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Do As the Romans Did: Turn Old Wine into a Cocktail

She'd Like Her Kir Extra Dry, Please
She'd Like Her Kir Extra Dry, Please
Supreme Council Of Antiquities

CNN reported this week that Egyptian archeologists have discovered a three-foot-tall female mummy dating to 300 B.C., the first Roman mummy found in the Bahariya Oasis (southwest of Cairo). Fashionistas would be pleased to learn that she was bedecked in lovely jewelry, but we have a more pressing question. What did the lady prefer to drink?

Wine, no doubt. And likely pretty old wine by our fresh-as-a-screw-top bottle standards. Like their Greek predecessors, Romans stored their wine by the gallons, presumably for months, in those giant two-handled amphora that are scattered throughout the Getty Villa. Brilliantly simple, as now there's no need for Vacu Vins, or to chug that last glass -- although the Romans notably did dilute their wine with water before drinking.

These days we need a lot more than a clay jug and water to make that days-old wine drinkable again (by days old, we mean 3 to 4 max -- please don't try this at home with a two-week-old Merlot). But the solution to reviving that Riesling is still exceedingly simple: Add more booze.

Sure, it's always best to start with an unopened bottle of dry red wine to make sangria. Put a pint of raspberries or blackberries in a bowl, crush them with the back of a spoon, then pour the leftover wine over them (a dry Rioja is ideal, but after spiking it with so much booze it really doesn't matter). Add equal parts brandy and orange liqueur, so if you have half a bottle of wine left, about ¼ cup of each is a good starting point, plus ¼ cup of water. Taste to see if it needs more orange liqueur -- we don't know how long you've had that wine on the counter. Let it macerate for an hour if you have the time, if not, we like to load on a few more orange slices for the garnish. Serve on the rocks.

On the white wine front, you can salvage a bottle by tossing in an ounce of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur such as Chambord) to make a classic Kir cocktail, but orange liqueurs are also an interesting swap. You've got days old wine that you need to cover up, so by all means avoid the cheap orange liqueur. Go with a better brand, like Cointreau or Combier, and tuck in an orange slice for garnish. Dry or sweeter white wines are going to work best. Admittedly, we still haven't figured out how to turn a buttery, oaky Chardonnay into a decent cocktail. A splash of butterscotch schnapps, maybe? Let us know how that goes, as we're too afraid to try it.

You also could pull an all-out Julius Caesar and make mulsum, a Roman aperitif made by mixing the local sweet white wine with honey (not to be confused with mead, a wine-like beverage made from fermented honey). Adding honey to an already sweet wine could be a real toothache by today's standards. But then again, we're the ones tossing back the sodas all afternoon.


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