Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Sí, sí sangria!

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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Sí, sí sangria!

The word sangria usually conjures up cheap red wine punch served in a sweaty jug beside Tex-Mex food. If that's your primary image, it's time to switch lenses. Sangria (its name is derived from the Spanish word for "bleeding") has gone through many incarnations since it appeared in North America at the 1964 World's Fair.

Today, there are exotic versions made with everything from sake to lychee fruit, but the appeal of a classic sangria has endured. The standard drink typically features red wine, fruit juice, club soda and an optional splash of brandy or eau-de-vie; however, it can be created with white wine or a rosé. The appeal of this punch is all about the pleasure of crafting a rustic, sweet-tart drink for everyone to share. Whether your gang likes it acidic, boozy, fruity, slightly bitter or sweet, by using the freshest ingredients, the best sangria will be as pleasing to the palate as it is to the eye.

Try these recipes, but also have fun creating your own versions. Do be careful with the "punch" in your punch; it's easy to overdo it. If you make a second version without booze, you'll have a perfect summer cooler for abstainers, designated drivers and kids.

Cool white sangria
The best white sangrias are made with wines that haven't been aged in oak. If the wine is somewhat sweet with residual sugar, reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe. Brandy is fine for a red sangria, but for white versions, stick to clear spirits like eau-de-vie, gin, grappa, tequila or vodka. If you find you can taste the booze, you've added too much. Boost sweetness by using ginger ale in place of club soda and increase bitterness by using tonic water.

2 bottles (each 750 mL) Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris or unoaked Chardonnay
1 cup white grape juice
1/4 cup superfine sugar
1 nectarine, cut into thin wedges
1 tangerine, peeled and thinly sliced
1 cup seedless white grapes, halved
1/4 cup white spirits, like vodka (optional)
1 cup club soda
Ice cubes

In large pitcher, combine wine, grape juice and sugar, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add nectarine, tangerine and grapes; mix well. If you want to pump up the octane, add white spirits. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or longer. Stir in club soda and ice cubes just before serving.

Hot pink
Replace the white wine with a bright pink one. Ideal are the cool-climate rosés from the rapidly expanding wine regions of British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia. Mediterranean offerings from France, Portugal and Spain abound in wine shops at this time of year. Opt for the youngest vintages available. A single drop of pure vanilla extract added to the pitcher provides a wild aromatic nuance. You can also substitute small pineapple cubes or mango slices for the nectarine. For the finishing touch, toss a few raspberries into each ice-filled glass.

Classic red
Since the beginning of time, man's primal attempts to turn wild grapes into Château Mouton Roths child have been softened by the discovery that you can add good things to bad wine and make it reasonably palatable. So start with a rustic red without too much provenance. Mix in orange juice and sugar to taste. Add some orange and lemon slices with the skin on for a hint of pithy bitterness. Stiffen the blend lightly with a flavoury shot of triple sec or another orange-flavoured liqueur and let it stand for several hours in the fridge. Stir in club soda and ice cubes, and serve in ice-filled stemware garnished with a citrus slice. Olé!


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Wine & Spirits

Wine & spirits: Sí, sí sangria!