Even though it started to piss down rain here in Manchester, my Simpsons calendar says it’s STILL technically summer for the next 2.5 months and that means there’s no excuse to not be making today’s great thing:
I love sangria. As with most grown-up things, I was first exposed to it in NYC. I think it was at the now defunct Dew Drop Inn. That place was the shizzle. They had a drink called “A Damn Shame” which was something like…champagne and grape soda. They served all their cocktails in mason jars and sold miniature hamburgers. Also, the bartender, Becky–a statuesque brunette with loose curls and Gina Gershon lips– was smokin’ hot. I used to awkwardly flirt my ass off every time I went in…hammily making stupid puns and snarky comments and I don’t think she took any notice. In fact, I went in there just about every week and she never learned my name. Way out of my league. Memories.
Anyhoo, Sangria is terrific for many reasons. It’s got a cool name (means ‘blood’ in Spanish). It’s refreshing. It gives cheap wine a purpose–in much the same way that a champagne cocktail recipe can dress up a shitty bottle of bubbly. It is delightfully hard-hitting–a stealth bomb dressed up in tropical fruit. Case in point…A couple of years ago my mother threw a lovely baby shower for my sister. Since I’m not a great cook, I mixed up a batch of white sangria for the event. The noon-time brunch was attended my my tame and gentile neighbors and my seldom drinking aunts. It only took about fifteen minutes for the effects to set in. Baby clothes have never been so hilarious.
It’s one of those cocktails that you can have a bit of experimentation with until you find the recipe that really hits the spot. Technically, there’s not really a universally preferred recipe. It’s truly a party beverage in the sense that you just scoop up whatever you have available and dole it out to the masses in one big boozy stew. For this reason, travel sites recommend that you actually NOT order sangria from bars and restaurants when you go to Spain. It’s a tourist trick. Real sangria is made at a house party in Spain–not at bars. A bar will just serve you something like red wine, sprite, and a wedge of lemon or something (any concoction known as tinto de varano). Ordering it at a restaurant is missing the point. It’s like going out to a nice restaurant and ordering leftovers.
Anyway, for a more traditional take, I really enjoy starting with a bold red (a cheap but not completely awful California zinfandel for instance) and adding triple sec, brandy, orange juice, and whatever fresh fruit is around the house cut into wedges. Simple, easy and eating the fruit after you’ve downed the drink is a more delicious alternative to eating the tequila worm.
There’s a version that they used to offer during brunch hours at the fun restaurant I worked at in NYC, Punch Bar and Grill. I recall it using cinnamon in there somewhere. It provided an enticing zing and was surprisingly moreish. I think the addition of cinnamon is kind of a Portuguese thing. Here’s the closest I could find to that recipe on-line: Zippy!
Here’s another version of spicy sangria to try if you’re so inclined: Spicy Sangria
I usually stick to the standard Red variety, but sometimes a switcheroo to sangria blanca is alright. The addition of melons to the white wine version usually goes down a storm. I tend to stay away from rose–not really for any particular reason. I just don’t buy a lot of the stuff.
For further studies, sangaree is a West Indian beverage that’s quite similar to Spanish sangria except it’s usually made with Port.
Regardless of which recipe you use, the luxury of time can only help. Leaving the mixture overnight helps all the flavours soak into each other. Plus, I mean, you’d only have to wait 12 hours or so. It’s not like you’re barrel-aging Scotch whiskey or anything.
In closing, here’s a clip of piano chanteuse Tori Amos singing her song “Sweet Sangria”. Enjoy with a glass of the good stuff.