Serv­ing San­gria for the Hol­i­days

Wine with a fes­tive punch

Times of the Islands - - Departments - BY GINA BIRCH Gina Birch is a reg­u­lar con­trib­u­tor, a lover of good food and drink, and a well-known me­dia per­son­al­ity in Southwest Florida.

San­gria is of­ten thought of as a sum­mer li­ba­tion, fruity, some­times sweet and al­ways fes­tive. That fes­tive na­ture, along with a plethora of fla­vor com­bi­na­tions, also makes it per­fectly suited for hol­i­day soirées. Spain and Por­tu­gal are cred­ited with be­ing the “moth­er­ship” when it comes to san­gria, which tra­di­tion­ally is a com­bi­na­tion of wine (red or white), fresh fruit, brandy and some type of sweet­ener such as juice, honey or sugar.

Fresh fruit is key to making this great wine punch. Al­though san­gria is a good way to re­pur­pose wine that has been opened for a few days and may be los­ing its edg e, a de­cent bot­tle of in­ex­pen­sive, un­opened wine is prefer­able.

An­other key is time—time for the fruit to mar­i­nate in the al­co­hol for sev­eral hours, if not overnight. It can pack a punch by the end of the party.

In the strictest in­ter­est of re­search, I re­cently hosted a San­gria Sun­day gath­er­ing, fea­tur­ing a bar lined with six pitch­ers over­flow­ing with wine and fruit, each one with a dif­fer­ent twist.

All of the recipes con­tain one 750-ml bot­tle of wine. I used car­ménère for the red san­grias for its fresh, fruity and spicy char­ac­ter­is­tics, and frankly be­cause I had sev­eral bot­tles on hand.

Two san­grias fea­tured wine spiked with rum. One was a trop­i­cal mango cre­ation, with kiwi, pineap­ple, honey and white wine—a re­fresh­ing crowd pleaser.

The sec­ond was a red san­gria: ½ cup of rum, str aw­ber­ries (1 pint) and one sliced or­ange, le­mon and lime. Sev­eral chunks

of one ap­ple were pierced with whole cloves for spiced hol­i­day flair; re­move the cloves be­fore serv­ing. The le­mon-lime soda needed for sweet­ness and ef­fer­ves­cence was kept in a sep­a­rate serv­ing con­tainer for guests to add ac­cord­ing to their taste.

The noise level be­gan to rise as we moved to a more tra­di­tional san­gria, us­ing a recipe bor­rowed from Emeril La­gasse. Slice an or­ange, le­mon and ap­ple and mar­i­nate them in the wine, ¼ cup each of brandy and Grand Marnier, 2 ta­ble­spoons each of lime and or­ange juice and ¼ cup of sugar. Be­fore serv­ing, add a 750-ml bot­tle of sparkling wa­ter. It was only mod­er­ately sweet and one of the first to be emp­tied.

Cin­na­mon is a sig­na­ture fla­vor of the hol­i­days and with the pop­u­lar­ity of Fire­ball Cin­na­mon Whisky, san­gria fea­tur­ing this spirit seemed quite nat­u­ral. Chop up two Granny Smith ap­ples and two or­anges. Cover them in Fire­ball and let them make friends for about half an hour. In a large pitcher, com­bine the red wine, two cups of ap­ple juice and a cup of Fire­ball. Add the mar­i­nated mix and ad­just amounts of Fire­ball and ap­ple juice to taste. It can be easy to overdo the cin­na­mon whisky, so in­dulge in some fre­quent tast­ing—a tough job but some­one has to do it.

As the evening con­tin­ued, the chunks of ap­ple soaked in cin­na­mon whisky were be­ing plucked and popped—out of the pitcher and into the mouth.

The most beloved san­gria of the night was made from cava, a sparkling wine from Spain. This also had cin­na­mon, but it was de­cid­edly more sub­tle. When making the sim­ple syrup f or this (sim­mer ½ cup sugar in one cup wa­ter un­til dis­solved), add six cin­na­mon sticks for just the right touch of the sea­sonal spice. This san­gria is like a mi­mosa on steroids, per­fect for a hol­i­day brunch. Mix the cooled syrup, cava, one cup of OJ, sliced or­anges (2), chunks of ap­ples (2), and chill. Gar­nish with mint leaves be­fore serv­ing. One of my fa­vorite things to do at events like this is to throw in a ringer, la­beled “Sur­prise San­gria.” While guests wa­gered on what the sur­prise in­gre­di­ents were, none guessed that it came from a box rather than be­ing house made. Beso Del Sol comes in sin­gle-serve Te­tra Paks and in 3-liter boxes, per­fect for boat­ing or a quick fix by the pool. I added some fruit, and it was per­fectly ac­cept­able to most un­wit­ting par­ty­go­ers. Made from tem­pranillo, it also had a hint of cin­na­mon. An­other op­tion if you’re in a party pinch is new from Miami Cock­tail Com­pany. Its pre­made trop­i­cal san­gria from or­ganic red wine has no ad­di­tives or preser­va­tives. Its or­ganic juices pro­duce a fresh, clean and de­li­cious fla­vor. While san­gria is great for so­cial­iz­ing and sip­ping at your hol­i­day gath­er­ings, it also goes well with cheese and char­cu­terie trays, roasted meats and salty dishes. Happy hol­i­days and SALUD!

It can be easy to overdo the cin­na­mon whisky, so in­dulge in some fre­quent tast­ing—a tough job but some­one has to do it.

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