Outside of Sangria and the New York Sour, red wine rarely makes its way into mixed drinks. Normally, when a bartender uses wine in a cocktail, they’ll pop open a bottle of Champagne or some other kind of bubbly. But the Bacchanalian is, at first glance, unconventional, and calls for merlot rather than a sparkling bottle. While it may seem odd, the drink is essentially a playful tweak on the New York Sour. Furthermore, it comes from bar legend Chris Hannah—the former bar manager of New Orleans’ famed Arnaud’s French 75 and founder of Jewel of the South—who made this cognac-and-merlot concoction for Mardi Gras celebrations.
The Bacchanalian’s base is cognac, rather than a whiskey as is traditional in a sour. These fine French brandies are just as delicious in drinks as they are on their own, but you’ll want to opt for something in the more affordable range—luckily, even the relatively cheaper cognacs tend to still be of good quality, if not excellent. And, like a New York Sour, the drink takes a measure of red wine, though it gets mixed in rather than floated on top. Specifically, Hannah uses merlot—the bright juiciness of the low-tannin wine is perfect for mixing into a drink, adding gentle acidity and making it more robust. To build on those notes, Hannah also uses lemon juice and, rather than simple syrup, agave nectar. The sweetener gives the drink a richer, more lush feel without making it overly cloying.
Finally, rather than using the traditional rocks glass or something like a coupe, Hannah shakes the Bacchanalian and pours it over fresh ice in a red wine glass. This gives it an additional touch of elegance, perfect for your next Mardi Gras get-together.
- 1 3/4 ounces cognac
- 3/4 ounce merlot wine
- 1/2 ounce agave nectar
- 1/2 ounce lemon juice, freshly squeezed
Add the cognac, merlot wine, agave nectar and lemon juice to a shaker filled with ice and shake until well-chilled.
Double-strain into a wine glass filled with fresh ice.