Written by: Tim Edison

Updated: August 1, 2023

Kalimotxo: Red Wine And Coke Cocktail [Recipe & History]

What Is Kalimotxo: A Delicious Cocktail With Red Wine And Coke

This delicious cocktail made with red wine and coke is one of the most beloved drinks of Spain.

The name 'kalimotxo' name comes from the Basque language and is known in other parts of spain as 'calimocho'.

The drink is also known locally as Rioja Libre, Kali, and Motxo.

It's much lesser known than the incredibly popular Spanish cocktail sangria but has a special place in many peoples hearts.

The Kalimotxo Recipe

You needn’t worry about searching for a cheap flight ticket to Spain in order to taste some authentic kalimotxo.

You can prepare the drink in your own kitchen or backyard.

All you need is – you guessed it – red wine and coca cola.

It's really that simple.

Red wine and cola mixed in the ratio of 1/3 wine and 2/3 cola with some ice is about as easy as it gets when it comes to making red wine cocktails!

The Spanish just love mixing drinks and there are some interesting variations to be tried too.

Tinto de verano is one in particular that I cover in more detail down below.

Another variant, instead, called Kalizer involves the union of beer and calimocho in the proportions of 50% beer and 50% calimocho or 25% beer and 75% calimocho.

It might seem a shame to mix cola into wine but kalimotxo is a party drink. The addition of cola means it goes down quickly and because it's caffeinated, the conversation just gets more fun and intense!

Making calimocho is also a great way to save a bad or disappointing wine.

In the end, a sip of kalimotxo is like a trip to the Basque Country. After all, who wouldn’t love a walk on the sunny streets of Bilbao or San Sebastian?

Kalimotxo: A Brief History

Kalimotxo was probably (it's hard to know for sure) born in the north of Spain, more precisely in the Basque Country, and it subsequently spread throughout the Iberian nation, then extended beyond the Spanish national borders.

The story, which distinguishes the birth, tells that two gentlemen named Kali and Motxo used to drink lots of red wine.

One day they were surprised by a bartender who light the alcohol content of the wine and mixed it with cola.

The two gentlemen enjoyed the unique mix of flavors immensely, and calimocho spread like wildfire first through the Iberian region, then beyond the Iberian borders.

This is, of course, the unofficial story of kalimotxo. It doesn’t have precise historical references, but it seems believable enough to make it credible.

But, there are some alternative versions of the inception of kalimotxo....

The term calimocho is derived from the Basque word kalimotxo even if, according to the book "El invento del kalimotxo y anécdotas de las fiestas," the creators of the word declared that the name was not assigned to a new invention and that the cocktail was originally called Rioja Libre.

The same book also goes on to explain that kalimotxo was originally a very exclusive drink, appreciated only by the lords of Bilbao and in particular by stockbrokers. This was because coca cola was quite a rare drink in Spain at the time.

According to some sources though, it seems that the Basques were not even the inventors of this drink but that in the twentieth century, some Italian immigrants in America discovered that mixing Coca Cola with their Chianti wine would dilute it, allowing them to drink more before actually getting drunk.

At the same time, the caffeine content of the cola was though to diminish the “drunk” symptoms.

Now, it's hard to say if it's really true or not, and the Basque people will probably not be too happy by hearing this version of the story.

Today, this drink is a source of pride for all the Basque people who never fail to give their guest the opportunity to drink a good glass of kalimotxo.

Kalimotxo and Tinto de Verano: What's the Difference?

Tinto de Verano is not very different from calimocho apart from the fact that, instead of using coca cola, it is obtained by mixing casera. Casera is a mix between lemon flavor soda and tonic water.

An easy version can actually be made using 7-Up or Sprite.

The history of the Tinto de Verano is rather old and, it seems, it dates back to the early years of 1900.

According to legend, at the beginning of the twentieth century, there was a restaurant in Cordoba.

It was located in a point of Carretera del Brillante, in front of the road that led to Cañito Bazan (now Avenida de la Arruzafa), located in the north western part of the city that was frequented by famous guitarists and singers and also had a school of bullfighting.

The restaurant was called Venta de Vargas in honor of its owner, Antonio Vargas del Moral.

On warm afternoons and summer evenings the people of Cordoba liked to go and cool off with a glass of red wine and soda, which soon became known by the name of the place: "Let's go to the Brillante to have a Vargas!"

The origin of the name Vargas could also be derived from Valdepeñas, which is a type of wine produced in the Castilla-La Mancha region. When combined with a carbonated drink and shortened, it would give rise to "Val-gas" and, by derivation, the "l" would become "r" becoming therefore Vargas.

Even today, Vargas is the original name of the cocktail even if the fact that it was consumed mainly in the summer has then decreed its definitive name, the tinto de verano or, how it would be translated, the red (wine) of the summer.

There are actually two different versions of tinto de verano: the tinto de verano with lemon and the tinto de verano with soda, which is more widespread and appreciated.

So, if wine and coke seems like too much, why not try a delicious wine and soda mix?

Lambrusco: The Perfect Substitute for Kalimotxo

Okay. Perhaps you’re one of those wine lovers who consider it blasphemy to mix wine with either soda or cola.

So, what do Spanish people drink when they don’t drink kalimotxo or tinto de verano?

Well, although Spain is a country full of delicious wines, most of them lack the delicacy of a light, fresh, summer wine.

Maybe that’s why they’ve come up with so many substitutes, including Sangria, Kalimotxo, and Tinto de Verano.

But if you happen to walk down the aisle in a supermarket or wine shop, or even if you decide to eat out, you’ll notice everywhere sells an exquisite Italian wine that fits the bill.

This wine is Lambrusco.

It seems absurd that with all the delicious wines in Spain the most popular wine among young adults and wine novices in Spain is Lambrusco. 

What I discovered during my trips to Spain is that Lambrusco reminds people in this country of their adolescence.

The confirmation comes from a famous Spanish sommelier, wine connoisseur, and journalist, Meritxell Falgueras.

According to him, the preference for Lambrusco derives from the fact that Spanish people are accustomed to drinking sodas and fruit-flavored carbonated drinks.

As such, it is normal that Spanish teens turning into adults choose as their first alcoholic beverage a light, sweet, and sparkling wine.

Fruity notes are essential, and so is the freshness of the beverage, especially during summer.

Moreover, Lambrusco is cheap.

These are the characteristics that made this wine a real bestseller in the peninsula. In other words, the Spaniards prefer to drink wine that reminds them of the deliciously fresh Kalimotxo and Tinto de Verano, the two exquisite cocktails.

Wine with the same consistency, texture, and coolness as a beverage based on wine and cola or wine and soda.

Final Thoughts

Kalimotxo is perhaps the most unpretentious cocktail out there. All you need is a bottle of cheap wine and one of coke to create a refreshing drink capable of soothing your spirit and enhancing your mood.

If wine and coke, just like wine and coffee, is not something that appeals to you, maybe a Tinto de Verano will do. It's certainly my preference of the two.

Or, why not, just pour yourself a glass of Lambrusco, if mixing wine with either ingredient seems like blasphemy to you.

Regardless of your choice, what matters, in the end, is the appreciation of the exquisite beverage that is wine, and celebrate it as it deserves, in all of its forms. Cheers!

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About the Author Tim Edison

Tim started Wine Turtle way back in 2015.
These days he contributes to Wine Turtle (and other renowned wine publications) while continuing his wine education.
Tim's wine of the month is the Coates & Seely Reserve Brut NV (from Hampshire, England).

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