What better way to celebrate summer than toasting a sunset with a glass of juicy sangria? This potent wine-based punch originates in Spain and the concoction has become more popular than ever before. Generally, it's a mixture of wine with fruit and a little sweetness, either with sugar or mixing in sweet (and sometimes strong) liqueurs. The mixture is generally steeped over the course of two to three hours to extract the fruit flavor and let the ingredients meld. With thousands of recipes and possible iterations, it seems hard to go wrong when making this cocktail creation, but where to start?
At its most basic, begin with a wine that is pleasant to drink on its own. This may be white, red, rosé, or a mixture of all of the above. Choosing wines that are less than tasty will only hinder the heights your concoction can reach. Select high-quality versions that contain enough natural acidity to keep them from falling flat on the palate. When searching for the perfect bottle for the situation, avoid sticky-sweet or highly aromatic wines and seek out somewhat low-tannin varieties without a large oak presence.
Suggested Red Wine Varieties
Preferred White Wine Varieties
- Pinot Gris (Grigio)
- Pinot Blanc
- Chenin Blanc (such as Vouvray)
- Unoaked Chardonnay (such as Chablis)
Preferred Rosé Styles
- Provencal Rosé
- Pinot Noir Rosé
- Grenache Rosé
- Malbec Rosé
- Sangiovese Rosé
Some recently popular styles of sangria employ the aid of sparkling wines, such as Prosecco, Cava, or Cremant, which are a delightful addition to the traditional sangria profile, but beware, the time it normally takes to sufficiently steep the fruit may end up allowing the precious bubbles to escape from the mixture. If a fruity, yet fizzy sangria is desired, one easy solution is to mix and muddle the other ingredients and allow them to steep in the refrigerator for a period of one to three hours, only mixing in the sparkling wine as a final step just before service. Another option is to mix the sangria but keep it stowed in a pressurized container with a screw cap, such as a plastic soda bottle.
When building a sangria, the fresh fruit is front and center. Select fruits that will best enhance and lift the aroma of the chosen wine and that will resist falling apart, degrading, or adding undesirable pulpy matter to the beverage. Remember that the longer the sangria is allowed to sit, usually the better the flavor, but beware, some ingredients such as citrus may begin to add too much bitterness to the beverage after several hours.
Suggested Fruits for Red Sangria
Suggested Fruits for White or Rosé Sangria
- Green Apple
The next step is to carefully select the sweetener for the sangria. If a lighter, more sessionable beverage is what the day calls for, use simple syrup, maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar to add sweetness and some depth to the drink. For a more cocktail-driven concoction, strengthen and sweeten the pot with the addition of a fruity liqueur or fruit-based brandy for added flavor and oomph. Brandy is the most traditional (and possibly the most potent) fortifier of sangria, though the options abound. If only brandy is to be used, add a bit of one of the non-alcoholic sweeteners mentioned above to create a bit of balance.
Suggested Liquors and Liqueurs for Red Sangria
- Brandy (Spanish Brandy such as Lustau preferred)
- Orange Liqueur (such as Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
- Raspberry Liqueur (such as Chambord)
Suggested Liquors and Liqueurs for White Sangria
- Apple Brandy (such as Calvados or Applejack)
- Elderflower Liqueur (such as St. Germain)
- Maraschino Liqueur (such as Luxardo or Lazzaroni)
- Melon Liqueur (such as Midori)
Steps to Build the Perfect Sangria
The last step is to assemble, steep, and chill the sangria. Generally, sangria is served cold, though the red varieties are occasionally served room temperature. Identify the best pitcher or serving vessel for the job. A wide-mouthed sealable pitcher is preferred, as it allows for the easy addition of all the ingredients. First, pour in the chosen wine (usually one standard 750mL bottle will make about six servings.) Second, if the recipe uses citrus, a handy trick is to first juice some of the citrus into the wine, removing any seeds that may emerge, then add fresh unsqueezed citrus slices with the remaining fruits. Third, add the desired sweetener and/or strengthener to the pitcher.
- As a general rule, 1/4 cup will suffice for a 750mL bottle of wine. If brandy is being used in conjunction with another alcoholic liqueur, add 1/8 cup brandy and 1/8 cup of the other liqueur.
Last, but definitely not least, stir gently for one to three minutes, cover with a lid or plastic wrap, and refrigerate for two to three hours. If citrus is not being used in the recipe, the sangria may steep longer, though stone fruits such as nectarine, peach, and apple may begin to get a bit mealy after soaking for several hours.
Additional Tips and Tricks
Batch It Out Ahead
Sangria is great for parties and entertaining as it benefits from being made ahead. For a large gathering, make several batches and dispense in an attractive lidded container with a pour-spout for easy service.
Spice Things Up
Tired of the same old same, sweet sangria? Add some diced jalapeños, sticks of cinnamon, red pepper flakes, star anise, or even dried chiles to the mix and add a new dimension to the drink!
Keep It Fresh
If a clean fresh twist is what sounds best, why stop at fruit? Fresh veggies and herbs such as cucumber, mint, basil, and cilantro keep things crisp and bright.
“¡Sangría Todo el Dia!”
If entertaining alfresco, frozen fruits and berries are a welcome addition to any pitcher of sangria. They are an easy way to cool things off and add a bit more flavor to the party.
A Bit of Spritz
Looking for a bit of sparkle? Top the sangria with sparkling water, soda, ginger ale, or even grapefruit soda for a little tingle on the tongue.