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Yipes!! Who put that in my Spanish Cava?

As much as I love wine, I also adore a solid mixed drink. There are days that call for a Bombay Sapphire and tonic with just a spurt of lime, while others call for a dry vodka martini with three olives, not two or four, but exactly three. Therefore, as we begin to wrap up our month long devotion to Spanish cava, all varying styles and types, it behooves me to mention some intriguing, and not so intriguing, cava mixed drink recipes we recently stumbled up in Las Buenas Companias: El Libro de los Cocktails de Cava by Jose Maria Gotarda. Given to us by the European Marketing Manager for Raventos i Blanc, Rosa Aguardo, this book was originally designed as a promotional tool for their wines. Although I was unclear how successful it was in marketing their cavas, I was crystal clear on the fact that Rosa preferred her cava pure, without any additional bells or whistles added. We, on the other hand, love to experiment with our cava, and of the 25 recipes compiled in the book, I’ve whittled the list down to the top five recipes I found interesting for one reason or another. So what you’ll find below is not only the recipe itself, but the hows and whys behind the creation of the drink.

Terciopelo Negro, Black Velvet

1/2 Guinness
1/2 Cava Brut

Ever been to an Irish bar and asked for a Black and Tan or Black Velvet? My first experience with a Black Velvet (Guinness and Woodpecker) left me speechless at 21 wondering the physics as to how they layered liquid on liquid. Thinking the Irish were mixed drink magicians, only later discovering that their passion for alcohol was more of an Olympic sport, I was humbly taught by the bartender how to whip up this very funky looking concoction. First, tip the champagne flute and pour half a glass of Guinness stout down its side to minimize the head. Then top it up with chilled cava, preferably Brut, poured slowly over an upside down teaspoon. As strange as it may seem, a teaspoon helps the cava to shower the sides of the glass rather than diving directly into, and consequently mixing with, the stout. We actually tried this last night, and I can honestly say, it sucked! It wasn’t just flat, tasteless and uninteresting, it was downright bad. However, being that the original black velvet is made with an apple cider, I could argue that sidra, made from the northern province of Asturias, might be a fantastic combo, but please don’t waste your good cava on this drink!

Sangria Real

Bottle of Cava Brut Nature
Cinnamon Stick
Orange cut into Pieces
1 Lemon Embedded with six cloves
Seasonal Fruit
Ice (of any variety that fits your fancy)

Sangria is the emblematic mixed drink recipe of Spain. Like the traditional Spanish Omelet, every family claims to have the one and only recipe, passed down from generation to generation, that will melt your heart and your palate. The reality, however, is that there are several fantastic recipes, each with their own personal flare, and I highly suggest that you try each and every one to find what works best for you! To make Sangria, throw it all into a 2 liter jar and mix with a wooden spoon. Not rocket science people, but fun and ridiculously easy to make in a pinch.

Royal Kir (Kirch Royal)

9/10 bottle of Cava Brut Nature
1/10 Casis

I chose this recipe because I love these drinks around the holidays, as they always make me feel elegant, adorned with a beautiful piece of bubbly jewelery. The sparkling red bubbles dance and jitter to the beat of holiday cheer, while reflecting the deep orange glow of the roaring and crackling fire. And with a dash of casis, what was already the perfect drink to set your palate in full swing, has now become even more addictive. When traveling throughout northern Catalunya as a bike guide, evening cocktail hour was almost exclusively reserved for Kirch Royals, as both men and women alike were always begging for another glass. However, being that casis is quite sweet, we’d suggest a drier Spanish Cava such as Brut Nature to compliment this drink.

Normando (Normandy)

2/10 Calvados
8/10 Cava Semi-Seco or Seco

Although neither of us have tried this recipe, Calvados happens to be one of Ryan’s favorite liquors, leading me to wonder how good of a combination this might be. For those of you unfamiliar with Calvados, it’s an apple brandy from the French region of Basse-Normandie. The name Calvados, is said to have originated from a Spanish ship named, El Salvador, sunk off the the rocky shore of Arromanches-les-bains in 1588. The more likely source of its etymology stems from calva dorsa, or bare back in Spanish, referring to sheer and sparsely vegetative rock face. Whatever the source of its name, don’t feel that you have to use Calvados, as any apple brandy would do. As for which cava to pair with this beast, we suggest a slightly sweeter cava, such as a semi-seco or seco to bring out the subtle apple flavors and add just a touch sweetness.

Boda Perfecto (The Perfect Marriage)

2/10 Southern Comfort
2/10 Brandy
6/10 Cava Brut or Seco

I envision this as the perfect drink to imbibe after hours upon hours of screaming children, holiday paper strewn across the floor and your legendary football team getting crushed in the last few seconds of the game. Getting up off your chair, you open the liquor cabinet and pull down those choice bottles most homes have an ample supply of, brandy and whiskey. Does it have to be Southern Comfort? Nope, but anything more snazzy will be lost in the concoction. As for food pairings, I’d stick to football accouterments such as chips, peanuts, popcorn and little cocktail dogs.


Feliz Natal Cocktail
1 part Port
1 part Amaretto
2 parts Creme de Cacao
1 part Cherry brandy
½ part Brandy

For those who are eating some very rich and chocolaty desserts this holiday season, which means all of us, Darcy from the Art of Drink has reminded us of a traditional Portuguese cocktail called, Feliz Natal or Merry Christmas. I can’t imagine a more magical place to be for the holidays than Oporto, but in lieu of booking the next flight out, I think we’ll have to break open a bottle of port and try this recipe out!

A second Port drink designed specifically for Catavino by Darcy, many moons ago, is called, Iberian Coffee. This is a great drink to snuggle up to the fire after a large, holiday meal. I’ve included the recipe below, but would highly suggest you read the full article, which explains the history behind Iberian coffee and his reasoning in mixing these ingredients together.

Iberian Coffee

¾ oz Brandy (Spanish)
¾ oz Tawny Port
4 oz Strong Coffee
Top Fig Cream

Combine the first three ingredients in a coffee mug or Irish coffee glass. Flame the zest of an orange peel over the coffee and then top with the fig flavor whipped cream.

Fig Whipped Cream

4 oz Double Cream (Heavy 35%+)
1 Tbls Table Sugar
½ oz Fig Flavoured Vodka (Kleiner Feigling)*

Beat cream, sugar, and brandy in medium bowl. Whisk until peaks form.

If you can’t find fig flavored vodka, you can substitute fig syrup. If that isn’t available you can make your own by soaking 500 grams of fresh chopped figs in 500ml of vodka. Allow to sit for two weeks and then strain. The color will make the whip cream a beige color.

As if I haven’t given you enough tools to turn your kitchen into a three-ring circus, let me make you even more dangerous in your Iberian mixed drink knowledge by suggesting you check out one of our past articles on traditional Spanish drinks! Now, I can’t imagine that we’re alone in our love of playing bartender, so what do you drink for the holidays? Are there particular mixed drinks you enjoy? Have you ever bastardized your Cava with a splash of cranberry juice or a carton of orange juice? Are their holiday drinks that you and yours traditionally enjoy?


PS: On a final note, Tim Elliot at Winecast has recently released a podcast on the past, present and future state of wine blogging featuring: Alder Yarrow, Dr. Debs and yours truly, Catavino! We’d like to thank Tim for inviting us and to the greater panel for making the conversation as thought provoking and entertaining as it was! Check it out and let us know what you think!

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