The Origins of Sangria
On a hot summer day, out on the patio or deck, or barbequing with friends who doesn’t love a refreshing glass of Sangria? Ever wonder how sangria came to be such a crowd pleaser? Sangria has its origins on the Iberian Peninsula, when around 300 B.C. the conquering Romans brought grapes vines with them to make wine in all of the lands they expected to occupy for millennia. They liked to bring the comforts of home with them wherever they went. Sangria is generally believed to have sprung from the southern region of Andulasia in Spain. The Romans brought red grape vines as they believed it made superior wine. It was the custom for the soldiers to refresh themselves with local wine soaked in the citrus fruits that Andalusia was famous for. The word sangria comes from the Spanish word sangre which means blood and refers to the wine’s red color. Another source claims the Sanskrit sakkari, or sugared wine as the root of sangria.
So the Spanish had been keeping this drink as their own little secret for centuries. The only real requirements for sangria are red wine and fruit, served well-chilled. Some recipes call for brandy, or sugar, or seltzer to be added in as well. When white wine is used it is called sangria blanca, or clerico in Argentina. When peaches and nectarines are used in the southern part of Spain it is called zurra. There are many recipes for the drink and several are included below. In 1964 the Spanish finally let the secret out and introduced sangria to the United States at the World’s Fair in New York, where they served it in their pavilion at the Taberna Marisqueria. It was an instant hit.
All sangria recipes call for the steeping of fruit in the wine for several hours, preferably overnight to let the flavors of the fruit and wine marry together before serving well-chilled, and over ice. This beverage does not require the finest red wine. In fact it is the perfect use for the old-fashioned gallon jug of Carlo Rossi sangria or E&J Gallo especially if you are making a big batch to serve a lot of people. For a sangria with more depth try a Spanish Tempranillo, or a bold full-bodied Zinfandel. Any red wine can be used. Just be sure to keep the oak influence to a minimum. It doesn’t play well with the fruit. For a white sangria use a white Rioja or Pinot Grigio, or chardonnay (careful of the oak). A Riesling or Gewurztraminer adds a little extra sweetness. Make sure to make the sangria in a large wide-mouthed pitcher or punch bowl so that you can scoop some of the fruit into each glass. Voilà, instant party!
1964 World’s Fair Sangria Recipe
1 bottle of red Spanish wine
2 tbsp. sugar
1 lemon, cut into slices
½ orange, cut into slices
1 oz. Spanish brandy
1 oz. Cointreau
2 cups ice cubes
1 cup cold club soda
Several hours – over the night before pour wine into large pitcher. Add sugar and mix well. Stir in lemon and orange slices, brandy, and Cointreau. Chill until ready to serve then add ice cubes and club soda. Mix only to chill well.
Basic Red Wine Sangria
The basic sangria recipe is in fact very basic:
1 bottle red wine
1 shot (or two) of brandy or other liquor
juice of 1 lime or lemon
assorted chopped fruit
The fruit you choose will depend on your tastes, but the idea is to use things that will soak up the alcohol and give their own juices to the mixture. Strawberries, grapes, peaches, oranges, kiwi, mango and melon are all good choices.
Mix all the ingredients together and chill. If you can leave this overnight, that would be great, but even a few hours to chill the whole thing down and get the flavors mixed together will be helpful.
To serve, pour some of the sangria and put some pieces of fruit in the glass. Avoid using wines that have too much oak influence.
2 bottles of dry white wine
½ cup tequila
2 cups cold club soda
3 oranges, cut into slices
3 limes, cut into slices
3 lemons, cut into slices
1 ½ cups sugar
Put sliced fruit into a punch bowl. Pour in the sugar and tequila. Let the mixture stand overnight, or at least for several hours. Add ice, pour in the two bottles of wine, add club soda and mix.
Red, White, and Blue Sangria
Recipe from Kim Haasarud’s “101 Sangrias and Pitcher Drinks,” (Wiley, 2008)
Start to finish: 15 minutes (plus at least 4 hours chilling)
Servings: About 7
1 bottle dry white wine
1/2 cup triple sec
1/4 cup citrus- or berry-flavored vodka
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup simple syrup*
3/4 cup blueberries
3/4 cup hulled and sliced strawberries
3/4 cup raspberries
1/2 cup pineapple chunks
Combine all ingredients in a large glass punch bowl or pitcher and stir well. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours. Serve over ice.
*To make simple syrup (the sweetener used in many sangria recipes), combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a small saucepan, then heat until the sugar is dissolved. Cool completely before using.
For those watching their sugar intact:
Low Sugar Sangria – with Agave Nectar
1 Bottle of red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Rioja reds, Zinfandel, Shiraz)
1 Lemon cut into wedges
1 Lime cut into wedges
1 Orange cut into wedges
3/4 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
2/3 cups Agave nectar
2 cups sparkling water or club soda
Pour wine in the pitcher and squeeze the juice wedges from the lemon, orange and lime into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges (leaving out seeds if possible) then add agave nectar. Chill overnight. Add sparkling water or club soda, raspberries and ice just before serving. If you’d like to serve right away, use chilled red wine and serve over lots of ice. However, remember that the best Sangrias are chilled around 24 hours prior to serving. – allowing the flavors to really marinate.
White Sangria – Zurra
1 Bottle of white wine (Riesling, Albarino, Chablis, Gewurztraminer, Rioja, Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc)
1/2 cup Peach Schnapps
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (depending on how sweet you prefer your Sangria)
2 sliced peaches (frozen peach slices work well)
1 sliced orange
1/2 mango peeled and sliced
1/2 liter of ginger ale
Pour wine and Schnapps in the pitcher and add sliced peach, orange, and mango. Next add sugar and stir gently. Chill mixture for at least one hour. Add ginger ale or club soda just before serving. If you’d like to serve your Sangria right away, use chilled white wine and ginger ale and serve over lots of ice.
Addition ideas: sliced strawberries, a handful of fresh raspberries, kiwi slices, a shot or two of triple sec, a cup of citrus soda pop.
For the strawberry lover:
1 Bottle of Rosé wine (to keep to the Spanish origins of sangrias you may opt for a Rosé from Spain, a Rosado)
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 cups strawberry lemonade
1 cup sliced strawberries (may use frozen strawberries in a pinch)
2 cups ginger ale
Pour wine in the pitcher and add sliced strawberries. Next add sugar, strawberry lemonade and stir gently. Add ginger ale and ice just before serving.