Refreshing, with a touch of sweetness, tinto de verano is the perfect summer cocktail. Made from red wine, it’s a lighter alternative to sangria or other drinks that are a bit too sweet for a hot summer day.
The first time I tried tinto de verano, I was celebrating a local fiesta with my in-laws’ neighbors. We were all sitting at large tables in the street eating together, and I noticed that people were mixing the red wine with soda and drinking it over ice. I decided to give it a try and found it surprisingly delicious.
It was especially popular with the women of the street who found the neighborhood’s table wine unappealing. By adding ice and soda, a not-so-perfect wine is transformed into something lighter, sweeter, and much more refreshing.
What is tinto de verano?
Tinto de verano literally translates to “summer red wine”. It’s normally made by mixing an inexpensive Spanish red wine with a carbonated soft drink. Most commonly, it’s made with gaseosa, a Spanish soft drink with a mild lemon flavor somewhat similar to 7 Up or Sprite. Unlike 7 Up or Sprite, though, gaseosa isn’t quite so syrupy sweet nor does it have such a pronounced citrus flavor. Gaseosa is normally made without added sugar, using another sweetener instead.
While most people mix up their own tinto de verano, it can also be bought pre-mixed at grocery stores. At restaurants, you can order a bottle of house red wine and gaseosa and mix them together in your glass. Often, though, you’ll find tinto de verano as a beverage option on the menu too. When ordering it that way, it’s often an overly sweet drink mix that restaurants buy pre-mixed. While many people enjoy the pre-made version, if you’re looking for something lighter and not-as-sweet, it’s better to mix it up yourself!
It’s said to have been first made in a place called Venta Vargas in Cordoba, Spain in the 1920’s. On a very hot day, the owner decided to mix some wine with carbonated water to serve to his overheated patrons. It was known as a Valgas (for valdepeñas, a type of wine, with gas) or a Vargas (named after the owner and place). Years later, it regained popularity and got its new wine of summer name.
Tinto de verano vs. sangría
While both wine cocktails are made with red wine, sangría and tinto de verano are quite different.
In my region of Spain, sangría, a more elaborated beverage, is more popular with tourists than the locals. When making sangría, red wine is normally mixed with a variety of fruits. It is also usually sweetened with sugar but can be made with gaseosa or lemon-lime soda instead. (Often, it uses both sugar and a soft drink for added sweetness.)
Another difference is that sangría often includes some other liquor such as brandy, while tinto de verano normally doesn’t. (Some people do add a splash of vermouth to theirs, though.) Tinto de verano is lighter and can be thrown together at the last minute. Sangría is normally made ahead of time to allow for the fruit flavors to infuse into the wine.
In tinto de verano, each person can choose their preferred ratio of soda to wine, something that’s much more difficult with a pre-made sangría.
As you can probably guess, this simple Spanish cocktail uses simple ingredients: red wine and gaseosa.
When choosing your wine, pick a red wine that isn’t overly expensive. While it’s preferable to use a light, fruity wine that isn’t overly acidic, you can use whatever you have on hand. It’s a good way to make a wine that you don’t particularly love much more palatable. Don’t “waste” a good bottle of wine by watering it down with soda. On the other hand, this light drink goes down almost too easily, so don’t choose a cheap wine that you think will give you a headache the next day!
In this case, I used a bottle of wine that we had in our basement. I don’t know where we got it from, and couldn’t find much information about it, so I decided to give it a try for making tinto de verano and sangría.
Gaseosa is probably trickier to find outside of Spain, so you have a few options that you can use instead. Most easily, you can substitute gaseosa with another lemon-flavored soda. If you find lemon sodas too sweet, try mixing them with sparkling water to lighten them up before using them in your recipe.
Another option is to make your own gaseosa by adding a dash of simple syrup to some sparkling water. Squeeze in some fresh lemon juice to taste, then stir it all together. If you don’t want to use simple syrup, you can also use another sweetener like stevia to sweeten the seltzer.
You can easily make a simple syrup by mixing equal parts of water with sugar and simmering them in a pan over medium heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Once dissolved, remove the syrup from the heat source and allow it to cool. This simple syrup can be stored in the fridge for several weeks and used in recipes such as sangría, granizados (slushies), cocktails, etc.
For more flavor, consider simmering the water and sugar with the yellow zest of some lemons. This will make a light yellow colored simple syrup with a touch of lemon flavor!
Making this summer drink couldn’t be easier! Mix it up in individual glasses or make a full pitcher for sharing.
First, fill each pitcher or glass around halfway full of red wine. For a cooler, lighter drink, add plenty of ice to the glass first. Then, fill the rest of the glass with gaseosa (or a gaseosa substitute of choice).
Give the mixture a light stir and enjoy it immediately!
While fruit isn’t a necessity, you can fancy up your drink with a slice of lemon or lemon wedge. Orange slices are also a welcome addition.
Customizing the recipe
While it’s normally made with equal parts of wine and soda, the ratio can be adjusted to suit each person’s taste. Add more wine for a stronger drink or more soda for a lighter, sweeter one. Those who want to keep their alcohol consumption down can add a just a splash of wine to their gaseosa to give it a touch of color and flavor.
Another way to personalize the drink is to add a splash of vermouth or some seasonal fruit to it.
Choosing a glass
Any sort of glass can be used for this refreshing drink! Some people like to use fancy wine glasses or copa glasses, but most people use a tall glass such as a highball glass instead. At outdoor get-togethers, it’s even commonly mixed in disposable plastic cups. (That’s not my favorite choice, though.)
Making it ahead
Because it’s made with a carbonated beverage that goes flat with time, tinto de verano is best made right before serving it. With as simple as it is to throw together, there really is no reason to try to make it ahead of time. That said, you can prepare for an event by pre-chilling both your soda and wine.
Tinto de Verano (Summer Wine)
- ½ cup red wine
- ½ cup gaseosa (Or substitute)
- Fill a glass with ice.
- Add wine to the glass, filling it halfway.
- Fill the rest of the glass with gaseosa.
- Add a squeeze of lemon, lime, or orange, if you like. You can also garnish the drink with a slice of a citrus fruit.