Photo: divya_, Flickr
Long before we gulped down something called sangria, sangaree was a favorite tipple -- made with wine, spirit, or beer diluted with water, sweetened with sugar, and spiced with nutmeg. Sangria could have easily evolved from sangaree.
The English loved their Bordeaux, which they often referred to as claret, and a claret cup punch (red wine, lemon, sugar, and sparkling water) traveled with them as they influenced the world. This punch sometimes contained various fruits, spirits, and spices depending on the location. In many Spanish speaking areas of the world, claret cup became clericot, a sangria-like drink made with white wine.
Throughout history, wine has been made more palatable by adding water, honey, herbs, spices, or fruits, but some cite the 1964-1965 World's Fair in NYC as the breakthrough moment for what we know as sangria. While it's true that Spanish concessionaires at the World's Fair introduced many people to the drink, records show sangria on Spanish restaurant menus in the US before 1964. And prior to the World's Fair, the New York Times had already reported on a social affair hosted by a Palm Beach socialite who fashionably served "Sangria, a red wine and fruit drink."
Sangria's popularity eventually resulted in convenient premixes. Jug and box wine giants like Carlo Rossi and Franzia offer grab-and-go versions. The Spanish brand labeled Reál claims to be the number one import into the US. On the Border offers a plastic bucket along with the premix. Even non-alcoholic soda versions exist, with brands like Sangría Señorial combining fizz with citrus and wine flavoring.
You may find cachaça in Brazilian sangria or even sake in a Japanese variation. My first sangria recipe supposedly originated from a Colombian monk. It contained so many ingredients that it went into my recipe box with a tab labeled "Killer Sangria." My partner Demián makes Baja sangria with key lime juice, sugar, mineral water, and red wine layered on top, while our Uncle Rosalio's sangria adds layers of gin, sangrita, and red wine, which is more the style in the Mexican state of Michoacán.
The word "sangria" refers to "blood" in Spanish so it's no shock that it's typically made with red wine. Go for a non-tannic, fruitier-style young red. For heavier versions, go for a ruby-port base or even use a mulled wine like Hippocras that's been chilled. If you prefer a lighter version, opt for a non-oaked white wine or a rosé.
Branch out from the typical combo of citrus fruit and apple and experiment with peaches, plums, apricots, mangoes, pineapples, strawberries, raspberries, grapes, or cherries. If you do use citrus, remove the peel if you don't want bitter flavors.
Many versions include ginger, clove, nutmeg or cinnamon.
Add soda or mineral water to spritz up your sangria. For additional flavor, try citrus flavored sodas.
A cup of brandy and a splash of orange liqueur are commonly used, but don't be shy about using rum, flavored vodkas, or your favorite fruity liqueur.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight to chill. This will also allow the flavors of the fruit to blend with the wine. Clear glass pitchers or punch bowls showcase your colors. Ice cubes can quickly dilute your wine. Other options for keeping the chill include adding frozen grapes or other frozen fruit pieces that complement your mix.
Alabama-born LeNell Smothers defines herself first and foremost as a bartender, but she's been called many things -- most recently, the proprietress of Casa Cóctel with partner Demián Camacho Santa Ana. She's owned her own whiskey label, called Red Hook Rye, and has been recognized by her home state as an honorary Colonel. Other interests include gin, sin and men.