Log In / Join Now

Ask Dr. Vinny

Do you have a question for Dr. Vinny? Ask it here...

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

Dear Jill,

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!

—Dr. Vinny

Wine Basics

We break down the basics—how to taste, serve, store and more. Plus:
» Maps of major wine regions
» Grape variety characteristics

How-to Videos

Learn to taste wine like a pro, pull a cork with flair, get great wine service in a restaurant and more

Wine Spectator School: All courses are FREE for WineSpectator.com Members

Learn from the experts and get the most out of each sip. Take one of our online courses or take them all—from the ABCs of Tasting to in-depth seminars on Food Pairing, California Cabernet, Bordeaux, Tuscany, Sensory Evaluation and more.

Browse our course catalog
Check out the professional wine sales and service courses
Learn Wine Forum: Got questions? Get answers

WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.