It’s a cliche, I know, but when most people think of Spain, they think of sun, sea and sangria. Sangria comes in many shapes and sizes, from pleasantly light and refreshing, for a hot afternoon, to ‘Should come with a health warning’ for an evening of serious partying. The mixture also varies from undrinkable (usually the ready-made variety) to ‘gimme more, then some more.’ You’re not likely encounter undrinkable in a Spanish bar; every Spaniard I’ve ever met can rustle up spectacular sangria. It must be something in their DNA.
One of the best sangrias I’ve ever tasted – apart from my own – cost only €5 for a 1 litre jug on a cantina in a Sunday market. The secret is to soak the fruit in the alcohol for at least an hour before completing the mix. Everywhere where I’ve thought the sangria was worth a return visit, there are always jugs of fruit and wine waiting to be mixed and enjoyed. Any bar using tinned fruit instead of fresh should be avoided. That’s the cheat’s way, and you can’t cheat with sangria. The first sip gives it away.
Okay, I’m saying it myself as shouldn’t, but my sangria is legendary. Some people call it rocket fuel, but it’s not really that strong – people just love it so much they overdo it. So, here’s how to make Sandra’s Special Sangria – enjoy!
The first thing people want to know is what fruits to use in sangria. Anything that takes your fancy, is in season, and is ripe enough for the juices to flow is the answer. Avoid bananas, as they begin to break up in the alcohol almost immediately, so they will make your drink cloudy. Here on the Costa Blanca, oranges are cheap, juicy and plentiful, so they’re always in the jug. Plums, pears, persimmons, apples and melons are great at the time of writing (December). In spring, strawberries, apricots and cherries are a good addition. If you want to counter the sweetness a little, add some lemon or lime. And if you’re short on fresh fruit, you can always add dried cranberries and apricots – just leave the fruit soaking for a little longer.
I usually make two 1 litre jugs – one is never enough, and if there is any left over –unlikely, but it may happen – it will store in the fridge for a couple of days in a covered jug. Remember to remove the fruit before storing, though. Chop the fruit into small pieces about ½ inch square. Leave the skin on everything, except melons, mangoes or kiwi fruit. Prepare enough fruit to give 2 – 3 inches depth in the jug.
Now add the alcohol. My favourite blend is brandy, moscatel wine and red wine. How much? That’s up to you. For a refreshing but not overly strong sangria, I use 4 single measures of brandy, a small glass of moscatel and 2 – 3 medium sized glasses of wine to 1 litre. Don’t waste your money on decent red wine. An ordinary ‘vino de mesa’ is fine for Sangria. Same goes for the moscatel. Remember, making good Sangria is an art, not a science. The correct quantities are those that work for you.
Allow the fruit and alcohol to stand at room temperature for an hour or more. To finish your sangria, add plenty of ice, then top up with gaseosa, Sprite or 7-Up, but not the diet variety, as it doesn’t give a fruity enough flavour. Don’t use any kind of fizzy limon, as it is cloudy and will spoil the colour of your sangria. For special occasions, or for a higher alcohol content, use half gaseosa/lemonade and half cava. Stir well and serve, ensuring everyone gets some ice and fruit in their glass.
For children or drivers, you can prepare non-alcoholic Sangria using red grape juice, apple juice and lemonade. Left over fruit from your sangria will store in the fridge for two or three days. It makes a tasty topping for ice cream, cheesecake or yogurt, but be careful, as the fruit will contain alcohol. This sangria is perfect for any occasion – why not try it yourself over Christmas or New Year?