The snow is melting in the northern hemisphere and the days are getting longer and brighter. It’s time to put away those heavy, tannin-laden red wines and dive into the lighter flavors of spring and summer. For many, that means fruitier red blends, roses and white wines. It also means breaking out some cold, refreshing sangria.
Throughout history, many people have crafted sangrias using fruit, herbs and other liquors, and there’s a sangria recipe somewhere for almost every type of wine. In the U.S., sangria is essentially a wine-based fruit punch that may contain other liquors, like brandy, in addition to added sweeteners, fruit juice, carbonated water and sliced fruit. Visit CityWineCellar.com online to choose the best wine for your sangria base and to purchase the other liquors for your sangria recipe.
The Origins of Sangria
Sangria gets its name from the Spanish word “sangre,” or “blood,” which probably refers to the beverage’s dark red color. During the heyday of the Roman Empire, the Romans expanded their territory into the Iberian Peninsula. Water wasn’t considered safe to drink in many towns, so people either drank wine or mixed wine into their water. However, most of the wine didn’t taste good, so people added herbs and spices to mask the bitterness.
Officially, sangria came to the U.S. during the 1964 World’s Fair in New York City. Visitors to the Pavilion of Spain were served sangria from the Taberna Madrid kiosk. Americans embraced the beverage, which began to be served in bars and restaurants around the country. Today, practically every bar in the country serves its own version of sangria.
Basic Sangria Ingredients
You can find a lot of good sangria recipes online, or you can use a combination of the following ingredients to create your own sangria:
Wine. All sangrias start with a bottle of good wine. Red wine sangria can be made with shiraz, zinfandel, merlot or other slightly fruity reds. White wine sangria can be made with a crisp white wine, like sauvignon blanc or with a more full-bodied, sweet white wine, like viognier. Rose also makes a good sangria base if you’re looking for something on the drier side.
Other liquors. Red wine sangrias may incorporate brandy, Cointreau, light rum or gin in addition to the wine. White wine can also pair well with brandy. For something different, incorporate St. Germain, which is an elderflower liqueur, or Grand Marnier, an orange-flavored cognac.
Fruit. Use fresh-squeezed fruit juice, like orange juice or pineapple juice, when mixing sangria. Stronger red wines can stand up to more juice, so you can use a cup or more of juice per bottle of red wine. White wine has a more delicate flavor and should only be mixed with smaller amounts of juice. With a white sangria, you may want to skip the juice altogether and soak sliced fruit, like apples, grapes, berries or peaches, in the wine.
Herbs and sweeteners. Herbs like fresh basil can taste delicious in some sangria. To get a subtler flavor, soak entire sprigs of herbs in your sangria instead of sprinkling it with sliced fresh herbs. If your sangria is too sour use superfine sugar or simple syrup to add a touch of sweetness.
Fizz. If you’d like some fizz in your sangria, add some club soda, lemon-lime soda or ginger ale to the mix. Add the fizz right before you serve your sangria so the carbonation doesn’t go flat in the refrigerator.
Preparing and Serving Sangria
Make your sangria the day before you plan to serve it to allow the flavors to develop. Mix your ingredients in a large pitcher except for the carbonated beverage if you want to use one and then refrigerate the pitcher. If you want to enjoy some sangria with dinner, mix it up in the morning and refrigerate it all day. You can serve sangria in a punch bowl or straight from the pitcher. Pour it into highball glasses or large wine glasses that have been filled with ice. Garnish each glass with an ingredient from your sangria. For instance, if you used fresh orange juice, garnish it with an orange slice.
Delight the guests at a Memorial Day picnic or at a summer barbecue by serving some homemade sangria. Don’t be afraid to start with an existing recipe and tweak it to add your own unique twist.