Last September, on a quick tour of Barcelona and the Costa Brava in Spain, we had our fill of sangria every time we ate tapas. Shrimp, patatas bravas, Iberian ham and hunks of bread went nicely with the essential glass of fruit and wine.
We noticed that most everyone else sipping on the blood-red, fruit-laden wine drink were tourists, too. The locals were enjoying mixed drinks and beer, it seemed.
That didn't stop us. Americans love sangria, here and abroad, even if the Spanish consider it a cheap party drink whose main purpose is to lubricate a crowd. But sangria doesn't have to be made with sketchy wine, and its adaptability to all sorts of fruits makes it an every-season drink. Citrus in winter? We've got that. Peaches and plums in the summer? Absolutely. Berries in the spring? Check. And anymore, we can get any fruit we want year-round.
Sangria seems perfectly suited to Florida. When the weather gets steamy, like right now, an ice-cold glass of sangria with luscious fruit bobbing among the ice cubes is refreshing relief.
There are plenty of spots around Tampa Bay to order a pitcher of sangria, among them Ceviche, the Columbia and Red Mesa, but you can also make a batch at home to serve at your next party. Fourth of July, maybe? Add blueberries and strawberries to your white wine sangria for a patriotic punch.
The trick with making sangria is to chill it for at least 24 hours before serving. This allows the fruit juices to marry with the wine and liqueurs. If you're in a real rush, make it in the morning to serve in the evening. Anything less and you won't get the full flavor of the drink.
If the recipe calls for carbonated soda, add that right before serving to preserve the fizz.
When selecting a wine for sangria, you should subscribe to the same advice as you would for cooking with wine. Don't use something you wouldn't drink by itself. That said, don't go overboard and buy a $25 bottle of wine that you will be diluting with fruit juices, other spirits and ice.
You should be able to find a bottle for $10 or less that will suffice.
For white sangrias, use pinot grigio, moscato, albarino or even a Riesling, which comes from Germany. All of these wines bring proper acidity to play off the sweetness of the fruit. For red sangria, consider rioja from Spain or syrah, merlot or pinot noir. You might even experiment with a sparkling wine, though it will lose its fizz during the chilling period.
Sangria is ultimately a very forgiving drink. It works well with most fruits, though stay away from bananas, which tend to disintegrate and make the drink muddy. As we head into the stone-fruit season, plums, nectarines and peaches get along just fine with either red or white wine. Make sure you remove the pits.
And don't forget sturdy apple slices. They keep their shape while soaking up lots of flavors. It's amazing that they still snap after soaking in wine for hours.
No matter that sangria doesn't get the proper reverence in its birthplace. We'll lift a glass of fruit goodness to toast just about anything, especially a cocktail's ability to rejuvenate a soul during a steamy Florida summer.
Janet K. Keeler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8586.
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White Peach Sangria
1 bottle white wine (such as Spanish albarino)
3 ounces brandy
2 ounces triple sec
1 cup orange juice
1 cup pineapple juice
2 ounces simple syrup (equal parts sugar and water brought to a boil for 2 minutes in a small saucepan and cooled. Leftover syrup can be stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for 1 month)
3 ounces white peach puree (peel peaches, remove pit and puree in a blender with a small amount of water)
Fresh peaches, oranges, and apples sliced
Place all ingredients in a pitcher and stir to mix. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or up to 48 hours. Serve over ice.
Source: Bobby Flay, Food Network
3 tablespoons sugar
3 shots Calvados or other apple liquor
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 ripe peaches, cut into wedges
3 ripe green apples, seeded and cut into wedges
1 bottle white Rioja Spanish wine or other dry white wine
1 pint raspberries
Sparkling soda water, for topping off glasses of sangria at table
Combine sugar, Calvados, lime, lemon, peaches and apples in a large pitcher. Cover with 1 bottle of Rioja wine and chill sangria several hours.
To serve, spoon fruits into glasses or goblets, adding a few fresh raspberries in each glass, then pour wine over the fruit. Top glasses of sangria off with a splash of soda water and serve.
Source: Rachael Ray, Food Network
This white spicy sangria has a definite kick, and is thus not for those who prefer a milder, more mellow version of the refreshment. Imbibe accordingly, and have plenty of iced water on hand!
3 3/4 cups dry white wine
3 tablespoons brandy
2 small red chilies, seeded and quartered
2 medium tart green apples, diced
2 large yellow plums, peeled, pitted and sliced
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1 cup club soda
Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda in a large serving pitcher, mixing well. Refrigerate overnight.
Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda for added fizz. Serve over ice.
Makes about 6 glasses.
1 bottle of red wine (cabernet sauvignon, merlot, rioja, zinfandel, shiraz)
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into wedges
1 lime, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons sugar
Splash of orange juice or lemonade
2 shots of gin or triple sec (optional)
1 cup of raspberries or strawberries (may use thawed or frozen)
1 small can of diced pineapples (with juice)
4 cups ginger ale
Pour wine into a large pitcher and squeeze the juice from the lemon, orange and lime wedges into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges (leaving out seeds) and pineapple, then add sugar, orange juice and gin or triple sec. Chill overnight.
Add ginger ale, berries and ice just before serving. If you'd like to serve right away, use chilled red wine and serve over lots of ice.
4 cups cranberry-grape juice
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 pear, diced
1 apple, diced
3 cups carbonated lemon-lime beverage
In a large pitcher, combine cranberry-grape juice, orange juice, fresh lemon juice, diced pear, and diced apple. Refrigerate for a least 2 hours.
Just before serving, stir in the lemon-lime soda and some ice