Put a Cork In It
This festive time of year offers a plethora of opportunities for forced family bonding and awkward office chit-chats. Thankfully, that usually involves a lot of booze to grease the wheels of conversation—which, in turn, can often result in several unopened and half-drunk bottles of wine hanging around the kitchen. With holiday parties in full swing, here are a few tips from D.C. food scene experts on how to use that leftover wine.
“Purists everywhere will cry foul. But honestly, if the wine’s that good, why was it left over anyway?,” PS 7’s Restaurant general manager Curtis Allred notes before jumping into his list of uses. Allred is serious about his leftovers: the one gallon wine jar that’s a staple on his kitchen counter proves it. “Many a leftover bottle has been added to the mix, becoming a base for great sauces, salad dressings, or water color paint for my kids.”
Just as the actual blend is unknown—filled with various reds and whites—the uses are endless, too. “In the summer we take leftover wines and pour them into ice trays and put them in the freezer. They make amazing frozen sangria.” In a different concoction, Allred simmers together leftover red wine, pumpkin pie spices, and a few oranges, then combines the mixture with Cointreau and brandy for a warming and pleasantly intoxicating holiday drink. “The fun is finding the right proportions for it to be just perfect… I always encourage another slice of pie just to be sure.”
Philip Prifold, professional wine instructor for the International Sommelier Guild, the Assistant Department Chair at the The Art Institute of Washington, and a regular teacher at Vinoteca’s Tuesday Tastings, is also quick to point out the tragedy that is un-drank wine. “The nuances and complexities that you first noticed when you opened the wine will be diminished, so if you open it, drink it,” he says. “Although, most wines are typically dead within several hours after opening them.”
That doesn’t, however, make them useless. Prifold’s trick takes advantage of tannic red wine with good structure. “If the bottle has an expensive tasting sample but I personally didn’t care for it, I’ll turn it into a really top quality red wine vinegar using a slice of a mother,” he says. (Mother of vinegar is a bacteria that helps turn alcohol into vinegar.) “Folks unable to get a piece of a mother can take about four ounces of decent wine vinegar, add it to the bottle, and cover the top with a paper towel and a rubber band. Place the bottle upright into a cool dark place and wait about three or four months and the wine will begin to turn into vinegar,” Prifold says.
Adam Bernbach from Bar Pilar doesn’t even think twice about how to use leftover wine. “Mull the fuck out of it,” Bernbach says. He’s dubbed his spiced mulled wine “Battery-Kimball” for the park he sleds in near American University. He combines red wine with one and a half ounces of maple syrup, three cloves, two star anise, one cinnamon stick, six square inches toasted seaweed, one-half ounce of cocoa powder, one lemon zest, and one orange zest in a pot over medium heat for an hour. Then he adds one ounce of brown sugar and one and a half ounces of peaty scotch just before taking it off the heat. Add another ounce and a half of scotch and serve with a cinnamon stick and orange zest.
A version of this article appeared in the Onion/AV Club. On stands in DC until Wednesday.