Never have I disgraced the D.A.R.E pledge more egregiously than at age 20, when I spent a summer in Spain to complete my Spanish major. In the end, I only spent about 10 percent of my study abroad program in class (ogling my instructor, a single father of twins who rocked a massive party earring in one ear). I devoted the rest of my time to cultural enrichment (urinating in public spaces, eating cheap ham, and shredding my liver at a dive called La Negra Flor).
That I made it through that summer unscathed defies all logic. I thrust myself into harm’s way with a 20-year-old’s unique sense of abandon, swimming in Valladolid’s putrid “river,” fighting with my roommate because she had used my razor to shave her eyebrow, and accidentally going on a date with a Spanish bartender 10 years my senior who informed me that our destination was “a place for romance.” (It wasn’t.)
Somehow, I survived—definitely not because of my street smarts, which are nonexistent. It’s more likely because of the energizing effects of the greatest summer sipper in human history: the Kalimotxo. Half cheap red wine, half Coca-Cola, the Kalimotxo is a singularly trashy pleasure that sprang directly from Hell and landed in Spain’s Basque region. While my fellow idiot coeds dehydrated themselves to the point of cracking open like plastic Easter eggs, I remained fortified by ice-cold Coke and whatever cheap wine La Negra Flor had oxidizing out back.
The Kalimotxo originated during a Basque festival a few decades after the first Spanish Coca-Cola factory opened in 1953. Fast forward to August 12, 1972, when residents of the Old Port of Algorta found themselves in a pickle. Days before a massive celebration to honor the area’s patron saint, festival organizers were stuck with 2,000 liters of red wine—red wine that was clearly sour, whether that was due to the summer’s outrageous heat or the wine seller’s unsavory business practices. Either way, the organizers had a lot of bad wine and no time to replace it, so they took a chance on an unconventional cocktail. Legend has it that a waiter named Kalimero saved the day, throwing some Coke over the wine at a ratio of 1:1, serving the ungodly concoction over ice, and launching the drink—affectionately named the Kalimotxo after its inventor—into the canon of questionable Spanish beverages. The drink was (and is) a spectacular success, both among locals and the occasional American college student with a bad attitude and a thirst for danger.
Unlike my 20-year-old self, I no longer require danger to feel alive—but I do still spend the dog days of summer with a two-liter bottle of Coke and a steady supply of cheap Tempranillo in my fridge. Even now, there’s a lot to love about a Kalimotxo. First, a batch of Kalimotxos is cheap, which makes it easy to pretend you’re sophisticated. This is great news for those of us who opt for used grandpa sweaters and moth-eaten home furnishings to save money for crossword subscriptions and little shirts for dogs. Kalimotxos are also delightfully unfussy. They’re the ultimate fix-it-and-forget-it companion, whether you’re serving up chilled pasta salad or noshing on Chicago-style deep dish. A Kalimotxo is also a refreshing remedy if you’re weary from 90-degree days and need a last-minute cocktail to turn your day around.
Most importantly, the Kalimotxo has a wickedly convenient way of covering up the bad stuff—like the nose-curling notes of Sutter Home wine, or lingering heartburn from a frustrating workday. As indicated by the drink’s origins, the Kalimotxo is the perfect beverage for when you find yourself in any kind of pickle. Quintessentially Spanish, the Kalimotxo never takes itself too seriously, which is a great reminder for anyone who has, say, accidentally purchased 2,000 liters of sour wine or had their iPhone stolen out of a McDonald’s in Barcelona because they just had to see if Spanish McDoubles taste the same (they don’t). And if you find yourself brawling with your roommate because she used your razor to shave her eyebrow? Just blame it on the Kalimotxo, baby.
If you’re interested in whisking yourself away to the sun-drenched cobblestones of Spain from the comfort of your weird little back porch, you can whip up an entire batch of Kalimotxos for under $10. I usually opt for a dry red like Tempranillo, but any cheap red wine will do. Keep in mind that if you’re paying more than $7.99 for a bottle, you’re doing it wrong.
- 1 1/2 cups red wine
- 1 1/2 cups ice-cold Coca-Cola
- Wedge of lime (optional, but fancy)
Add wine and cola to a tall glass filled with lots of ice. No need to stir—it’s Kalimotxo season and the livin’s easy.