Though easily overlooked as just another crowd-pleaser, the Uva Dolce’s elegant complexity is a welcome surprise.

While many know of Lambrusco, the sparkling red wine from Italy, its mild resurgence has yet to overcome its perceived sweetness. Polishing off a bottle is a rarity, which is why the team at NoHo restaurant Vic’s in NYC puts errant bottles of Lambrusco to good use with its gin-based Uva Dolce cocktail.

Italian bitter cocktails often open the palate, but barman Damian Laezza’s unique combination of lemon, sage and tannin could easily pair with many of Vic’s robust Mediterranean-Italian mains. A full spectrum of sage — delivered through syrup, muddle leaf and garnish — is only heightened by the addition of rhubarb bitters and lemon oils, giving this drink its character. In the end, “the floral factor of the gin and earthiness of the Lambrusco were the winners,” notes Laezza.

It’s worth noting the Uva Dolce’s layered appearance, akin to the whiskey-based New York Sour‘s red-wine float, which catches eyes as it makes its way across the dining room. The dark, balsamic-cherry undertone works against an otherwise bright, citrusy cocktail, largely due to the quality of the bar’s dry Lambrusco from Emilia-Romagna. Though easily overlooked as just another crowd-pleaser, this drink’s elegant complexity is a welcome surprise.

Uva Dolce

Servings: 1 cocktail
1 1/2 ounces Dorothy Parker American gin
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
3/4 ounce sage simple syrup*
1 ounce Lambrusco Bosco Del Tasso, Cinque campi Emilia-Romagna
1 dash Fee Brothers rhubarb bitters

*For the sage simple syrup:

  1. Add 10-12 sage leaves per quart of 1:1 simple syrup.
  2. Strain and store for later use.


  1. In a shaker tin, combine gin, lemon and syrup and muddle one sage leaf.
  2. Add ice and shake vigorously. Strain over ice in a wineglass.
  3. Top with Lambrusco and garnish with a sage leaf and lemon twist.

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Difficulty: Moderate