Sangria Celebration and a Bit of History

Sangria means anything you want it to; in late spring mix up a pitcher of this Apricot White Cherry Sangria.

Sangria means anything you want it to; in late spring mix up a pitcher of this Apricot White Cherry Sangria.

So in just a few hours, I’ll be appearing at  Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend to share some tips for making the delicious Ruby Red Sangria and Sangria Blanca from my book The Bubbly Bar. Even though I don’t go on until 4:30 p.m. – happy hour! – I’m looking forward to going over and seeing some of the other presenters  like Aaron McCargo Jr of Big Daddy’s House, Guillaume Bienaime of Marché Restaurant, Sunset Magazine Food Editor Margo True and Roy Choi, the genius behind the crazy-good, cross cultural  Kogi Korean BBQ food truck in Los Angeles.

Preparing for my segment on sangrias, I started doing some research on the history of the drink. We all know the typical red sangria that’s at every Spanish restaurant in the country – red wine, lemon soda, apples, oranges and if you’re lucky some good brandy. On a recent trip to Spain’s cava region, I collected an authentic recipe from the Mont Marçal Cava export manager named Gareth York – he says the trick to making it sing is the Lemon Fanta.

It’s true that sangria comes from Spain. The root word in it is sangre – Spanish for blood and a reference to the deep red color. But sangria is well established here in the U.S. too. It turns out that since the early 1800s, Brits and later Americans started making their own version of sangria that was called sangaree. According to cocktail historian David Wondrich in Imbibe! this drink was usually a mix of port, sherry or Madeira mixed with sugar, water and nutmeg.It wasn’t uncommon to find sangarees made with a base of porter, ale, and even brandy.

Jerry Thomas’ Port Wine Sangaree

4 ounces Port wine

1 teaspoon sugar

grated nutmeg

Add the Port and sugar to a cocktail shaker filled two-thirds with ice. Shake until well chilled. Strain into a small bar glass, then top with the freshly grated nutmeg.

I think the reason sangria or sangarees continue to be so popular in America is that there’s not just one way to make them. They’re a drink that allows any bartender or home entertainer to show off their personality or make up a new one to fit the season. Last summer, I created a fun White Elderflower Berry Sangria with St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, every berry at the market and white cherries.   And as soon as apricots appeared, I whipped up another drink called an Apricot White Cherry Sangria that is just fragrant with apricot liqueur and fresh fruit. Trust me, this one is so good, it bears repeating.

Apricot & White Cherry Sangria

Makes 8 servings

8 fresh apricots, cut in quarters

1 cup white cherries, pitted and halved

1 white Asian pear, cored and diced

1 lemon halved and thinly sliced in half moons

Juice of 1 orange or 2 tangerines

1/2 cup Rothman & Winter Apricot Orchard Liqueur

1/2 cup Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur (at BevMo)

1/2 cup Landy Cognac

1/3 cup sugar

1 teaspoon orange bitters

1 bottle brut sparkling wine, well chilled

handful fresh mint, torn

Add the apricots, cherries, Asian pear, lemon slices and orange or tangerine juice to a large pitcher. Top with the apricot brandy, Maraschino and Cognac. Add the sugar and stir to dissolve. You could let the sangria sit for a while in the refrigerator at this point so the fruit has some time to soak and release its flavors. Or if you’re in a hurry, next add the orange bitters and sparkling wine to the pitcher. Add a cup of crushed ice, since this is a pretty potent sangria or you could add another bottle of sparkling wine if you want it to serve more people. Top with the freshly torn mint and serve by ladling some fruit into each glass and then pouring sangria on top.

By Maria Hunt aka The Bubbly Girl, author of The Bubbly Bar: Champagne & Sparkling Wine Cocktails for Every Occasion (Clarkson Potter, August 2009)

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