It’s called cooking wine for a reason. Here’s why it isn’t a good idea to drink from that bottle of cooking wine in your cupboard.
Cooking wine is basically a cheap wine with a lot of added salt. It’s intended as a liquid for cooking or deglazing, and it should not be drunk on its own because of its high sodium content.
The salt in cooking wine flavors your food when you cook with it. But it also makes the wine taste… err, pretty nasty on its own were you to try to drink it. So spare yourself the experience and just don’t.
Cooking wine is so unpalatable that it’s considered unfit for drinking and is not subject to the same regulations as regular wine. So even grocery stores that don’t carry a liquor license can sell it.
Now, some of you may be wondering: exactly how much salt is there in cooking wine?
The long answer short is much more than you think.
As a general rule, cooking wine contains 8% of its weight in salt. To put this into perspective, a 25.4 oz (750 ml) bottle of cooking wine contains 2 oz (60 g) of salt—a whopping 10 times more than the daily sodium intake recommended in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
So don’t try to drink it, even if it’s the only kind of wine you have left at home.
In fact, I want to make the case that you shouldn’t even cook with cooking wine unless it’s the only type of wine you can get your hands on.
Yes, cooking wine is cheap. You can get a whole bottle of it for two, maybe three, dollars.
But for a few more bucks, you can get a bottle of low-priced wine that smells nicer, tastes better, and contains no salt. This gives you more control over the cooking process (and the flavor profile of the finished dish) and allows you to add as much salt as you need rather than relying on the salt content of the wine.
Even so, cooking wine has its merits.
Whether you’re cooking on a tight budget or a student who wants to pamper pre-made soup with something savory and aromatic, a splash or two of cooking wine will give your dish that certain je ne sais quoi at minimal cost and no effort required.