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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Growing up, our family’s Christmas drink was a bottle of claret with lemonade added. I have great-grandchildren now and long to pass on the tradition of my grandfather's grandfather, etc., but we can't seem to find a bottle of claret. Is it still made?
—Jill B., Australia
Some people may read your question and cringe, but claret punch, or claret cup, is a cocktail dating back to Great Britain in the 1800s. The basic recipe is red wine, lemon, sugar and carbonated water, but this is one of those cocktails that has a lot of variations—sometimes other spirits like Brandy are added, sometimes dried spices, and I’ve seen recipes that have it garnished with everything from a pineapple chunk to a slice of cucumber. It’s along the same lines as sangria, if you’re trying to imagine it. Cocktail fans might recognize its relation to a Pimm’s cup, which would use vermouth instead of red wine.
While you might find some bottles of wine that still say “claret” on them, it’s not a widely used term these days. Historically, “claret” is an English nickname for the red wines of Bordeaux. So look for Bordeauxs, Bordeaux-style wines from outside of France, or red wines made from the classic Bordeaux grapes Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Since you’re going to use it as a base for a cocktail, I don’t think you need to spend very much money on the bottle, unless that’s part of your family’s tradition. Happy holidays!
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