I have a love affair with Red Sangria. And so a while back, I decided to craft my perfect Sangria recipe. It turns out, I am a 'Premium Sangria' kind of girl. Yes, Sangria recipes are pretty basic: fruity wine, good brandy, chopped fruit, a squeeze of something fresh and a spritz of something fizzy. Oh, and the most important ingredient is love. My recipe and journey to crafting it...
Do you remember your first sip of sangria? My love affair with sangria happened one night in Adams Morgan, Washington DC...
I met a few girlfriends at a tiny two-story Spanish tapas joint. The tables were crammed with smiling, warm-faced, laughing diners. Festive music hummed in the background. Golden candlelight bounced off the tall wine glasses which were filled to the brim with a purple beverage and bits of fruit, aka sangria. I sat down to see two giant porcelain pitchers of sangria on the table. Big wooden spoon handles sticking out the top.
I munched on something. Maybe veggie paella, marinated mushrooms or my favorite Pan con Tomate (Pan a la Catalana or just Catalana bread). I don't really remember the food, but I do remember the sangria. Sweet, fruity, tart and aromatic. Big chunks of wine marinated apples and oranges were scooped out with the wooden spoon and plopped in my glass. I remember looking across the crowded table, taking my last loud slurp through my sangria straw and nodding to my friend. I was silent in awe of this new beverage, but she looked at me and said with bright eyes, "Good huh?! Seconds?" Yes, please.
NYC Sangria. When I moved to NYC, one of my first big obsessions was finding some really good sangria like I had tasted back in DC. There were a few hits, a few misses and a few that I would really call 'watered down fruit punch and a shot of really bad brandy'. But it seemed most spots in NYC were a bit unpredictable in their recipe. We'd always ask, "Is it good tonight?" And mind you, while I paid under $20 for a pitcher of sangria in DC, the NYC price was usually $27 or more. Dos Caminos, an NYC Mexican chain restaurant, had sub par sangria for $32 a pitcher. Though we ordered it a lot, many times we left feeling incredibly jilted. Thus, I turned to what I usually do when I can't find a food or drink item at a reasonable price per quality: I started crafting my own recipe.
Best NYC Sangria? In case you are curious, my favorite sangria in NYC, is the white sangria at Macondo on Houston St in between SoHo and LES. I never used to like white sangria until I tried it there. They have a killer red sangria too. And a whole slew of other delicious fresh-fruity drinks. Yum.
Sangria. Premium Sangria. The one thing I realized through all my sangria 'travels' was that most sangria is made from some sort of crappy fruit juice mix. Yes, sometimes the nicer establishments will serve their sangria with lots of fresh fruit and a few add-in fresh juices, but besides that, it usually tasted 'fruit punch-y'. OK, maybe all you want is a light, drinkable Kool-Aid style sangria. But being that my favorite thing about sangria was the fresh fruit essences, I decided to step up all the ingredients in my recipe.
I choose to go premium in my recipe. From the brandy to the apples to the fruit juice and even the wine. Yes, even the wine. (I know this goes against all sangria-making sense, aka choose a cheap wine) but trust me, it's worth a try. My husband would look at me dumb-founded as I would take one sip of a $25 bottle of really tasty wine, and dump it into my sangria pitcher.
"This would make a delicious premium sangria!" I'd shout. He shook his head and laughed at my madness. You don't need a 'good' bottle of wine, but it helps. I've tried my base recipe with a $9 bottle of wine and a $40 bottle of wine, and everything in between. You may think that adding a good bottle of wine to sangria is wasting the wine. But not if you are a true sangria connoisseur. Premium ingredients, premium wine. That's premium sangria.
What Wine do I Use? Rule of thumb: if you wouldn't drink the wine by itself, don't use it in your sangria. (Otherwise it won't be 'premium sangria'). Spanish wines are traditional and usually work great. A red rioja in the $15 range works. I like to go for a 12% alcohol wine (nothing over 13%) with some really fruity flavors. I actually love California Cabernet Sauvignon in my sangria. And as always, I look to buy biodynamic and organic wines. Always. If you haven't tried a biodynamic wine, definitely seek one out. The flavors are usually off-beat and intense in a good-quirky way. If you are worried that your wine may not be vegan, I'd consult barnivore's list: http://www.barnivore.com/wine
Onto the recipe!
NOTE: When I make sangria I don't measure much (I did for this post). This recipe is a good base for what to add in. It's all about combining high quality fruit flavors with good wine and brandy. A lot of love goes into crafting sangria. If you are not in the mood for concord grape juice, you can easily substitute it with pomegranate, cranberry or apple juice. Up to you. And if you have a juicer, fresh juice is always best for premium sangria. This recipe is a great starting point to be creative from. Cheers! or Salud!
Kathy's Premium Red Sangria
1 bottle of red wine (something fruity that you would drink on its own.)
2 large tangerines (or juicy/sweet oranges), juiced
1/2 orange, sliced into thin rounds
1/2 orange, peeled and diced into chunks
1/2 lime, juiced
1 medium organic apple, fuji or honeycrisp, diced thin
1/2 cup frozen organic blueberries
1 cup black or red organic grapes, sliced in half
1-2 shots of brandy, high quality
1 cup concord grape juice, organic
1 cup of champagne
1 cup of sparkling apple or San Pelligrino orange soda
*For a lighter alcoholic beverage choose sparkling juice
optional: 2 tsp agave syrup (or vegan sugar)
not optional: lots of love!
1. Prep all your fruit. Slice the apple into tiny diced bits, halve the grapes, slice thin rounds of one 1/2 orange and chop the other 1/2 orange into chunks. Place the apple, grape and orange bits into a large pitcher.
2. Juice your tangerines and lime. Add this juice to the pitcher.
3. Add your brandy to the pitcher. Next, do a swift swirling of the fruit and brandy. This will help the break up the fruit flesh and release those yummy fruit essences.
4. Add the wine and remaining fruit juice to the pitcher. Add in the frozen blueberries - this will help chill your sangria without watering it down. Stir well.
5. Add the sparkling beverage selection, or you can top off each poured glass with a bit of something sparkling, whatever you prefer.
6. Allow your sangria to chill in the fridge for at least a half hour. The sangria fruit flavors will expand and increase as the fruit marinates with the wine. The longer you can let it marinate a few hours before serving, the better. To serve: You can pour it over ice if you'd like, or simply serve cold. Straws are a must. How else can you pick up that yummy fruit to eat. Straws are like sangria chopsticks.