This Kalimotxo recipe and kalimotxo drink overview is part of our Something Different series. A series aimed at bringing to light unique cultural practices. Become a citizen of the world.
Okay wine lovers — today I’m going to turn you on to something that might freak you out a little at first, but just trust me on this one. So what is Kalimotxo?
It’s a simple wine cocktail mixture of equal parts red table wine and Coca Cola served over ice (or Coke Zero in my bar). Now what kind of crazy culture would think this is a good idea!? Those wild Spanish partiers who eat dinner at 11 pm, go out dancing at 1 am, and pour themselves into bed with the sunrise.
Kalimotxo is a Big Deal in Spain
I first encountered this delicious concoction in Pamplona, at the San Fermin aka Running of the Bulls festival a few years back. For one week each year, the city turns into one big party in celebration of their patron saint, San Fermin.
The drink of the season? That would be the Kalimotxo (Basque (Euskaraz) spelling, pronounced Cah-ly-mo-cho). Which is spelled in a slew of different ways throughout different parts of Spain.
During the week long festival, bar owners and seemingly random townspeople set up their own lemonade-stand-esque booths selling plastic cups brimming with this red wine and coke mixture. More often than not, you can find it for the far too tempting price of 2-3 euros a cup (depending on size). Celebrators keep themselves up all night with this caffeine charged drink to watch the bulls run at 7 am sharp. They’ll then go home for a siesta and eventually wake up to do it all over again. La gente esta muy loca sounds about right.
So how did Kalimotxo (Red Wine and Coke) come about?
The story goes that there were a group of friends serving cheap, bad tasting red wine at a Basque festival in Bilbao sometime in 1972. Instead of serving better quality vino, they opted to mix their cruddy red wine with cola to make it taste better. And right then and there you had the birthing of Kalimotxo!
Kalimotxo is a worldly beverage!
I decided to research this drink a little further and quickly found out that it’s actually a big deal all over the world. In Rioja, Spain it’s known as the Rioja Libre. The Chileans call it Jote (Chilean Spanish for the black vulture). In Romania it is often called motorină, meaning diesel fuel. In Bosnia, Herzegovina, Serbia, the Republic of Macedonia, Croatia, Slovenia and other former Yugoslav republics it’s known as bambus (meaning bamboo) and musolini (as in Benito Mussolini). The Czech Republic refers to it as houba (mushroom), and in Hungary it’s known as Vadász (meaning hunter). In Mozambique and South Africa it is known as Catemba, and in Germany it is sometimes called Kalte Muschi.
So when that bottle of red has sat on your counter too long, or someone talked you into buying a box of red wine, go the way of the Europeans! Mix it with Coke and call it a party! Beware the hangover though friends!