We’re right in the middle of spring and summer is right around the corner which means it’s time to break out the ice. Put away those tea kettles and mugs and enjoy an ice cold cocktail instead. While you could break out the gin, vodka or even rum, (all liquors I thoroughly enjoy) I like wine. I know, I know… wine… anyone can have wine. It’s easy, most people love it and there’s no mixing needed. Just open the bottle and pour. It doesn’t sound like a cocktail, does it? But believe me, it is. How is wine a cocktail? When it becomes Sangria.
There’s nothing’s better on a hot day than a tall glass of cold Sangria. But you’re probably thinking “Sangria? “That’s not a vintage cocktail. That’s something I order at the Mexican restaurant when I go out to eat.” While that’s true, you may be surprised to discover that Sangria has actually been around for pretty much ever… or at least as long as red wine has existed.
It all started with the early Greeks and Romans who favored the drink, hippocras. Some people even believe hippocras was the father of both Sangria and mulled wine, because it was red wine that was mixed with fruit and a variety of spices. It was drunk everywhere because the water was usually filled with all kinds of bacteria. Remember back then Europeans didn’t have the means for cleaning water that we do today. People would bathe and wash their animals in it. That water was often recycled and so seriously unhealthy. Since it was unsafe, the beverage of choice was Hippocras.
In the 15th and 16th centuries Britain had its own version of Hippocras. It was called Claret and it was a mixture of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot. Once they had this red blend base, brandy, fruit and spices would be added for flavor. This turned into a punch that was served all over Europe. It went by many different names, but in Spain they called it Sangria.
How did Sangria finally make its way over to our side of the pond? Well, it’s believed that we finally got to taste the delicious elixir thanks to New York’s 1964 World’s Fair. See, every country had a spot at the fair and Spain’s spot featured Sangria. Well, every American that passed through just had to have a taste. Ever since Americans have been thirsty for the elixir, and I for one couldn’t be happier for the introduction.
If you’re like me and believe you won’t enjoy the drink because you don’t like red wine, I have a secret to tell you: I don’t like red wine either. I hate merlot, cabernet, malbec… you get the picture. I honestly don’t know how I would have survived the 15th and 16th centuries since it seems red wine was all anyone drank. I don’t like them because they’re just too dry for me. But once you mix that red wine with fruit and brandy, I’m all in. See, I prefer whites over reds because I like the crisp, fruitier tastes that come with a white. Even drier whites, like chardonnay, taste sweeter to me. So, adding fruit to the red wines adds that sweet, fruity flavor I love and immediately gets me back on board with any and all red wine.
If you’re still wary though, the beauty of Sangria is that it can be made with white wine as well. You can even make it with sparkling wine if you like. That’s the great thing about Sangria, it can be made however you choose. If you like red wine, use red. If you like white, use white. If you prefer apples to oranges, that’s okay, too. Depending on the season, I’ll use peaches or nectarines while other times I’ll use lemons and grapes. It’s all about what you enjoy. The most important thing to remember about Sangria though, is that whichever wine you choose, use a good one. Do not use cooking wine or a box. There’s just not enough fruit in the world to make that a palatable concoction.
But you want to know my favorite thing about Sangria? It’s that you can make it year round and have a different flavor every time. In the fall, I use apples and pears. In the winter, citrus is my fruit of choice. Then spring and summer when berries and stone fruits are in season, it’s a smorgasbord of fruity choices. Want to add some depth? During the summer months I follow Michael Chiarello’s lead and grill the fruit to add a smokey flavor. So, since there are plenty of fruit options available, now is the perfect time to grab your favorites and mix up a pitcher of Sangria to enjoy on your own or with friends by the pool.
Grilled Citrus Sangria
- 1 cup of water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 (750 ml) bottle of Rosé
- 1 (750 ml) bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon
- 1 cup seedless champagne grapes
- 2 oranges, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 2 lemons, cut into 1/2-inch slices
- 1 cup brandy
- Stir together the water and sugar in a small sauce pan over high heat until combined. Bring to a boil and cook until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove the syrup from the heat, let cool and set aside.
- Light a charcoal grill. Place the grapes in a grill basket and grill over high heat until they just start to burst, about 5 minutes. Transfer the grapes to a plate to cool.
- Grill the oranges and lemons over high heat, flipping once, until lightly charred, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate to cool.
- Combine the rosé, cabernet, sugar syrup, brandy and grilled fruit together in a large pitcher and stir well. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to overnight. The longer you refrigerate the Sangria, the more the flavors have a chance to blend together and the better the Sangria will be. Serve over ice.
Cocktail photos by Jennifer Richmond
Jennifer Richmond has been cooking ever since she could hold a wooden spoon. Her food blog, Kitchy Cooking, appeared in 2009 when she realized she could combine her love of vintage life with cooking and writing. While she enjoys creating twists on classic savory and sweet recipes, she especially loves learning about the history and recreating vintage cocktails. You can follow her blog at kitchycooking.com and on Instagram and twitter at @kitchycooker.