Do you know what a wine cooler is? Chances are, you are not so sure about it. After all, the term “wine cooler” can be confusing as t can indicate either a beverage or an appliance in which you store wine to keep it cool.
If you lived in the 80s, you might know the wine cooler as one of the most popular drinks of those years. Of course, the beverage has nothing to do with keeping your wine cool. Instead, it is wine (usually cheap)combined with fruit juice, sugar, and carbonated water.
As proof of its popularity, it might be enough to say that it even started to be produced industrially by brands such as Bartles and Jayme, Seagram’s, and California Cooler. If you weren’t an adult in the 80s, you probably have no idea about this drink.
But if it were so popular then, why did this drink disappear?
Keep reading to find out about the rise and fall of wine coolers. Plus, you’ll get to learn how to turn a 5$ bottle of wine into something more sophisticated to enjoy with your friends at a barbecue.
The History of the Cooler
Traditionally, light white wines (a Pinot or Chardonnay) and lemon soda were the only ingredients of a cooler. Because of their popularity, brands started to produce these drinks commercially and marketed them as soda for adults. It was the era of soft drinks like Coca-Cola and Pepsi.
As you may expect, to fit the industrial process (and costs), the companies slightly altered the ingredients of homemade coolers. Companies started to use sweetened juices, artificial food flavors, and cheaper wines. After all, the taste of any juice prevails over the wine, making the quality of the alcohol slightly irrelevant. The final result was a bottle of soda-flavored beverage with about 4 to 5 percent alcohol.
For the younger generations, who saw wine too sophisticated and beer “too boring,” wine coolers were a breath of fresh air. Unfortunately, their popularity faded quite quickly. But what if we told you that it seems that wine coolers are getting back on the market?
Why did the Cooler’s Popularity Fall?
Before we look at how to make a delicious wine cooler at home and talk about the seemingly increasing interest this drink is attracting, it might be worth mentioning the causes of wine coolers’ fall in the 90s.
As you might remember (or maybe not), in the 80s and 90s, there was little to no awareness of the health risk of consuming large amounts of sugars. No wonder soft drinks were common substitutes for water. In that optic, wine coolers were the best option for non-beer drinkers looking for a tasty alcoholic beverage.
Over the years, the public’s awareness about the health consequences of consuming lots of sugar, refined foods, and soft drinks increased. With that, the wine cooler industry started to fade. Low-calories and zero-sugar beverages shortly replaced coolers among the younger generations. And adults were more willing to spend money on a good bottle of wine rather than on a sweet drink.
With the rise of wine’s popularity, coolers quickly lost their attractiveness.
Another possible reason for the fall of coolers has to do with taxes. Not weird, right? It seems that back in 1991, Congress raised the excise tax on wine from $0.17 to $1.07. With that, blending wine, even if cheap, became a terrible business. People preferred to buy a bottle of wine rather than purchasing an expensive drink full of unhealthy ingredients.
What’s the Future of Wine Coolers?
With the trends of the eighties coming back strong, it seems that wine coolers might take a new role in our society. With the increasing availability of artisanal ingredients and natural flavorings (such as mint and fruits), companies and mixologists are trying to recreate the wine cooler in the context of healthier and more sophisticated drinks. The good news is that coolers are open to interpretation: you can turn them into trendy alcoholic beverages in no time, as long as you use the right ingredients.
How to Make the Perfect Wine Cooler
The good news is that you don’t need much for bringing a bottle of cheap wine to life. You might even have all of the ingredients at home.
For starters, we recommend you use a sparkling wine rather than a still wine diluted with fizzy water. The idea is to make the wine’s taste stand out, which is why you should ensure you create a high-quality base. To limit the addition of artificial fruit flavor or sugars, you should look for wines rich in taste. For instance, consider ripe Californian wines, French wines, and Western American wines.
That doesn’t necessarily mean you have to spend a lot on your cooler. As a rule of thumb, you shouldn’t spend more than $15 on your bottle: it can be something you bought on sale, an accidental pick at the liquor store, or a house gift. What matters is how you mix it with the rest of the ingredients.
The secret weapon to elevate any cheap wine to a delicious cooler is to choose the appropriate liqueur. Infused liqueurs or fruit-flavor aromas will help you create magic. Not only do liqueur such as peach schnapps, limoncello, and St.Germain will elevate the best of wine’s flavors, but they will also make your drink much easier to swallow and tastier. Orangy and zesty aromas make fantastic counterparts in white wine-based drinks.
Of course, you can use make a cooler with still wine. In that case, you’d have to add any carbonated beverage. Club soda or tonic are excellent choices. Combine the ingredients in a glass with some ice and stir to mix the flavors evenly. Consider using some orange slices for garnish. You can also add some frozen fruits to get a more flavorful taste.
Now that you know what ingredients to use, it is time to learn about the ratio. Quantities are essential for making the perfect cooler. The secret formula that we swear by is a combination of 4 ounces of wine, 4 ounces of soda, and 2 ounces of liqueur, which will balance the wine’s taste against the rest of the ingredients.