Sweet Summer Sangria
Sangria/ Katherine Price
Now that the summer heat is upon us, the time is ripe to mix up a pitcher of cooling, refreshing sangria.
A mixture of wine, fruit, and a bit of brandy, sangria reportedly originated on the Spanish peninsula where it was named after the word for blood, due to its distinctive deep red color.
It remains popular in Spain and Portugal, and is even a protected trade name under an EU statute that exclusively allows Spanish or Portuguese producers of commercial sangria to bottle and sell it under that moniker. Though why anybody would bother to buy, much less serve, pre-made sangria is beyond me. It is much more fun, and much tastier, to make it yourself.
Drinking wine mixed with other flavors has been popular for centuries. The Romans created “hippocras,” a wine cocktail made by mixing wine with sugar and different spices, including cinnamon, mace, and cloves. After allowing it to steep for a least a day, it was passed through a conical cloth filter known as a Hippocratic sleeve and often served warm.
By contrast, sangria is really meant for warm weather and is typically much easier to make.
To begin, grab a clean bucket or large pitcher and pour in a bottle of flavorful but inexpensive red wine. Since this is a Spanish creation, using a rioja or other Spanish red is a welcome, though far from essential, nod to tradition. Throwing in a measure of brandy gives it added authenticity. Add a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice, then stir in a ¼ cup of granulated sugar until it is dissolved. Throw in some sliced fresh fruit such as lemons, apples, melon, and even mango, then chill for an hour or two in the refrigerator. Before serving, add ice and 2 measures of club soda along with fresh berries, which taste best when added late. Stir, pour (perhaps with a filter to prevent the fruit from toppling out and splashing everywhere), and watch the smiles.
There are innumerable variations. When made with white wine it is called Sangria Blanca or Clerico in Argentina and Paraguay. Some prefer to add a soft drink like 7-Up or Sprite or an off-dry sparkling wine rather than orange juice and sugar. A quick version uses a 1:1 mixture of red wine and Italian soda with frozen fruit. “Lazy Girl Sangria” is made in a glass by muddling some fresh raspberries and adding a ¼ cup of orange liqueur, 4 ounces of red wine, a splash of club soda, and a big cube of ice. Garnish with an orange slice – or not. The variations are seemingly endless.
Don’t go too cheap on the wine. Good but inexpensive is what you want, a bad cheap wine, by contrast, will simply make a bad sangria base. Use the freshest ingredients you care to lay your hands upon when it comes to fruit and juice. Any other liquors you use should, likewise, be decent quality. The usual cocktail rule applies in this regard—garbage in, garbage out.
Consider the Ramon Cardova Rioja 2011 ($16; mevushal), a simple but enjoyable, light to medium bodied, lightly wooded and lightly spiced wine with aromas and flavors of currant, cedar, and a touch of tar and damp soil. A pleasant inexpensive wine that is easy to pair with food, but makes for a good foundation for any of the plentiful sangria recipes available. Be sure to chill well, ideally use fresh fruit, and consider making a second batch of this very popular summer crowd-pleaser.
- 1 bottle (750 ml) red wine, preferably Spanish, like a rioja.
- ¾ cup Triple-Sec like Cointreau
- 1 shot of decent brandy (I tend to use a cognac, though sometimes the apple-based calvados)
- 1 cup freshly-squeezed orange juice
- 1½ oz simple syrup (a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water, heated on the stove until the sugar has fully dissolved)
- 1 tsp Angostura bitters
- Fresh, seasonal fruit of your choice
- San Pellegrino soda (chilled)
- Hard Ice
Mix all the ingredients except the soda, fruit, and ice together in a large pitcher, refrigerate for an hour or two. When ready to serve, add the ice, soda (use your discretion—could be a few splashes per serving, could be the whole bottle added to the pitcher), and pieces of fruit. Serve over cracked ice in a goblet. L’Chaim!