On hot summer days, when the temperature is rising and the humidity sets in, there is nothing better than an icy drink to quench your thirst and cool down. While a glass of lemonade or iced tea are always popular choices, sometimes it’s nice to mix things up with a refreshing summer cocktail. Today it’s easy to get inspired, as a simple online search will reveal many creative concoctions. But if you want to add a real Canadian twist to your next pitcher-perfect drink, make icewine the star ingredient.
Icewine is a rare and precious dessert wine produced exclusively from grapes harvested naturally frozen on the vine. Ontario is the world’s leading producer of icewine as ideal climate conditions ensure consistent icewine production year over year. Grapes destined for icewine must be harvested at a temperature of at least -8 °C but many grape growers and winemakers wait for an optimal temperature range of -10 to -13 °C. Depending on the year, this can happen anytime from late November to February. Icewine grapes are harvested at night and immediately pressed after picking. By this stage, most of the grape’s content is water which is left behind as ice in the press, and only a small amount of very concentrated juice is extracted and then fermented. The result is a lusciously sweet nectar that we often refer to as Canada’s liquid gold.
Since icewine is a special gift from our cold Canadian winters, we tend to associate it more with winter consumption. It is typically served chilled and enjoyed on its own at the end of a special meal or with a dessert that complements its intense flavours. Icewine is quite sweet so a little goes a long way with the recommended serving being one to two ounces. Since we may not get through a bottle of icewine quickly, we may only think of serving it during the holidays or on special occasions when family and friends gather. But icewine is incredibly versatile and can be enjoyed year-round.
Icewine can be a wonderful ingredient in cocktails, especially when combined with fresh seasonal fruits, as it can be used in place of sweet liqueurs. Below are just a few delicious cocktails that are sure to make you a popular host when entertaining this summer.
ICEWINE PEACH SANGRIA
1 bottle (750ml) of Riesling
2 cups peaches pitted and sliced
1/3 cup Vidal Icewine
Mint for garnish (optional)
Combine ingredients in a large pitcher and mix. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours. When ready to serve stir mixture again. Serve over ice and garnish with a slice of peach and mint.
Optional: can also add fresh berries for a nice variation.
BERRY FROSTY *
1 ½ oz. Vidal icewine
3 oz. Peach juice
1 oz. Rosé Sparkling Wine
In a cocktail shaker muddle four strawberries, then add Icewine and peach juice. Shake vigorously and strain into a glass with ice. Top with sparkling wine. Garnish with a strawberry.
* Cocktail recipe from LCBO Vintages