I’ve always loved throwing together dinner on my own rather than using a recipe. Thinking about flavors and how they complement each other is inspirational and especially fun when using fresh ingredients. For the last few years I’ve enjoyed applying this creativity and knowledge to cocktail crafting.
Through writing about wine for a variety of sites, I’ve gotten to understand sangria on an impressive level and it’s probably my favorite canvas. Today, I’m going to teach you what sangria is, provide a starter sangria recipe and share tips and tricks for making sure your next sangria (and every batch after that) is your best sangria.
What Is Sangria?
If you’ve read any of the articles I’ve written about sangria you’ve heard this before: it’s not just wine with fruit. Sangria is far more complex and includes several components that make it one of our favorite pitcher drinks. Sure, you could throw some wine in your fruit, but believe me: when you take the time to construct a sangria according to how it is traditionally made, you will get next level drinks.
What You Need
To make sangria you’ll need a pitcher, I prefer glass or pyrex: the visual is part of the experience. Then there are five things you need to make a basic pitcher of sangria: wine, sweetener, fruit, liquor and juice.
You can use white, red, orange or rosé. The wine can be sparkling or still. Or frizzante, if you have a favorite (I’m thinking Lambrusco and already creating my next pitcher). There are only two rules when it comes to selecting wine. First, you should pick a fruity, acidic wine. Avoid anything with flavors like leather, barnyard and smoke. Second, use a wine you’d drink on its own. The days of making plonk more palatable by adding fruit are over.
You can go with white sugar — a bit more on that in a minute — or anything else you’d use to sweeten: brown sugar, honey, plain or flavored molasses, agave or maple syrup. The possibilities are limitless. Two rules here, just like with selecting a wine. First, do not use plant-based powdered sweeteners. They can impart a bitter taste to your sangria. Be sure you’ve tasted the sweetener you use to avoid ruining your batch. Second, if you wish to use granulated white or brown sugar, do not put it in your sangria raw. Make a simple syrup instead by mixing equal parts sugar and water and heating. Remove from the heat once the solution is clear.
The sky’s the limit! I personally love berries in my sangria but apples, citrus fruit, stone and tropical fruit work, too. Honestly, the only fruit I’d avoid are bananas. And tomatoes if you consider them a fruit. Keep to fresh fruit and make sure it is clean. Shopping at your local farmers market means you’ll get seasonal, super fresh fruit.
For a standard batch of sangria, you’ll probably use light rum. As you get creative think about using flavored liqueurs that match or pair well with the fruit you’re using. Pom is an excellent choice in most sangria. Many people use Triple Sec, an orange liqueur. Avoid cream-based liqueurs like Bailey’s.
Use fruit juice that matches the flavors in your sangria. You can also use lemon lime soda or fruit seltzer.
Sangria is simple to make in a pitcher with very little measuring. There’s a range for most ingredients, so play around with the flavors to find out how much you like of each.
- Wine: 1 bottle
- Sweetener: ⅛-¼ cup
- Fruit: 1-2 cups
- Liquor/Liqueur: ½-¼ cup
- Juice: ¼-½ cup
Putting It Together
The process I follow is simple, but be sure to take note of the next section with advice for chilling and mixing, especially when you’re using anything carbonated.
- Put the fruit and wine into a pitcher. If you’re using sparkling wine, start at step 3.
- Stir gently to avoid muddling the fruit.
- Add the liqueur and juice, unless it is carbonated.
- Give it another gentle stir.
- Add sweetener.
- Stir and cover the pitcher.
- Leave in the fridge overnight or for at least 4 hours.
- Add ice to pitcher before serving.
Tips & Tricks For Making Sangria
Save carbonated components for right before serving. If you’re using seltzer or soda save it for last. The best way to add this is by adding it to servingware first (split the required amount between glasses) and then pouring the sangria over it. If you want to add it to the pitcher, be very gentle when mixing so that you keep the bubbles.
Get Insta-worthy ice by boiling the water twice before freezing. That’s right! Boil the water. Boiling removes minerals and impurities. Boiling it twice makes sure you don’t miss anything. Start with very cold water from the tap and boil it in a kettle or pot. Allow it to cool (preferably covered) and then boil it again.
Presentation counts, so go for it. From glasses to garnish, sangria is a drink that should look good. Serve it in a clean glass pitcher, pick nice glasses (mason jars are still always a good idea), and garnish. You don’t have to go overboard, but your drink should have at least one accoutrement. If you are doing self serve sangria, throw some garnish on the table for an added touch.
Make Sangria With The Oethical Oenologist!
On Friday, 4 August, 2017 at 4 pm I’ll be going *LIVE* on Instagram to teach you how to make sangria. I’ll make one of my best sangria recipes and take you through each step so that you can make your own at home.