Cooking with Booze

By Fabiana Santana

Cooking with WineWhether it’s beer, wine, or the hard stuff,  booze has been finding its way into the kitchen more and more lately. This is not something new – chefs around the world have been cooking with alcohol to enhance the flavors of certain dishes. But now, the home cook has caught onto how easy it truly is to use alcohol as an ingredient. Get ready intoxicate your dinner with flavor!

Cooking with Wine

The most important rule when cooking with wine is one you have probably heard before. Don’t cook with a wine you wouldn’t drink. If you don’t like the taste of a wine, chances are you won’t like how your dish turns out and neither will anyone else.  This is not the time to start experimenting with the bargain barrels at the liquor store. Choose a wine that you enjoy drinking and serve a bottle along with the finished product.

Rule number two is fairly obvious after reading the above: never use “cooking wines!” Vinos branded as only cooking wines (usually found in the supermarket near the salad dressings) are often too salty and include lots of additives and preservatives. The most common technique when cooking with wine is to reduce it to concentrate its flavor, and the resulting liquid when this is done with “cooking wine” is hardly something you will want to have on your table.

If you open a bottle of wine for drinking and don’t finish it, you have about one or two weeks to finish it or cook with it before it goes bad. Cork it and store it in the refrigerator.

For ultimate flavor, reduce wines slowly over low heat. 3/4 of a cup of wine will yield 2 tablespoons of wine reduction. So when cooking for a group, consider that a bottle of wine will be needed for the recipe.

Young, full bodied wines are a great ingredient for long cooking red meat dishes like braised beef or stews.  Red sauces benefit from young robust wines like Italian Primativo from the south of Italy or Opici  Vineyards’  Homemade Barberone. The barbering is full flavored and full bodied with the sweet aroma of dark, stewed fruit. The wine’s rich texture  adds great flavor flavor to hearty meat sauces like bolognese. It can also be used to poach pears in or marinate fruit (like peaches) in for a light  dessert.  This wine can be found at an amazing value via online retailers like

White wines, specifically dry whites, work well with seafood and poultry dishes, as well as light cream sauces.

Always consider the recipe. If it is a traditional French or Italian recipe, then choose a wine from the region the recipe originates from.

How To When Cooking with Wine and Spirits

Decide what role the alcohol will play in your dish: is it acting as a marinade, a cooking liquid or a flavor finish.  Alcohol usually evaporates during the cooking process and only the flavor remains, so it is important to choose something you like the flavor of.

For example, if you are not a tequila drinker, you might not want to marinate your shrimp in the stuff.  On the other hand, if you like the burst of flavored vodkas, then they are an ideal choice for marinating fresh fish in.

Usually, wines and mixers like vodka or tequila will only serve as a marinade or cooking ingredient while stronger liquors like brandy, scotch and liquors are used as flavoring agendas in a finished dish.

Opici Vineyards' Marsala wine

That is why they appear in so many desserts. Again, because the flavor is so prominent, choose premium spirits like Delamain cognac or Appleton rum when including them in your desserts.

Chicken Marsala Recipe

Serves 4
This is an approachable, easy chicken entree that tastes like you went to culinary school to learn to make it! In fact, the Culinary Institute of America invests in Opici Vineyards’ Marsala almost exclusively for their classes and restaurants.

IngredientsChicken Marsala Recipe

  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour for coating
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves – pounded 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons good Italian olive oil
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup Marsala wine


  1. Wash chicken well and pat completely dry.
  2. Mix together the flour, salt, pepper and oregano. Coat the chicken well with the mixture. Shake off excess and set aside.
  3. In a large skillet, melt butter in oil over medium heat. Place chicken in the pan, and lightly brown on one side. Turn over and brown on second side.
  4. Add mushrooms around the chicken breasts and cook until they start to brown also. Add the Marsala wine cover. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Transfer to a serving plate and enjoy!

Rigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese Recipe

Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis, foodnetwork.comRigatoni with Vegetable Bolognese Recipe

Serves 6


  • 1-ounce dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1 1/2 cups hot water
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 ounces assorted mushrooms (like shiitake, cremini, and brown), stemmed and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
  • 1 pound rigatoni pasta
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan


  1. Place the dried mushrooms in a small bowl and cover with 1 1/2 cups very hot water. Set aside and let the mushrooms soften.
  2. Place the carrots, onion, bell pepper, and garlic in a food processor. Pulse the vegetables until finely chopped but still chunky.
  3. Place the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped vegetables, thyme, oregano, salt, and pepper and cook until tender, about 6 minutes.
  4. Strain the porcini mushrooms, reserving the porcini mushroom liquid. Add the porcini mushrooms, fresh mushrooms, and tomato paste and continue cooking, stirring to dissolve the tomato paste, until the mushrooms are softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the porcini mushroom liquid and red wine. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and let the mixture simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
  6. Add mascarpone cheese and stir just until the cheese is incorporated.
  7. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 to 10 minutes.
  8. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid and add to the vegetable mixture.
  9. Add some of the reserved pasta cooking liquid, if necessary, to moisten the sauce.
  10. Toss with Parmesan and serve.

Agnello al Sugo Recipe

By Benedetta Zaccheo, of Carpineto wineryAgnello al Sugo Recipe


  • 1.5  kg lamb cut in 4×8 pieces – this should preferably be composed of mostly ribs and chunks from the forelegs
  • 4 tablespoons Carpineto Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 2 celery stalks minced
  • 1 large carrot minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 240 ml Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva
  • 1 kg fresh or canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • Peperoncino to taste
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat 2 Tablespoons of Carpineto Extra Virgin Olive Oil in a heavy bottomed pan.
  2. Add all the minced vegetables, with enough peperoncino to give the sauce a little spice.
  3. Once the vegetables are translucent, remove them from the pan and set aside.
  4. Sprinkle the lamb pieces with salt and pepper. Add the rest of the olive oil to the pan and, once heated, add the lamb pieces.
  5. Once the lamb is browned on all sides (you may need to do this in batches) add the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva and the cooked vegetables that have been set aside.
  6. Let the wine reduce, and then add the tomatoes. The tomatoes should be enough to cover the meat
  7. Cook the sauce until the meat is tender

Serving Suggestions
The sauce can be used on pasta (we recommend small artisanal pasta, such as orecchiette or cavatelli).  The lamb can either be served on the same plate as the pasta, or as a second course.  We recommend using 100% aged Pecorino cheese, or a mixture of Parmigiano Reggiano and Aged Pecorino.

Wine suggested: Carpineto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva.

Delamain Cognac Ice Cream Recipe

Mas(farmhouse) Pastry Chef Catrine Oscarson

I first had this dessert at a tasting for Delamain Cognac held at Mas (farmhouse) at 39 Downing Street in New York City. While the dinner was superb and the cognac wonderful, they saved the best for last when they served a cognac infused pecan tart topped with this amazing ice cream. This is the dessert your friends will be raving about for dinners to come.


  • 2 cups cream
  • 2 cups milk
  • 12 yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2t vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup plus 1 T Delamain Pale and Dry cognac


  1. In a large saucepan, combine the cream, milk, and half the sugar. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks with the remaining sugar and salt.
  3. Remove cream mixture from heat and slowly pour a small amount into egg mixture, whisking constantly as you pour.
  4. Return the custard back into the saucepan and cook it over low heat, stirring constantly with a rubber spatula. Make sure to scrape the bottom of the pan with the spatula. Cook until mixture thickens and coats the back of the spatula.
  5. Strain the mixture and cool completely. Add the cognac. Chill for at least 4 hours and freeze in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions.

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