from Fine Cooking #117, pp.40-41
Traditional sangria is delicious, but it can also be a bit predictable: a pitcher of red wine with orange liqueur or brandy, slices of citrus, and sometimes a splash of soda for fizz. Recently, though, sangria has been showing up to the party dressed in new shades—pink, white, and even yellow—thanks to a base of rosé, white, or sparkling wine. The fruit accessories have diversified, too. Some recipes call for vibrant peaches or pastel pears, and others boast a rainbow of kiwi, pineapple, strawberries, and blueberries. With so many options, today’s sangria is practically a year-round drink, changing to suit the season and the occasion.
|Strawberry-Melon Sangria||Pineapple-Orange Sangria|
Create your own sangria
The two recipes above are delicious examples of the new-style sangria, and both are ideal for summer sipping. But don’t be afraid to tap your inner mixologist and tweak these recipes to your taste, or even invent a brand-new sangria.
The key to creating your own sangria recipe is to balance the sweet and acidic flavors. Keeping these six pointers in mind will help:
1. Pick a wine that you enjoy drinking. This will be the base of your sangria, providing the background flavor notes for the drink. Stick with inexpensive bottles here, since there’s no point in pouring fine wine into a pitcher. And while just about any style of wine can work in a sangria, if you’re using a sweeter wine, like some Rieslings, or a truly sweet dessert wine, minimize any additional sweeteners or liqueurs.
2. Pair the wine with fresh, in-season fruit. This drink is all about bright flavors, so pick whatever fruit looks best at the store or farmers’ market and use plenty of it. After all, one of the best things that sangria has to offer is its boozy fruit.
Let the fruit steep for at least two hours before serving so its flavors can meld with the wine. For firm fruit like apples and pears, an overnight soak in the refrigerator is best. If using citrus, keep in mind that after a couple of days, its white pith can add a bitter note, so don’t make the sangria more than a day ahead.
3. Add depth and sweetness with a liqueur. Most recipes call for a small amount of brandy or orange liqueur, like Cointreau, so the drink doesn’t taste too watery when served over ice. But don’t limit yourself to an orange liqueur, because high-quality flavored vodkas—like the Cîroc Peach in the Pineapple-Peach Sangria—and other sweet or bittersweet liqueurs like Midori, Aperol, and limoncello all make delicious additions.
4. Find the right balance between sweet and sour. If the sangria is too sweet at this point, add citrus juice. If it’s too acidic, add your choice of sweetener, be it simple syrup, honey, agave nectar, or more liqueur.
5. Never put ice in a pitcher of sangria; it will water the drink down as it melts. Instead, chill the sangria in the refrigerator and then serve it over ice.
6. Top off the sangria with a bit of sparkle, an aromatic garnish, or both. A splash of soda water, ginger ale, or sparkling wine in a glass of sangria adds texture and flavor, but hold off on it until serving time for the best bubble action. For garnishes, the sangria’s boozy fruit comes first, but you can also dust with a sprinkle of ground cinnamon or nutmeg, or add a sprig of fresh mint or basil, if you like.
All you need now is an occasion for serving your tailor-made sangria. How about summer?
Sangria May Not Be Spanish After All
Everyone credits Spain and Portugal for the creation of sangria, and the drink admittedly has been popular there for a long time. But there is research to suggest that perhaps sangria has other origins.
The first English language references to sangria come from the 1730s, when the drink was more often called “sangaree.” Popular in London, not Spain, it was actually a gin punch made with wine instead, as drinkers tried to avoid the high taxes placed on gin. There are also numerous accounts of it as a favorite among the British planters in the West Indies.
Did the Brits import the recipe for sangria from Spain? There’s no clear evidence of that. In fact, while sangria’s traditional dark red hue leads many to believe that its name refers to sangre, or “blood,” in Spanish, some etymologists argue that sangaree actually comes from the West African word sangara, or “brandy,” or from the Urdu word sakkari, which means “sugared wine.”
Photos: Scott Phillips