Kalimotxo (pronounced Calee-mo-cho) may not roll off the tongue, but this unexpected drink is incredibly popular in the Basque region of Spain and across South America. The drink – a simple a mix of one part red wine, one part Coca-Cola – is a patio sipper in the same realm of Sangria that has gained a following among the younger set in San Sebastian and beyond.
Coca-Cola has a cooling effect on the wine, turning what is often a colder-weather drink into something quite refreshing for the warmer months. The addition of ice is also a key component. In warm climates, you'll often see people drinking the easy-to-make kalimotxo at street festivals, at restaurants or at house parties. In other parts of Spain and South America, it's known by a different name, often times rioja libre (in Cuba), Jote (in Chile) or calimocho, mochete, mocho or kali.
As food from the Basque region of Spain starts to appear on more and more menus across the United States, the drink has started to gain popularity, as well, often at the urging of in-the-know bartenders who want their guests to taste the surprising and refreshing combination.
Choosing the right wine
Photo Credit: The Dearborn
Photo Credit: The Dearborn
The drink often consists of inextpensive red table wine as to not waste a good bottle, and likely also because of its popularity with younger patrons. But though you may not be uncorking your most expensive reserve wines, there are things to look for when mixing up a kalimotxo.
Sommelier Zack Taylor of The Dearborn in Chicago, who became a fan of the drink while traveling through South America, suggests chianti. "We use chianti because it has sour cherry notes that work well with Coke," he says. "It doesn't get completely drowned out, and you can still taste the wine." Many Spanish restaurants, like Chicago's Basque-focused restaurant Salero, use rioja, a popular Spanish wine. Agua 301 in Washington D.C. and Barlata Tapas in Austin, Texas, meanwhile, are known to use tempranillo.
You'll most often see the drink paired with tapas given the genre of restaurants it's often found in. Due to its sweeter nature, it's often best to enjoy with saltier, savory foods. For Taylor, that doesn't necessarily have to mean something Spanish-inspired, but could be as simple as French Fries or as unexpected as a Scotch Egg. Kalimotxo tends to be a more social drink, so small bites are often the way to go.
Photo Credit: Salero
Variations of the Drink
Photo Credit: Salero
Like any cocktail that has been around for awhile, bartenders and barflies alike take liberties with its preparation. A bit of citrus is a popular addition, whether it be a lime wedge on the rim or a squeeze into the drink. Some people add an additional liquor like ouzo or a few ounces of sambuca. "When I was traveling, we saw all sorts of variations," said Taylor. "Fanta Orange and red wine was popular, red wine and Sprite, and white wine and Sprite is often seen as a refreshing spritzer." Other variations add in blackberry liquor, rum or even vodka for a stronger take.
An Unexpected Use
Chef Ashlee Aubin of Wood and Salero in Chicago found an unexpected use for Kalimotxo, one he uses often on his menu at Salero. "As a drink it's something fun and sweet," he says, "but it's really great when you think of it more like a marinade or barbecue sauce." Currently kalimoxto is starring in his popular slow-roasted beef short rib dish at the restaurant. He marinates the meat in kalimoxto and cooks it down and on the grill. "We will add some shallots, garlic, and vanilla bean pod to enhance the flavor," he says. "Coke has always been a great cooking ingredient as it beings out caramel, spices - things you try to put into your food anyways."
He suggests using his short rib glaze on anything you'd throw on the grill, from pork chops to chicken. Here's his foolproof recipe.
1 750-ml bottle of inexpensive rioja (red wine)
1 20-oz. bottle Coca-Cola
½ cup molasses
1 clove garlic
1 vanilla bean
5 black peppercorns
Salt (to taste)
Combine all ingredients except coke in a large sauce pan. reduce by half. Add Coke and reduce until slightly thickened -about 1 hour. Season with salt. Brush on pork chops, ribs, chicken, or just about anything on the grill.
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