimotxo

The better-known of the two would probably be the kalimotxo, if only because it’s really easy to make by combining equal parts red wine and Coke. According to Marti Buckley in Basque Country, you’ll find young people walking around with Coke bottles of kalimotxo during festivals so that they can discreetly drink all day without having to pay for drinks at bars, and it makes sense. Back when we lived in New York and I took the train all the time, I still remember the first time I rode home during Stamford’s Alive at Five concert season and would be overwhelmed by the smell of vodka mixed with various sodas that people would be trying to sneak into the concert area. With that level of subtlety, I can only imagine how many were able to get away with this brilliant scheme./s

Tangent aside, the key to making a good kalimotxo is to find Coke imported from Mexico, as it’s famously still made with cane sugar rather than high-fructose corn syrup. (Don’t even think of using Pepsi as apparently it’s too carbonated for this application.) I personally like this specificity, because that ultimately limits how many of these I can have–as they are very easy to drink while cooking–and I don’t need to be downing these all evening and be all wired from the sugar and caffeine.

If the idea of combining wine and soda seems off to you, then you might like zurracapote. It’s also sweet, as you make a cinnamon simple syrup for it and you let a peach infuse in the wine, but the result really works. It’s basically a drink in which summer meets fall, and when you top it off with a bit of cava or seltzer water, it’s even better. I’ve also tried this with conventional and Meyer lemons, and I have to say that the conventional lemon brought more welcome acidity whereas the Meyer was just a bit too sweet with everything else.

As we savor the last few weeks of summer, consider making one (or both!) of these drinks, find your closest porch (or stoop), and watch the sunset.

Kalimotxo

Lightly adapted from Basque Country by Marti Buckley

Per cocktail:

  • 4 oz red wine, preferably Rioja
  • 4 oz Coca-Cola made with cane sugar (imported from Mexico)
  • Lemon wedge

Fill a highball glass with ice, and pour the wine and then the Coke, and then squeeze the lemon and place into the drink. Serve immediately.

Zurracapote

Lightly adapted from Basque Country by Marti Buckley

  • 1 750-ml bottle red wine, preferably Rioja
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 peach, fresh or frozen, halved

Add the bottle of wine to a closable container that can hold at least a liter of liquid. In a small saucepan, combine the cinnamon stick, sugar, and water and bring to a simmer, whisking until the sugar dissolves. Take off the heat and let cool.

Zest the lemon, being careful to not include the pith, and add this to the wine, and then juice the lemon and add it to the wine as well. Add the peach and the cooled cinnamon syrup, stir, and close the container and let it sit for two to three days. Before serving, stir the contents again and chill in the refrigerator for at least two hours.

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