Serving Sangria for the Holidays
Wine with a festive punch
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.