A wine cooler in New York. Food styled by Barrett Washburne. Wine cocktails are as relaxed and thirst-quenching as they are easy to make. PICTURE: Linda Xiao
The path of high-summer cocktail hour matches the ease and pace of its season: Open the refrigerator, take out a bottle, relish the cold condensation in your hand, pour, mix, drink.

Nothing embodies that spirit quite like wine cocktails, which take little more effort than remembering where you last set down the corkscrew.

Start with a kir. Served chilled and made from only two ingredients - crisp, dry white wine and crème de cassis, a black currant liqueur - a kir mixes itself directly in the glass. Its low-alcohol content is an open invitation to go the length of the sunset and drink two.

When the proportions are right, a kir is refreshingly tart and lightly sweet. When the black currant liqueur is poured with too heavy a hand, the drink veers sickly sweet, reminiscent of another seasonally apropos yet little loved wine cocktail, this one with 1980s American origins: the wine cooler.

The cooler’s combination of still wine and sweetened fruit juice (and sometimes soda water) was originally targeted at carefree Southern California beachgoers and health-conscious baby boomers, with an emphasis on women. In its decline, the cloyingly sweet drink became a choice buzz for underage drinkers.

Today, the oft-maligned cocktail has been making a comeback. But a fresh cooler can be easily made using a bottle of your favourite white, red or rosé.

Whether you’re making a kir or a cooler (or sangria or kalimotxo or tinto de verano, or any other wine-based cocktail), note the main ingredient: wine. Too often, wine cocktails are cover-ups for flawed or nearly turned bottles. This leads to lacklustre drinks and quick-to-arrive hangovers.

Reach for anything that you would happily drink straight from the bottle. And if you expand your definition of wine beyond still bottles, you have sparkling, aromatized or fortified wines to play with.

But in the height of summer, simplify. Drop the last few mls of that well-loved, well-chilled bottle so often found in your fridge into a kir or cooler. Or uncork something fresh and start the evening with a wine cocktail before pouring straight glasses. Who knows, you might be moved to linger a few drinks longer.

The New York Times