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)

Two Sparkling Sangria Recipes for Mother’s Day Weekend

Sangria makes a perfect way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo weekend, especially when it's one like this with fresh berries and the Italian sparkling wine Brachetto or it's made in the traditional Spanish-style.
Sangria makes a perfect way to celebrate Mother's Day weekend, especially when it's one like this with fresh berries and the Italian sparkling wine Brachetto or it's made in the traditional Spanish-style.

It’s hard to feel like celebrating when Cinco de Mayo falls smack dab in the middle of the week. And then the next thing you know, here comes Mother’s Day.  I see no reason why you shouldn’t roll the two celebrations into one by mixing up a pitcher of wickedly delicious sangria that everyone in the family will love.

With fresh strawberries, raspberries and blueberries coming into season, a perfect way to use them is in this Ruby Red Sangria that’s included in my book The Bubbly Bar.  Instead of a dry red wine, the base of this one is brachetto, a sweet tart sparkling wine from Piedmont Italy. It tastes of raspberries and roses and was a favorite tipple even in ancient times.

The inspiration for this recipe came from Tom Mastricola, a fabulous mixologist originally from Boston who served it at the pool deck at Arterra in the San Diego Marriott Del Mar. It’s refreshing but has a way of sneaking up on you with the crème de cassis and cognac.

I’ll be showing how to make my Ruby Red Sangria and a Sangria Blanca made with the Spanish sparkling wine cava and sharing some great  summer drink tips  as the guest mixologist June 5 & 6 at the Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend 2010. More than 20,000 people will be flocking to the magazine’s gorgeous campus in Menlo Park to pick up inspiration and ideas on summer cooking, home entertaining, and gardening. The event sells out, so book early if you want to get tickets.

Ruby Red Sangria

This fragrant sangria stars fresh summer raspberries, blueberries and strawberries with the sweet -tart red sparkling wine from Piedmont, Italy called Brachetto d’Acqui.The cognac and crème de cassis add an extra layer of depth and flavor.

16 raspberries
16 blueberries
16 strawberries
1 cup Landy cognac, chilled
1/2 cup crème de cassis
1/2 cup Homemade Sour Mix
1/4 cup orange juice
1 bottle Brachetto d’Acqui, chilled
8 slices orange
8 slices lemon

Add the berries to a cocktail shaker and muddle them to a juicy pulp. Transfer the muddled berries and juice to a pitcher. Add the cognac, crème de cassis, sour mix and orange juice. Stir well to combine. Just before serving, add the chilled Brachetto to the pitcher. Fill the serving glasses halfway with crushed ice. Add an orange slice and lemon slice to each glass, then fill with the sangria.
Makes 8 servings

Mont Marcal winery is set in a 17th century masia ( Catalan farmhouse) where nuns called the Barefoot Carmelites once lived.
Mont Marcal winery is set in a 17th century masia ( Catalan farmhouse) where nuns called the Barefoot Carmelites once lived and made wine. (The Bubbly Girl)

I recently picked up some more ideas about sangria while travelling in the Penedès region southwest of Barcelona, which is the center of Spain’s cava sparkling wine production. Gareth York, the Brit export manager for Mont Marçal Cava – available all over the U.S. –  shared his own recipe for a Spanish-style sangria. The secret ingredient is European Lemon Fanta, which he says adds just the right sweet tart flavor.

Gareth’s Sangria

1 750 ml bottle cava (or decent red wine)

750 ml European Lemon Fanta
3/4 cup ruby port wine
1 small glass of brandy or cognac
1 orange, washed, pitted and sliced
1 lemon, washed, pitted and sliced
1 apple, washed, pitted and sliced
1 ripe peach, washed, pitted and sliced

Mix all the liquids together in a large pitcher, add the fruit and macerate in the fridge for four to five hours. Don’t add too much ice as this waters the sangria down. The Lemon Fanta works well as it has a nice balance of sugar and acidity and there is no need to add sugar. The proportions of the wines and Fanta are approx. if you want it to have more of a kick then add a bit less Fanta.

What is important is that the wines are of a decent quality and drinkable. I always said when I was in the kitchen, if you put good wine in a dish, it will be good – if you put a bad wine in a dish it won’t get any better!!