Can you drink cooking wine? Technically, you can, but it doesn't taste good. Cooking wine is marketed and sold as an ingredient specifically for cooking (not drinking). However, when it comes to cooking with wine, you shouldn't try to find some oddly marketed cooking wine. Just stick to a normal dry white or red that is good enough to drink but not too spendy.
Wine for Cooking and Drinking: One and the Same
To get straight to the point, that bottle you pick up for your slow roasted chicken or mussels, it shouldn't be all that different from one you choose with the intention of drinking. Even if there's a wine labeled cooking wine available, you're better off with a regular bottle of wine.
What Is Cooking Wine?
Wines labeled cooking wines are a far cry from the real deal. They may be made with either grapes or grape concentrate and typically include a long list of additives from salt to large amounts of preservatives to extend the shelf life. They are marketed purely for cooking and considered a food ingredient (like vinegar), not a beverage.
Can You Drink Cooking Wine?
You can buy cooking wine as an ingredient and, because it's made to be added to food, it's edible. While technically you could drink cooking wine, you probably won't enjoy the experience. In fact, cooking wine is considered to be an undrinkable ingredient, so you don't even have to be 21 to purchase it. Drinking it imparts salty, acidic, and even metallic flavors that won't go down easily or enjoyably.
So, you don't really want to cook with this stuff, let alone drink it. Cooking wine has an expiration date--typically about a year after purchase, and after that date, it will go bad. Certainly, if you've got an expired bottle lingering in your pantry, pour it out! It will likely not add the flavor you want to your food.
Wine You Should Cook With (and Drink)
If you are regularly drinking fine wine, your definition of cooking wine may be a $15 bottle of table wine--one that's inexpensive and nothing too compelling, yet drinkable nonetheless. You'll want to cook with a few grape varietals or blends that lend bright acidity, aromas, and flavors without oakiness, tannins, or excess sugar. A wine's flavor will become concentrated while it is reduced in a dish, and the zippy acidity is an important contribution. While you're likely not going to splurge on a bottle that will end up in your dinner, it should definitely be a wine you're happy to drink while making said dinner.
Cook With Quality, Not Cooking Wine
Think of wine just like any other ingredient--the quality matters in the scope of the overall dish. So, if you find yourself making a recipe that requires wine, choose a wine to cook with that will make your dish shine--one that you can drink enjoyably. Select a good bottle and pour yourself a glass with the extra.