The Golightly Gourmet: Enjoy the fruits of the summer….in sangria

All this talk of climate change and drought has made me thirsty! I’m off my soapbox and mixing up a drink to quench my thirst. (Can you say short attention span?)


By Dana Zia

I am going to take a left turn here and talk about a very spirited subject instead of a hot one.
I recently attended a very gentle summer birthday party where the sun glimmered through the trees and sparkled off a pitcher of blood red sangria. I was struck with the beauty of this drink with all the fruit of the season floating in it, giving it the quintessential flavor of summer.  No summer is complete without at least one pitcher of sangria to enjoy.
Sangria is a wine punch that was born in Spain, close to the time of Christ’s birth, which is kind of interesting because the word “sangria” means blood, or the color of blood. It is also interesting because the very first beginnings of sangria were from Roman soldiers who invaded the region 200 years earlier and stained the earth red with the blood of the locals.  It was those soldiers that planted the first red grapes that sangria is made from.
The Romans not only introduced grapes to Spain but also their spiced wine that they loved to drink. The water was well known for being as dangerous as the swords of the Romans, so they drank wine instead. It was watered down a bit and spiced heavily with herbs and exotic spices that they just happened to have in their rucksacks. The Spanish got even more creative and added luscious fruits from the area and sangria was born.
As the years went by and the Romans faded back to Rome with their rucksacks full of spices, sangria was made with just fruit.  After all, the Spanish had abundant fruit to spare and into the sangria it went! A lovely wind brought sangria to the shores of America in 1964 where it was served at the World Fair in New York and has been a sensation here ever since.
I highly recommend making your own sangria as it is as easy as falling off a slippery log. The pre-made sangrias are full of corn syrup, other unmentionables and made with poor wine.  It is well understood that a marginal wine can be made better by turning it into sangria but I suggest you use a good wine, not the best, but a good mid-shelf wine to make sangria. The best wines to use are fruity dry wines like zinfandel, Syrah or a Malbec. (I like to use a zinfandel like Clos Du Bois, which is surprisingly good and a great value at around $15 a bottle.) If you want to follow in the steps of the Spanish, try making it with a Tempranillo, Garnacha or a Roija.
Sangria is probably the most adaptable recipe in the world as it takes wine, fruit, fruit juice, a little sweetener and possibly some brandy. Done. Now get creative. You can even make a “sangria blanco” with white wine of your choice. The sky is the limit to experiment with this wonderful wine drink.  I recommend serving it in wine glasses with ice and maybe a sprig of mint. I have shared a couple recipes for you to rift off of or try just as they are.  Enjoy the fruits of the summer….in sangria.

Add berries to your sangria…

Classic Sangria
Makes about 8 servings.
Feel free to add any fruit that is laying around, I added a peach. (no bananas please)
1/2 cup of water
1/4 -1/2 cup of honey (depending on how sweet you want it)
1 bottle of dry red wine such as Syrah or zinfandel
1/2 cup of orange juice (Fresh squeezed is best!)
1/2 cup of brandy
1/2 cup of an orange liqueur like Cointreau or orange curacao
1 orange, cut into wedges, peels on
1 lemon, cut into wedges, peels on
1 lime, cut into wedges, peels on

Add the half cup of water and honey to a small sauce pan and warm up till the honey is completely dissolved. Add that mix and the rest of the ingredients to a pitcher and chill for at least 3 hours and preferably overnight.  Serve over ice, fruit and all.

NW sparkling berry sangria

Makes 12 or so servings. If you want to get really creative, make juice ice cubes the night before by filling an ice cube tray with pear or apple juice and a few berries per ice cube and freeze overnight. If you use these ice cubes in your sangria it will not get watered down. Tricky huh?

1 firm pear, cut into wedges
1 peach, cut into wedges
A couple pints of berries like blackberry, blueberry or strawberries
1 cup of a pear brandy like Clear Creek (Local and delicious!)
1 bottle of a good crisp rosé (Stoller and Ponzi make good ones)
1 bottle of a sparkling wine like prosecco or Lambrusco

Mix the berries, pear, peach, brandy and rosé together in a pitcher and set in the fridge overnight to chill and marry the flavors. When you are ready to serve, pour the bottle of sparkling wine into the pitcher with the brandy mix and serve immediately with ice.

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