Food for Thought
Sí, Sangria! The allure of Spain's wonderfully easy drink & Central Marketlessons on how to make it
I once spent most of one summer on the patio of Taco Milagro, enjoying the fountains, watching people and sipping big glasses of cold sangria.
I have no idea why I did this and no idea why I stopped doing this.
Except for my typical excuse, which is that there are too many new places opening that make us forget about our old haunts.
Anyway, now is the perfect time to dream of languid afternoons on patios with chilled fruity wine.
Or, you can pop by Central Market’s Passport Spain fiesta. This event, featuring all things edible and drinkable that are Spanish, will hold 20-minute sangria tastings and demos in the produce department from 1-2 p.m. Sunday and from 3-4 p.m. Friday. If you’ve never made your own, this is the perfect way to learn.
Or, you can just swing by the Central Market wine aisles and grab a bottle of Reál Sangria. Yes, it comes ready made for you lazy people.
“We carry that all year long,” Central market beer & wine guru Justin Vann says. “I can understand people are in a hurry and want some already made, but I would really encourage you to try and make your own sometime.
"it’s as easy as dumping some fruit and juice into wine.”
Sangria has been a staple in Spain for centuries, became popular in other Latin countries and is now sipped almost globally. It came to America via the 1964 World’s Fair in New York were it was served in the Spanish Pavilion, although I’m guessing lots of Spanish immigrants were making it here long before that. Traditionally, it’s a wine punch made with a red wine from the tempranillo and garancha varieties, chilled and mixed with fruit and juice.
Probably it was created to make cheap Spanish wines taste better, or make the wine last longer, or just to let folks drink all day without getting too drunk. I’m convinced that last one was why the ancient Greeks watered their wine, which they often began drinking at breakfast time.
But seriously, the beauty of sangria is that you can open the fridge and whip up a pitcher with pretty much anything you can find in there.
“It’s like gumbo,” Vann says. “Everyone’s got their own recipe.”
Vann’s a little picky about his recipe, using a high acid wine and adding Grand Marnier (or another orange liqueur) to boost the booze factor along with orange juice, preferably from blood oranges and fresh fruit.
But other folks add rum, brandy, vodka, club soda or ginger ale. Some add sugar. And instead of orange slices you can toss in grapes, berries, chunks of melon, peaches or limes. Some add spices like nutmeg or cinnamon or even dried chile peppers to the mix. See what I mean?
You probably have something in your fridge right now that you can make sangria with, seriously. Go right now and look. No. Wait. Sit. Go after you finish reading this. Unless you’re reading this on an iPhone in which case feel free to multitask.
Purist insist on red wine, but personally, I love to whip up a batch of sangria blanca using a cheap white wine with white grapes and chunks of honeydew and peaches and white grape juice. Although you really should chill the mixture for an hour or two before serving, if desperate you can also just add ice to the pitcher. It makes an amazingly light drink for a hot afternoon or pool party. That bottled Reál Sangria even came out with a white wine version last year.
But back to making your own, because I fear that bottled sangria probably tastes about as good as the canned daiquiris my grandma used to pick up at convenience stores in Florida. Yes, she did. Really.
OK, some recipes call for making watermelon sangria with white or a rose wine, which sounds like summertime in a glass to me. Oh, yeah.
And Vann has tipped me off to something new.
“I’d definitely encourage you to try sangria made with a sparkling wine,” he says.
So excuse me while I dash off to pick up a nice inexpensive cava and some melons and grapes. I could invite you over to the pool tomorrow for a swim and some sips. Or, I could just save it all for myself. Heh.
1/2 oz. brandy
1 bottle Torres de Sangre de Toro Rouge (wine)
1 qt. orange juice
1 qt. pineapple juice
1/2 cup sugar
Assorted sliced fruit (e.g. oranges, limes, strawberries and peaches)
Combine all ingredients except fruit and refrigerate for two hours. Serve chilled with sliced fruit garnish. Serve your sangria in a punch bowl or pottery pitcher and be sure and ladled it with a non-slotted spoon so you can dish up fruit chunks in each glass. This recipe serves 10 people.
Or one really, really thirsty person.