By Leslie Kelly
August 31, 2017

During a summer that saw the return of Zima, and the warm embrace of the spritzer, it's no shocker that wine coolers are sneaking into the conversation. Wine not? These aren't the sticky sweet Bartles & Jaymes-type drinks, but more sophisticated sippers. We recently invited some wine professionals to Allrecipes HQ in downtown Seattle for a Wine Cooler Challenge. The mission was to come up with the most delicious, refreshing wine cooler and after more than 20 recipes, the group agreed: Wine cooler creation is a whole lot of fun, the drinks refreshingly delicious. Here's how it went down.

Photo by Leslie Kelly

The Wine

This challenge featured a wide range of options, from rose to deep, rich reds, and, bubbles, of course. The wines shared a common characteristic: They're all under $20. Because you don't want to grab a high-end bottle and add soda. The favorites were Pinot Grigio and Rose from Anew and the Ste. Michelle Brut. These easy-sipping wines are crisp and fruity, but certainly not sweet. That makes them a fantastic foundation onto which something sweet can be added.

Photo by Leslie Kelly

The Mixers

While there was a homemade Cherry Bounce on the bar, the rest of the mixers are widely available, so they're hardly exotic.

  • Sparkling water, including various flavors of LaCroix
  • Dry Soda (Watermelon, Cucumber, Rainier Cherry and Blood Orange)
  • Coca Cola
  • Ginger Beer
  • Tonic Water
  • Spicy Margarita Mix
  • Campari
  • Simple Syrup
  • Tazo Tea (Earl Grey, Passion Fruit)
  • Limes, lemons and orange for zesting
  • Brandy
  • Orange bitters
Wine cooler mixers. Photo by Leslie Kelly

The Results/Recipes

While a few of the drinks had more than six ingredients -- making them more of a cocktail than a cooler -- the biggest takeaway from this challenge was also painfully obvious: Keep it simple. There's something so right about mixing equal parts wine and soda pop, especially when it's lower in sugar like the assorted flavors of Dry. Crowd favorites included:

Watermelon Crawl by Erin James, editor of Sip Northwest and author of Tasting Cider

1 part Dry Soda Watermelon
1 part brut
Garnish with lemon twist

Pinot Tea-Gio by Zach Geballe, sommelier and host of the Disgorged podcast

  • 6 ounces Pinot Grigio
  • 1 Earl Grey tea bag (steep in wine for 5 minutes and remove)
  • 3 dashes orange bitters
  • 2 ounces Blood Orange Dry Soda (float on top)

  • Wine'd Down
    by Chef Shota Nakajima fromAdana

2 ounces Campari
2 ounces dry red wine
2 ounces Fuji Apple Dry Soda
1 splash (about a tablespoon) Cherry Bounce
Mix and serve over ice.

Red Wine and Tonic by Rocky Yeh, sales rep for Vinum Importing

Equal parts red wine and tonic water, with a couple drops of orange bitters. Garnish with an orange peel and serve over ice.

Photo by Leslie Kelly

Find more inspiration on Allrecipes Dish: