Move over white wine spritzer. Local bartenders share refreshing takes on the wine cocktail.
By Harsha Nahata
Whether it is finding the perfect pairing or creating nuanced layers and textures with every sip, making a great cocktail is an art and a science.
“In the cocktail world, you fail more often than not,” says Tony Murelli, bartender at Toasted Oak Grill & Market in Novi. “It starts out as an idea, and after a lot of trial and error, all of a sudden — boom — something clicks.”
SEEN talked to local bartenders about their favorite ways to make wine “click” in a cocktail. From unique takes on classic recipes to cocktails crafted just for this piece, here are five refreshing drinks you have to try this summer.
Toasted Oak Grill & Market
27790 Novi Road, Novi
Featuring a garden in the backyard, Toasted Oak Grill & Market takes farm-to-table to a new level, growing herbs and produce for the bar and restaurant. A veteran of the mixology scene, bartender Tony Murelli has been at it since he was 18. For this drink, he set out to put his own twist on a classic, the Harvey Wallbanger. With an old-school Italian liqueur, Galliano — a sweet herbal Italian liqueur — and sprinkles of elderflower, this cocktail stands out as a crisp and clean summer drink.
Created by Tony Murelli
- ¾ oz. merlot
- ¾ oz. Galliano
- ½ oz. orange juice
- ½ oz. St. Germain Liqueur
- 1.5 oz. vodka
- ¾ oz. freshly squeezed
- lemon juice
- 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
- 2 dashes Angostura bitters
Fill a Collins glass with merlot. Add one scoop of ice. Combine the rest of the ingredients into a shaker. Mix and shake everything together. Strain into the glass with the merlot.
The Sugar House
2130 Michigan Ave., Detroit
Proudly claiming to be Detroit’s original craft cocktail bar, Sugar House takes its location to heart.
“Our summer menu is inspired by the statues and monuments located around the city,” General Manager Julie Haase says. “We love to educate our guests, not only about spirits, cocktails and bartending techniques, but also about the great city we are fortunate to call home.”
This French-inspired cocktail is created by bartender Alex Jones and focuses on the Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac statue in Hart Plaza. Cadillac, a French explorer, was the first to settle and formerly establish Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit, or Fort Detroit.
With Champagne and low ABV, this is a perfect, lightly bitter and fruity effervescent cocktail for the summer. The name, “Le Fondateur,” means “the founder” in French.
Created by Alex Jones
- ½ oz. Dolin Blanc Vermouth
- 1 oz. Martell Blue Swift Cognac
- ¼ oz. Creme de Peche
- 1 lemon peel
- 1 oz. Champagne (or other sparkling wine)
Combine ingredients, excluding the Champagne, into a shaker tin. Add ice, and using a strainer, throw the cocktail back and forth using two tins to chill and aerate. Add Champagne into a chilled flute, and strain the cocktail over the Champagne. Garnish with a long lemon peel, expressing the oil over the drink by squeezing the peel over the drink and then rubbing the rim of the glass with the peel before twisting it and dropping it into the drink.
3314 Grand River Ave., Farmington
Started in Northville, the Barlor was known for its artisan ice cream. Since then, the ice cream parlor has expanded into Farmington and evolved to include a bar — hence a “Barlor” — along with small plates. The Northville location also sports a restaurant, so you can get dinner, drinks and dessert in the same place.
We asked Majid Abdelnour, the bar manager at Browndog Farmington, about his favorite wine cocktail to mix. He came back with this light-hearted take on the classic Negroni.
“One of my favorite cocktails is a gin-based drink called the Negroni, which originated in Milan circa 1935,” Abdelnour says. “I was first introduced to this take on it in the small Italian town of Monterosso al Mare. The Negroni Sbagliato literally translates to ‘mistaken Negroni,’ and simply replaces the gin with a dry sparkling wine.”
Created by Majid Abdelnour
- 1 oz. sparkling white wine
- 1 oz. Campari
- 1 oz. sweet vermouth
Combine equal parts sparkling white wine, Campari and sweet vermouth. Garnish with an orange slice. NS
The Oakland Art Novelty Company
201 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale
The Oakland combines a 20th century-style speakeasy with contemporary design for a timeless vibe. Whether it’s early 1900s blues, midcentury jazz, Americana or psychedelic rock, you can expect to find an eclectic playlist and welcoming environment at this Ferndale hot spot. Catch up with friends while their globetrotting cocktail, the Fogg and Fix, transports you across time and space.
Created by bartender Desmond Oliver, this cocktail gets its name from the characters of Jules Verne’s classic, “Around the World in 80 Days.”
“Just like the story, this cocktail begins in the Old World highlighting complex flavors of traditional wine-based spirits such as the Italian aperitif Cardamaro, classic French cognac and Spanish Amontillado sherry,” bartender Hannah Weaver says. “The addition of New World spirits such as apple brandy from Virginia and Jamaican rum impart sweetness to create a rounded finish to this spirit-driven adventure.”
Fogg and Fix
Created by Desmond Oliver
- 1 oz. Cardamaro
- ½ oz. Aurora Amontillado Sherry
- ½ oz. Pierre Ferrand 1840 Cognac
- ½ oz. Laird’s 7 1/2 Year Apple Brandy
- ½ oz. Smith and Cross Rum
- 8 drops coffee pecan bitters
- 1 apple slice
Combine all ingredients in a mixing glass and add ice. Stir and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish apple slice.
210 S. Old Woodward Ave., Birmingham
Until recently, you may have known it as The Bird and The Bread. But in January, this Birmingham location went back to its wine-centric roots, as the Jonna family announced a restyled version of its original Vinotecca bar. Offering wine education, live blues and jazz music, along with a full-fledged wine bar and world cuisine to match, this new rendition makes wine the centerpiece. Whether you are a novice or aficionado, Vinotecca hopes to celebrate the artistry of an age-old drink.
It was this switch that inspired bartender Andrew Ehrke to develop a signature wine cocktail: the Vino Sour. Blending whiskey with a house favorite malbec, the summer cocktail is equal parts refreshing and complex.
“I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone, so when I heard about this article, I thought why not try to mix wine with bourbon.” Ehrke says. “The many layers of whiskey make it complicated to combine with wine, but the malbec complements it well by offering something neither too sweet, nor too dry.”
Created by Andrew Ehrke
- 2 oz. George Dickel Rye Whiskey
- 1 oz. lemon juice
- 1 oz. simple syrup
- 1 oz. malbec
Combine all ingredients in a shaker. Mix and shake together. Strain over ice in a rocks glass. Float malbec with spoon.