Is anyone else having as busy of a holiday season as I am? I’ve traveled from coast to coast, been all over the state of North Carolina and have seen more family and friends than I did at my wedding. I’m hitting that point where all I want to do is relax and enjoy the remainder of my vacation with a tasty cocktail in my hand. Preferably a cocktail that’s easy to make. If it comes in a pitcher that would be pretty cool too. Sangria, anyone?
Sangria is really, really easy to make. It’s also really fun to play around with. If you have some leftover fruit you need to use, or a couple cups of fruit juice you want out of the fridge, or your friends gave you 2 bottles of cabernet when you only drink pinot noir, sangria is the answer.
First, you start off with two bottles of wine. Some people will tell you to use something sweet like a moscato or something light and fruity like a pinot noir. I disagree completely. I like a more full bodied wine such as a cabernet or shiraz. If I’m using white I tend to lean toward chardonnay or a sauvignon blanc. My theory is that the purpose of the wine is to add flavor, so use something that will come through all the other fruits. Otherwise this is just alcoholic fruit juice, although even I’ll admit that’s not necessarily a bad thing. if you want to sweeten sangria, just use some old-fashioned sugar.
You’re gonna need a whole mess of fruit. In the South “a whole mess” is a very technical term, although, I’m not entirely confident I can translate it. What you see here in this photo is roughly what you want for one batch of sangria. You also need fruit juice – about 1 cup of juice for 2 bottles of wine. I used apple juice for this recipe, but this is where the fun comes in. Try playing around with stuff like peach nectar, pomegranate or pineapple juice.
Now it’s time to add in your fruit. Here’s another place to get creative., but you need to take into account the color of your wine here. For red wine, you can almost add anything, but I like to throw in some berries and oranges since those flavors really compliment red wines. Keep in mind that if you add berries to white wine it might muddle the color of the sangria. Things like apples, grapes, peaches or kiwi tend to go better with the white wine and come out with a prettier presentation.
Lemons and limes are nearly mandatory regardless of what type of wine you use. You’ll see a lot of recipes that call for lemon lime soda. I guess in a pinch this will work fine, although I will argue until I’m blue in the face that real fruit will taste better. Just trust me on this one.
I also like to add a liquer to sangria just to give a little kick. Although I’m using a pretty basic triple sec in this recipe, I strongly recommend going with a Cointreau or some other higher-quality fruity liquer for flavor. The above photo is the result of cooking away from home and on a bank account that has been drained from Christmas shopping- it still turned out quite delicious anyway.
If you’re making a red sangria, you must, must, must, MUST add cinnamon sticks. I also added cloves cause I had some on hand, but really all you need are cinnamon sticks. If you can, add these to the serving glasses when you’re done. “Too much cinnamon” is a phrase I have NEVER heard when someone is drinking red sangria. If I had heard it I probably would have started to ignore the person immediately since I don’t associate with crazy people.
Once you’ve combined everything in a big pitcher it’s time to stir in some sugar. Here’s the thing – you can always add more sugar later, so start slow. I would start off with half the amount of sugar the recipe calls for, let it sit for 2 hours, stir, and then taste. If you want more, add it. If you’re like me and don’t like super-sweet sangria, you might be okay right where it is.
The other key to sangria is to let it marinate a while. Eight hours is good, overnight is even better. This is one reason why I think sangria is an awesome party drink – you can make it the day before and then have it chilled and waiting in the fridge when people come over. Also, I think people assume there’s some sort of magic involved with making good sangria, when it couldn’t be easier.
Trust me, although there are certain ingredients I prefer over others, it is going to be really hard to use these guidelines and end up with a bad sangria.
It might even be impossible.
If you tell me you managed to make a bad sangria, I probably won’t believe you, FYI.
Basic Red Sangria
2 750ml bottles red wine
1 cup apple juice
2 oranges, each cut into 8 wedges
2 cups chopped strawberries
1 lemon, cut into 8 wedges
1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
2/3 cup triple sec or orange-flavored liquer
½ cup sugar
3 cinnamon sticks
4 whole cloves
Combine all of the ingredients together in a large pitcher. Allow to chill for 8 hours or overnight. Remove cloves and cinnamon sticks (you can put the cinnamon sticks in serving glasses if you want). Serve over ice and enjoy!