Even lately with a couple of wonderful Mexican-themed restaurants opening in the area, like Johnny Sanchez, joining a few other good Mexican-Spanish establishments, like Lola's and Mayas, those fine outlets have not been able to do much to improve the miserable reputation of sangria.
It’s not sangria’s fault that its public persona is sullied. In fact, it’s quite well deserved. Last September in this space, we tried to communicate the potential for sangria to become a desired go-to beverage choice. I have to accept that one column could not hope to begin the erasure of a long-time, properly earned reputation of truly awful wine cocktails. It’s humbling to note that I never even made a dent in the public perception of sangria not being very good and I really don’t blame any of you.
More than a few terrible sangria experiences sully the entire category. Hell, I’m with ya’ on that. The choice between a margarita, a mojito and a sangria is no choice at all. When you stand a 67 percent of getting something you will like, and the drink behind Door #3 has disappointed you on countless occasions, then go with the odds. New Orleanians are not dummies when it comes to alcohol.
But particularly this time of year, an ice cold blend of wines and fruit should have us all standing in line. Sno-ball stand kinds of lines. That, however, is not the case. And the reasons, at least to my understanding, are:
- Sangria is too darn sweet.
- Sangria is completely uninteresting and without character
- Sangria tastes cheap
- Fruit floating in purple wine is not visually appealing. Orange and purple are colors that never go together, and drinks or foods that incorporate those colors are usually confined to sweet items around Halloween, which we ingest to be polite to the party’s hostess.
The solutions are relatively simple, addressing the above order in order:
- Quit adding sugar to a drink that has plenty of it already, what with the wine, the fruit and that insipid 7Up that Uncle Ned likes.
- Use better wine as opposed to something that just happens to be left over from the family’s Easter celebration.
- See previous comment.
- Do something fun with the fruit first, like peeling it or soaking it in 151.
I am putting so much effort into this because I think sangria can be fun, even good. Take a mildly spritzy wine, like Vinho Verde, and let that stuff pep up the DOA sangria you usually make. Then, cut back on the ginger ale, no sweetener, no fruit rinds and don’t lose the juice of the fruit – add it in.
As for ice, use big blocks, not tiny cubes or pieces. Do not dilute the drink with water from melted-too-fast ice. Water and wine are great together for religious ceremonies. They don’t do well for fun cocktails.
So, hopefully, by this time I have convinced you to give this style of “batched” beverage another go. Your creative juices should be flowing and now’s the time for action.
Please note that all the recipes below include some suggestion of sugar. Prepare your sangria with no sugar, then if you feel the need for more sweet, do so to your taste but only a little bit of sugar at a time. Also keep in mind that sangria is a free-form pursuit. Be inventive and adventuresome. Sorry for the interruption.
Suggested by Kenzie Wilbur – Featured in Food 52
(Serves 4 to 6)
- 1 bottle of mid-range red wine
- ½ cup liquor (I like a mix of brandy and orange liqueur, like Triple sec — and you're welcome to use a bit more than 1/2 cup)
- 2 peaches, sliced (or swap for something seasonal)
- ½ cup strawberries, sliced (or swap for something seasonal)
- 1 lemon, scrubbed and sliced
- 2 tablespoons sugar, or to taste (optional)
- Sparkling water
Mix the wine with the liquor, add fruit and lemon slices, and add sugar to taste. (Or leave it out entirely.) Put in the fridge for up to a day but at least for a few hours.
Fill glasses with ice, add sangria (making sure to get a piece or two of fruit in each glass), and top off with sparkling water.
Rosé Sangria with White Peaches and Cucumber
By eatlovedrink – Featured in Food 52
- 750 milliliters (1 bottle) rosé
- 0.5 lemon, thinly sliced
- 0.25 cucumber, thinly sliced
- 2 white peaches, sliced
- 2 tablespoons simple syrup
- 0.25 liters club soda (or, a splash per glass)
Pour the wine, fruit and simple syrup into a pitcher. Let sit for 1 hour to let the flavors meld.
Pour into in wine glasses, juice glasses, rocks glasses, pool-side appropriate plastic glasses…whatever you like. Top off each glass with a splash of soda water.
Stone Fruit Sangria
As featured on The Chic
- 2 apricots, halved, pitted, and sliced into small wedges
- 1 nectarine, halved, pitted, and sliced into small wedges
- 1 peach, halved, pitted, and sliced into small wedges
- 1 plum, halved, pitted, and sliced into small wedges
- 1 bottle, 750 ml, of rosé wine.
- 1/4 cup peach brandy, or peach liqueur (go easy here. Taste first)
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar (go easy here. Taste first.)
- 2 cups club soda
In a large pitcher, combine sliced apricot, nectarine, peach. Add wine, peach brandy, and sugar. Stir to combine. Cover pitcher with lid or plastic wrap. Let chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes (or up to 8 hours).
Before serving, add club soda. If desired, sugar the rims of glasses. Add ice and pour in sangria. Finish with mint leaves for garnish and added color.
Watermelon – Raspberry Sangria
As featured on Pip & Ebby
- Two 6-oz. containers fresh raspberries
- 1/4 of a seedless watermelon, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/4 cup raspberry liqueur
- Two 750ml bottles sauvignon blanc wine
Place the raspberries and watermelon into the bottom of a large serving pitcher. Pour the raspberry liqueur and wine over the top. Chill for a minimum of 2 hours. Serve chilled, making sure the fruit is incorporated into the glasses.
Most of these sangrias benefit from some “steeping” time but to construct any of them it should take no more than 15 minutes. And the serving numbers may not apply to that special group of drinkers known as New Orleanians. More product is going to have to be made. But you knew that.
Read Happy Hour here on MyNewOrleans.com every Wednesday, and listen to The Dine, Wine and Spirits Show, hosted by Tim, every weekday, 3:00 – 5:00 p.m. on WGSO 990AM and streamed at www.wgso.com. Also check out Last Call, Tim’s photo feature every month in New Orleans Magazine.