I love wine and fortified wine cocktails…Aperitif wine cocktails….Sometimes lightly fruity…sometimes lightly bitter…sometimes both…But always refreshing and easy to sip.

I imagine drinks off the Spanish Riviera…Seaside or by the pool… Perhaps on a yacht… Spain, grapes, wine and gin are the theme. Civilized and refined and not about self indulgence or self promotion. You don’t need to call attention to yourself, your confident style already does that naturally. You drink to please no one but yourself and you share your good taste with others around you.

I recently created this recipe for a local cocktail competition under a different name. Very simple in ingredients, but not simple on the palate.

Sliced Grape Garnish

Sliced Grape Garnish

There is nothing Earth shattering here ingredient-wise as one could view this as just a riff on a reverse style martini (2 parts Vermouth 1 Part Gin). But the addition of fresh grapes makes this familiar combination something entirely new. It is very refreshing and invites you to drink one after the other, yet not so boozy that you couldn’t make the attempt. The flavors are sweet with a bit of tartness. Tannin from the grape skins adds a very nice astringent quality that works well in balancing the sweetness. But the sweetness is not sugary or cloying at all. I originally thought I would want lemon or lime for the acid balance, but after I sipped the prototype without it, I never gave it another thought. I love this cocktail and have been making it all summer (2014)

It is also versatile and I really enjoy being able to improvise other drinks based on a theme. It can be served on the rocks, up in a cocktail glass as is or topped with sparkling wine, or served as a long drink with either soda or sparkling wine. It can be based with other aperitif wines, like Lillet, in place of vermouth. Pisco would be fantastic substituted for gin. It is easily batched for larger service.



Tools and Ingredients

From top left to right

Shaker tin, measuring shot glass, rocks glass, mixing glass, grapes, secondary strainer, julep strainer, Hawthorne strainer




1 Serving


1 oz London Dry Gin (Beefeater, Plymouth or Spanish Gin)

2 oz Dry Vermouth (Martini and Rossi, Carpano Bianco, Dolin)

9-12 Firm Ripe Green Seedless Grapes

Large Style Ice Cubes

3 Sliced Green Grapes for Garnish


Mixing Glass and/or Shaker Tin

Mixing Spoon


Julep and/or Hawthorne Strainer

Secondary Strainer



In a mixing glass, add grapes



and 2 oz Vermouth




Muddle the vermouth and grapes.

(NOTE I didn’t cut the grapes for these photos, but it is easier to muddle this drink if you do cut the grapes in half first)


Muddled Grapes and Vermouth


Add gin and stir this mixture a bit before adding ice..

Add ice to fill mixing glass (if you dont have enough room, pour into the larger shaker tin or use a larger mixing glass or mixing pitcher).

You should have about half ice and half cocktail mix. Don’t cheat your cocktail on enough ice. You don’t want it just to melt, you want melt and chill. Use regular ice for mixing.


Ice and Cocktail

Stir this to chill and double strain (using the secondary strainer between mixing glass and rocks glass to catch any bits and pieces as you strain normally) into rocks glass filled with large ice cubes and sliced grapes interspersed. (Kold Draft Style Ice)*

The large ice cubes take up less room and melts more slowly and it shows off the grape slices better.

Yes that big cube is a bit much for this glass!


¬†Yes that big cube is a bit much for that glass…Kind of Flintstone-esque



* I long ago I realized it was futile trying to make my own clear ice, but luckily I have access to beautiful classic style cubes at markets here in Chicago (LANG CLASSIC ICE) It’s an ingredient that I can’t add value to by making myself nor is it worth investing in the equipment to make, so I let the pros make the ice for my cocktails.