Friday, August 7, 2009

Friday Night Cocktail

In our little corner of Southern California, the weather has been divine the last couple of days. Sunny, with a mild breeze, big white puffy clouds coasting across the sky...perfect for sitting out on the patio with a good book and a glass of sangria.

Despite it's morbid name (sangria means "bloody" in Italian), this is a delightfully refreshing and genteel beverage. Originating in Spain, it is said that the U.S. got its first taste of this wine punch at the 1964 World's Fair in New York, where the Spanish World pavilion served it to thirsty visitors.

While recipes and methods vary widely, the very basics of sangria are wine and fruit juice. Sliced fresh fruit is a common (and wonderful) addition. Some people add a sweetener, such as honey or simple sugar syrup. Other optional ingredients are brandy to give it an extra kick, and carbonated water or soda to add some sparkle. Some recipes also call for spices such as cinnimon or nutmeg.

My method is pretty loose and off-the-cuff. At the grocery store, I look for fresh seasonal fruit and grab whatever tickles my fancy. Citrus is always a good choice (but don't overdo it on the lemons), as are stonefruits such as peaches and nectarines. Try it with mango or kiwi, apples, melon, grapes, berries...the possibilities are nearly endless!
Next, I get a bottle of red wine - I like something smooth and not too tanniny, like a mellow Merlot.
A carton of orange juice (or other fruit juice) and some citrus/grapefruit Fresca and we're good to go.

Slice up your fruit and put it in a big pitcher (or punch bowl). Add the wine, some of the juice and some Fresca to fill. The proportions of these ingredients is up to you...experiment!
That's it!
Pour over ice to serve.

If you're not in a hurry, allow the fruit, wine and juice flavors to meld in the fridge and add the carbonated ingredient just before serving.

I don't generally add sweetener or brandy, but by all means, give it a shot (pun possibly intended) if you want something a bit stronger.

Sangria can also be made with white wine, a variation called sangria blanca.

Sangria is the perfect, refreshing drink for a warm afternoon. And with all those fruits and juices, it's good for you, too! It's also such a flexible and forgiving recipe that you can relax and play with it and you'll always end up with something delicious.


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