Snobs be damned, cheap wine is fabulous. We’re not talking about cooking wine or sticky-sweet varieties (ask Gabi about the time in high school when she drank an entire bottle of Manischewitz at a party and got purple puke all over the front lawn). We mean the three- to six dollar bottles you always end up sticking in your grocery basket, figuring they’re not good enough for company, so you sip them alone. Well, with a few little tricks, your three-dollar wine can taste like a fifty-dollar bottle of wine. Or at least one in the low- to mid-twenties range.
1. DECANT IT. This simply means transfer it to a new container—like a pitcher or another bottle. The act of transferring and moving the wine around helps to introduce oxygen into it, which improves the flavor. Note: don’t try to decant sparkling wine, as it will only make the wine go flat faster, which improves the flavor only for older, more expensive sparkling wines.
2. AERATE IT. When decanting isn’t enough, try aerating your wine, by either pouring it through a wine aerator (look for them in wine stores and cooking supply shops) or simply stirring it. My favorite way to do this without a wine aerator is to pour the wine into a large jar or pitcher and whisk it with a wire whisk for 30 to 60 seconds. Then let it sit for a few minutes. You will most likely find the wine’s flavor to be improved.
3. CHILL IT. Even if it’s red. But no ice cubes.
4. BLEND IT. This may sound crazy, but I promise you, nobody will ever know. If you mix a bottle of cheap wine with a bottle of slightly less cheap wine in a big pitcher, aerate it well, and put it in front of your friends, do you know what they’ll do? They’ll smile because you just put a HUGE pitcher of wine in front of them. Then they’ll drink it and comment on how unique it tastes. We promise. Try it.
5. MULL IT. Simmer your wine with a few cloves, cinnamon sticks, cardamom pods, and orange peels. Not only will your house smell amazing, but your crappy wine will mellow into the ultimate stay-warm sipper.
WHEN IN DOUBT, MAKE SANGRIA
1 orange, rind on, half cut into small chunks, seeds removed; half sliced, for garnish
½ apple, skin on, cored and chopped into small pieces
2–3 tablespoons sugar, or more to taste
6 ounces orange juice, plus more to taste
2½ ounces brandy, plus more to taste
1 (750-milliliter) bottle cheap red wine (white also works)
Place the orange chunks, apple, and sugar in a large pitcher and muddle with a muddler or wooden spoon until fruit resembles a thick paste.
Add the orange juice and brandy and stir well to combine.
Add the wine and stir, then taste and adjust sugar as needed.
Add ice and stir once more to chill. Serve as is, or with more ice. Garnish with orange slices.
Excerpted from HOT MESS KITCHEN Recipes for Your Delicious Disastrous Life by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman. Copyright © 2017 by Gabi Moskowitz and Miranda Berman. Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. All rights reserved.