Sangria Made Easy

Summertime cocktails usually aim to be light, refreshing and cold. Sangria is a wine punch invented by the Spanish. It has become a popular beverage, and can frequently be found on summer menus at bars and clubs. Sangria is an excellent choice for parties, dinner or even just lounging around when it is too hot to go outside. This tasty beverage was first made popular in America at the 1964 World’s Fair.

The basic components of sangria are wine, chopped or sliced fruit, a sweetener, and a small amount of spirits. Citrus fruits and berries are used, and the sweetener can be anything from sugar to honey. The spirits used are traditionally brandy, triple sec or some kind of orange liqueur. Red wine is the most commonly used, but sangria can also be made with white wines.

Most recipes recommend using a Spanish wine such as rioja . Wine from any region can be made suitable. The key with the wine is to remember to pick something you could drink on its own. It doesn’t matter if the wine is cheap or expensive, so long as it is tasty to you. Another key step to making delicious sangria is allowing the punch time to meld flavors together. Cut the fruit into thin slices or small chunks. Allow the sangria at least a few hours to settle in the fridge. Sangria improves as it rests and usually keeps for a couple days in refrigeration. Add any ice or carbonated ingredients at the last minute, just before serving. Soda water or seltzer isn’t a required ingredient, but helps lighten up the punch and provides some fizz.

Additional spirits are added to the wine in sangria. Many recipes call for brandy. Almost any kind can be used, from vodka to cognac. Orange liqueurs are often used to compliment the flavors of fruits used in the punch. The amount of alcohol used in each recipe is easy to adjust to taste. Some sangrias are mild, barely alcoholic affairs that impart more of a fruit punch. Others are potent, calling for multiple bottles of wine and spirits.

Sangria is typically served in a large pitcher with all the fruit bits. A pitcher with a lid is best, especially if that lid has a built in strainer to prevent all the fruit slices from tumbling out while you pour drinks. Fruit slices, cherries and frozen grapes make excellent garnishes for sangria if you are in a garnishing mood.

Here are some recipes to get started with:

Classic Summer Sangria

1 750-ml bottle of dry red wine
1 1/2 cups lemon-lime soda (such as 7UP)
1 1/2 cups limeade, lemonade or orange juice
12 lime slices
12 lemon slices
8 orange slices
1/2 cup Cointreau or other orange liqueur
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons grenadine (optional)

Mix sugar, brandy, liqueur, grenadine, juice and fruit slices in a large pitcher. Pour the wine over the fruit mixture. Allow to settle in the fridge for at least an hour or longer. Add the soda and stir just before serving over ice.

Strawberry Peach Sangria

1 750-ml bottle dry white wine
1 1/2 cups Essensia (orange Muscat, a sweet dessert wine)
1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
1 cup peach liqueur
3 peaches, each cut into 12 slices
1 large orange, cut crosswise into 6 slices
1 large lemon, cut crosswise into 6 slices
1/4 cup strawberry syrup (optional)

Mix white wine, Essensia , strawberries, peach liqueur, peaches, orange slices, lemon slices, and strawberry syrup in large pitcher, smashing citrus slices slightly. Let stand at room temperature at least 2 hours or chill up to 4 hours. Serve sangria over ice.

Berry Sangria

1 (750-ml) bottle chilled dry rose wine
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
1/4 cup creme de cassis
1 1/2 cups assorted berries such as blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste

Put berries into a heatproof pitcher. Bring sugar, water, and creme de cassis just to a simmer in a small saucepan, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Pour syrup into heatproof pitcher and let stand 5 minutes. Add wine and lemon juice and stir mixture well. Chill, covered, until ready to serve. Serve over ice.

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