We often think of wine as a drink best enjoyed all by its lonesome, save the occasional sangria or spritzer. But a fortified wine—a boozier, spirit-infused version of the drink—can act as the secret ingredient that balances a cocktail and can give you a new lease on liquor. Feeling adventurous? Here are five wine-based concoctions to try in L.A. right now.
Ros Marinus at Providence
This sipper is rooted in Jardesca Red Aperitiva, a savory, fortified Sonoma wine infused with rosemary. The cocktail is shaken with pear brandy, Gran Classico, simple syrup, lemon and grapefruit, then served up. Take it from beverage director Kim Stodel: It’s “low-ABV and totally crushable.” $15.
El Paseo #5 at Michael’s Santa Monica
Ever chasing perfection, Michael’s popular El Paseo cocktail is now in its fifth iteration, which involves Bozal Ensamble mezcal, tequila blanco, pear liqueur, allspice dram, lime and agave, poured tableside over a mulled-wine granita. “The clove and cinnamon [in the mulled wine] pull out the pear flavors of the liqueur,” says bartender Meredith Hayman, “while the star anise and black peppercorn highlight the smoky mezcal.” $15.
Red Lusin at Momed Atwater Village
Consisting of Fernet-Branca and Amaro Sfumato Rabarbaro—both bitter—and sweetened with a coffee cordial, then shaken with lemon, this cocktail is mysterious and contemplative. A float of tart Visciola cherry wine “mellows the boldness of the other ingredients, and brings out some of the subtle fruit flavors in the [Sfumato] and the coffee cordial,” says bartender Robin Chopra. $14.
Cappa Ratto at Kettle Black
This off-menu secret drink mixes Batavia Arrack—a funky Indonesian spirit distilled from rice and molasses—with sherry, aquafaba, lemon, champagne cordial and a finish of chianti. The cocktail has both nutty and fruity notes, but according to beverage director Jordan Young, “the chianti is the best part, because it gives a sharp, bitter taste that rounds out the drink.” $12.
Boss Loves Bubbles at Red Herring
The effervescent drink is Mercat Brut cava, sugar, whiskey-barrel–aged bitters and an orange twist—creating, essentially, an old-fashioned with a cava base. Bar director Patrick Thomas chose barrel-aged bitters because “it adds a depth of flavor [and] brings in honey and vanilla notes,” while the dry cava plays with the sweetness of the bitters and the sugar. $11.