How To Turn a $5 Bottle of Wine into a Wine Cooler

How To Turn a $5 Bottle of Wine into a Wine Cooler

Laura Burgess
Jul 3, 2018
Watermelon White Zinfandel Cooler and Orange Riesling Cooler
(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

Have you found yourself staring blankly into the fridge searching for the perfect beverage? Is it time for a drink, but not time for wine? Does beer sound like a terrible idea?

Enter: the wine cooler. A classic combination of wine and bubbles, the wine cooler exists for moments of summer when pure, unbridled refreshment and the glory of wine collide — so basically, most moments.

(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

How to Make the Perfect Wine Cooler Every Time

Wine coolers are more than invigorating pick-me-ups from yesteryear — they're masterful costumes for inexpensive wines. By adding a simple splash of soda and a drop of fruity liqueur, these classics are perfect for dressing up an everyday wine, or refreshing a bottle that isn't as delicious as you'd hoped.

There's a simple formula to make any bottle (or box) a star liquid centerpiece. Chances are, you already have the ingredients.

(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

The Wine

Whether that bottle was a house gift, grocery store steal, or simply an accidental pick at the liquor store, any inexpensive wine will do for a cooler. From Portuguese Vinho Verde to Minnesota Riesling, the formula always delivers.

Wines you love on their own (let's be honest — we all have a cheap favorite) also make great spritzers, letting you jazz up a regular refresher like a quick Sephora makeover.

Generally, I recommend sticking to white and rosé wines, since they do best with a chill and their flavors are often delicate and easy to uplift with a dash of this or a splash of that. (White Zinfandel that sells for $7.99 in huge jugs, or Critter Wines definitely fit the bill.)

Inexpensive bubbles also pack a one-two punch of alcohol and inherent spritz when it comes to wine coolers. Is that $9.99 Prosecco too sweet? Does the Cava need a flavor boost? Line them up for wine spritzer glory.

(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

The Liqueur

This is the secret weapon to elevating cheap wine to a truly delicious and aromatic wine cooler. Fruit-flavored or infused liqueurs offer fantastic aromatics, plus a dash of sugar that can make overly tart or astringent wines easier to swallow. These low-proof liqueurs also showcase the best of a wine's flavors, elevating golden apple tones of Chardonnay or the tropical flavors of inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc.

  • Limoncello, peach schnapps, and triple sec are perfect partners for white wines like Sauvignon Blanc and ordinary Pinot Grigio.
  • Raspberry-flavored Chambord and inexpensive creme de cassis (or even Watermelon Pucker) work well with light rosés and bold whites like Chardonnay or Viognier.
  • For bold rosés or bubbly, more herbal liqueurs like St. Germain, Lillet, or even sweet vermouth like Dolin Blanc add flavor and complexity with less sugar than traditional liqueurs.
(Image credit: Jerrelle Guy)

The Bubbles

While traditional wine spritzers are made with club soda, coolers can be made with any carbonated beverage, including sweet sodas or tonic.

The ideal combination depends on personal taste and the wine available. For a soft, delicate spritzer, you can't go wrong with original seltzer. For extra oomph, without added sugar or calories, flavored sparkling waters add fantastic aromatics to coolers. Flavors like orange, pomegranate, and raspberry-lime are fantastic counterparts in white wine-based spritzers.

For even more flavor, use lemon-lime soda like 7UP or Fresca. Unlike the delicate flavors of a seltzer spritzer, those made with traditional sodas are more conventional store-bought wine coolers — bursting with fruity flavor and impossible to resist poolside (or couch-side).

The Formula: 4 + 4 + 2 = a Perfect 10

It's all about ratios when it comes to making the perfect cooler. A combination of 4 ounces wine, 4 ounces soda, and 2 ounces of liqueur creates a wonderfully refreshing drink that balances the wine with its added ingredients. Use less wine and you run the risk of not tasting it at all, but add more and its flavors and alcohol will dominate.

This formula is great because it balances the cooler components and is the perfect size for a pint glass filled halfway with ice.

To make the perfect cooler anytime, simply combine the ingredients over ice, and stir to mix the flavors evenly. For a group, batch the wine and liqueur ahead of time and store it in the fridge, adding bubbles and ice just before serving.

Watermelon White Zinfandel Cooler

Orange Riesling Cooler

How To Turn a $5 Bottle of Wine into a Wine Cooler

Serves 1

  • For the Watermelon White Zinfandel Cooler
  • 4 ounces

    chilled white Zinfandel

  • 2 ounces

    Watermelon Pucker

  • 4 ounces

    lemon-lime soda

  • Watermelon cubes, for garnish

  • For the Orange Riesling Cooler
  • 4 ounces

    chilled Riesling (off-dry is OK!)

  • 2 ounces


  • 4 ounces

    club soda

  • Orange slices, for garnish

Combine all the ingredients: In a pint glass with ice, combine ingredients and stir gently. Garnish and serve.

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