Sangria: 'Best of both worlds'

The popular Spanish drink, a wine/cocktail hybrid, is easy to make at home.

In Spain, the locals mix their own wine and fruit concoctions to drink at home, leaving it to the tourists to order in bars. But in Spanish- and Latin-themed restaurants here, sangria is one of the most popular drinks.

Blake Joffe, the chef at Bar Ferdinand, said that on a given Saturday night, patrons at the Spanish tapas restaurant in Northern Liberties might go through 50 quarts of sangria, the popular white or red wine punch.

"People won't even look at the drink menu," he said. They'll just say 'I'll get a sangria.' "

Three varieties of sangria are stored in five-gallon drums behind the bar at Amada, the tapas restaurant in Old City. On a busy weekend night, beverage manager Kevin Lundell said, each of those drums is emptied and changed out once or even twice. Explaining the drink's wide popularity, Lundell said it "provides the best of both worlds."

"It's somewhere in between wine and a cocktail," he said. "You have the fun elements of the fruit-based cocktail, but also the complexity of wine."

The traditional Spanish drink typically mixes wine, cut-up fruit, brandy or other spirits, a sweetening agent such as sugar or honey, and carbonated soda.

Bar Ferdinand offers a red-based sangria, which Joffe said includes blackberry brandy, Gran Gala, and vanilla, but no spices to mask the flavor, and a tasty, slightly sweeter white version with apricot brandy the restaurant calls "Claricot" after a similar white wine punch from Argentina.

"Sangria means blood, so when we were developing a white recipe we didn't want to call it white sangria," Joffe said. "That's an oxymoron."

Amada's red sangria includes a mix of cinnamon and pepper and allspice, to bring out the spices in the wine, Lundell said. In addition to the red and white versions offered year round, Amada mixes a third variety called "Sangria Temporado," which changes seasonally. The summer temporado includes ginger and peaches; the fall mix is expected to add apples and spice.

Introduced to the United States at the "Spanish World" pavilion of the 1964 World's Fair in New York, sangria quickly became a popular drink to serve at home or order out, having been adopted as a native drink by many Spanish, Latin American, Caribbean and Mediterranean restaurants.

In Philadelphia, the Latin/Mediterranean restaurant Valanni offers a watermelon sangria, while the French Mediterranean Patou serves traditional red and white versions. Alma de Cuba's Sangria de Cuba is a mix of wine, brandy and pureed fruit.

Historically, sangria is an outgrowth of red wine punches that were popular at parties throughout Europe in the 1700 and 1800s. Also known as "claret cup punch," the drink had a base of a red claret wine, usually a French bordeaux or Spanish rioja, with brandy and fruit added. In Catalonia, Spain's Cava region, a sparkling wine version called "zurra" was created, adding sliced peaches rather than the traditional apples, oranges and lemons.

Throughout Spain and Portugal today, sangria remains largely a celebratory drink served at private events or in the home. You can usually spot the tourists in Spanish bars - they're the ones ordering sangria, which is more likely to be tinto de verano (translated as "red wine of summer"), a mix of wine and soda or lemonade, passed off on unknowing tourists as sangria, and charged accordingly.

But it's easy to emulate the Spaniards and make it at home. Both Joffe and Lundell suggest starting with a good table wine, preferably a Spanish rioja.

After adding the second (or even third) optional liqueur, the sugar or honey, and sliced fruit to the wine, the mixture should be put in the refrigerator to chill for at least two hours, or even overnight. If you wish to add soda, do it just before serving so the soda doesn't go flat.

For those who say they get hangovers from drinking sangria, the culprit is not cheap wine, nor the mixing of wine, liquor and soda. The problem is how easily it goes down.

"I'll hear people at the tables say, 'I can't taste the booze,' which is good because it means we've made a well-balanced recipe. But it's all booze in there," Lundell said. "That's my one caveat. It might taste like fruit punch, but you're drinking a very strong drink."


Sangria Blanco

Makes 8 to 10 servings

2 bottles dry white wine

1/2 cup peach brandy

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 lime, sliced

3 fresh peaches, pitted and sliced, but not peeled

1/2 cup fresh raspberries

1. Combine the wine, brandy, and sugar and stir.

2. Add the lime and peaches, then set in the refrigerator for two hours.

3. Add the raspberries just before serving, and pour the drink over ice.

- From the New Food Lovers' Companion Cookbook by Sharon Tyler Herbst, (Barron's)


Sangria Tinto

Makes 6 to 7 servings

2 oranges, cut in wedges

2 pears, cut in cubes

2 apples, cut in cubes

1 bottle dry red wine

3/4 cup spiced simple syrup, see note

1/3 cup orange liqueur

1/2 cup club soda

1. Mix the wine, spiced syrup and liqueur, then refrigerate.

2. To serve, ladle 1 cup of the fruit mixture into a pitcher and cover with the wine mixture. Top with 1/2 cup club soda. Ladle more fruit mixture into glasses filled with ice and pour the sangria over the top.

- Adapted from Amada Restaurant's recipe

Note: Soak the fruit in advance in a simple syrup (equal parts water and sugar that have come to a boil) and ¼ cup brandy. Keep soaking the fruit in the refrigerator until ready to serve. To make spiced simple sugar, combine 3/4 cup sugar and 3/4 cup water and bring to a boil, adding 10 peppercorns, 6 whole cloves, 1/2 teaspoon red chile flakes, 2 cinnamon sticks, 1/2 teaspoon allspice. Allow to cool before adding to the mixture.


Claricot

Makes 8-10 servings

2 bottles (750 ml) of white wine

3 ounces orange juice

2 ounces apricot brandy

2 ounces GranGala (orange liqueur)

Fruit: 1/2 honeydew melon cut up in pieces

2 lemons, sliced

2 to 3 oranges, sliced

1/2 pint of strawberries, sliced

1. Cut up the fruit and place in a deep pitcher.

2. Mix the wine, orange juice and liqueurs and pour over the cut-up fruit.

3. Put the pitcher in the refrigerator and chill for at least two hours.

4. Serve over ice, with an optional splash of soda water.

- Adapted from Bar Ferdinand's recipe


Sicilian Sangria

Makes 7 servings

1 bottle Italian red wine

1 cup orange juice

1/2 cup orange curacao

1/4 cup simple syrup (see note)

2 blood oranges, cut into wedges

1 white peach, cut into wedges

1 lime, cut into half-wheels

Prosecco (Italian sparkling wine), as needed

1. Place all of the ingredients except the Prosecco in a large ceramic or glass container and stir well.

2. Cover and refrigerate for at least four hours (best if overnight).

3. Serve over ice in wine glasses. Garnish with additional fruit if desired. Top with a splash of Prosecco and stir.

- From Sangrias & Pitcher Drinks, by Kim Haasarud (2008, Wiley)

Note: To make simple syrup, combine one cup sugar with one cup hot water and stir or shake until the sugar is completely disolved. Let cool before using.


Watermelon Sangria

Makes 7 servings

1 bottle dry white wine

3/4 cup watermelon schnapps

1/2 cup white cranberry juice

2 cups freshly scooped watermelon balls

2 limes, cut into half-wheels

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a large ceramic or glass container and stir well.

2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

3. Serve over ice

- From Sangrias & Pitcher Drinks, by Kim Haasarud (2008, Wiley)