Tropical Summers DEMAND Cool and Refreshing
Time for Sangria
Yes, you have told everyone you know that high heat combined with high humidity is not all that bad. And that you get used to it. And that we have air conditioning everywhere.
So a New Orleans summer is “simply not that bad.”
But deep down, you know the truth. It’s hot. It’s uncomfortable. You will take relief wherever you can find it. Indoors. Under an umbrella. By the pool, or in it. Or lying on your back on a tile floor with no clothes on (did I say that out loud?).
For a wine lover, the summer brings particular challenges and opportunities. Suddenly a cold beer in a frosty mug sounds pretty good. Or an overchilled white wine that causes condensation on the glass makes for a nice mental image. Heavy reds are not as appealing, nor are complicated, over-alcoholic fruit bombs.
Maybe I have an interesting solution for you, and maybe you are just going to immediately question my sanity.
There, I’ve said it. The drink we all know, and pretty much don’t like. Too sweet and too simple. Fruit floating in cheap wine, with ice cubes and sugar added. No fun there.
However, in my defense, there are ways of making a pitcher of Sangria that will have your wine-geek guests coming back for a second helping, and this time they’ll take a full glass, not just a sip to be polite.
Sangria is really a fun wine cocktail that Americans have managed to completely screw up. We tend to use wines that are cheap, add way too much sugar, dump in carbonated water, over-do the fruit, and don’t use enough ice.
The drink was created in Portugal and Southern Spain, and the name of the drink means “bloody.” We don’t have to dwell on that. This is a punch drink, but if you choose your ingredients with care, the natural sugars of the wines, maybe some orange juice, and the fresh fruit will be all the sweetness you need. Put away the 5-lb bag of Domino’s.
Don’t take a shortcut in making Sangria. Don’t buy a packaged mix and then proceed to “doctor” it up. You cannot take out of the prepared product what they have added in, and that is a large quantity of sugar.
One of the great things about Sangria is that the drink just begs for creativity. Try your own recipes and your own ingredients. Experiment.
The basic Sangria recipe involves Spanish red wine, maybe even two types. One can be slightly sweeter than the other, but both should be of decent quality. Nothing too extravagant, but you have to begin with fine ingredients to attain a decent outcome.
If the wine costs less than $10, I would move up a little in price to get better juice. There is also white sangria, made with Spanish white wines, such as Albariño. Quite a nice contrast to the red, and quite a presentation when both are side by side.
Then you need sliced fruit. The bigger the sliced pieces, the more dramatic the presentation. Oranges, peaches, lemons, apples, bananas are all excellent. Be very generous with the fruit in the pitcher.
At this point, some folks add tonic water or carbonated water. Don’t. Try a Spanish Cava, a sparkling wine from the area outside of Barcelona. If you want it a bit sweeter, then purchase an Extra Dry. If you like your drinks not on the sweet side, go for a Brut.
Class your new creation up a bit: add a half a cup of Grand Marnier per pitcher. Really puts something into the drink.
Set the whole thing in the refrigerator for a few hours before serving. Let all the ingredients mingle and get to know each other.
Before serving, add ice to the pitcher. Be certain all of your guests get a nice portion of the fruit with their glass of Sangria.
Honestly, you can’t mess up Sangria, although some large manufacturers of the packaged stuff did. If you feel more sugar is needed, add fruit or more Grand Marnier. This time of year, there is no end to the fresh fruit you can add. If it’s too sweet, add more wine or cava.
Even your wine snob friends will enjoy the refreshing and cool taste of your Sangria, the wine punch practically invented for New Orleans’ summers.