So now that everyone wants to show off their new Ray-Bans and be outside, what is the best way to make sure the masses stay hydrated and boozy? Sure, a cooler of beer works fine, but what about something a little more interesting and seasonal? I'm talking Sangria, that sweet, fruity, wine based drink that makes men and women of all (legal drinking) ages happy with just a single cup. Making Sangria isn't rocket science either, but it also more than just pouring any random number of bottles of wine into a pitcher with whatever fruit mixed in. This ain't no dump cake (yes, that is a real thing). Here are some quick and easy tips that you can follow that can help make sure you make a kick-ass sangria that you and your guests will be talking about for summers to come.
Reputable, well known brands of cheap but perfectly drinkable wines are your number one choice. Best of all, these brands often go on sale or have promotions running on them like the common "Buy 6 get 10% off" specials you often find at supermarket wine sections.
These common brands make for good Sangria building blocks and won't break the bank:
- Barefoot Wines
- Yellow Tail
- Sutter Home
- Rex Goliath
- Charles Shaw
A Note on Boxed Wine: Boxed wine has made a comeback recently, especially as higher-end boxed wine has come into the market (Think Black Box Wine). While they definitely can provide great value, I would make sure to take a step above the cheapest box wines out there - I'm looking at you, Franzia. Many of the cheapest boxed wines simply lack any flavour, and for a wine-based drink, that is a no-go. Look at it this way - if you played Slap-the-bag with it in college, skip it.
Now that you have your wine, think of the fruit you want to include. The fruit play hand in hand with the wine to create that sweet, bright, "taste of summer" flavour in good sangria. But be warned, this doesn't mean Sangria can be a dumping ground for any leftover fruit in your fridge. We're making a drink here, not banana bread.
2. Use Crisp, Juicy Fruit and Citrus - Mix and match fruit you like, but try to make sure that they follow the general rule of being crisp and/or juicy. What do I mean by that? Well, remember the fruit will be soaking with the wine for a few hours and will also be mixed and wang-jangled a few times in the process. Choose fruit that won't turn to mush or make your sangria too cloudy or hazy. That means fruit like peaches, most berries, apple, and almost all citrus are good candidates, but soft and mealy fruits like banana, watermelon, and kiwi are not. Frozen fruit also tends to get mushier quicker than fresh fruit, so I would stick with fresh. Citrus should also always be included in a sangria in my opinion. Lemon and orange easily add brightness and a lightness to drinks and make them refreshing.
How much fruit you add is ultimately up to you, but typically it's better to have more than less. For a batch of sangria that I made recently that contained approximately 5 bottles of wine (It was for a very big group, I promise), I used two peaches, a pint of strawberries, one navel orange, and one lemon.
A note on cutting your fruit: Since your fruit will be soaking in the drink for a while, be sure to thoroughly wash your fruit in the sink before slicing it. When slicing it, I recommend thin slices to maximize the amount of fruit flesh that is exposed to the wine so it can impart as much flavour as possible. Slice it like below:
3. Mixers and Liquors: The topic of additional mixers and flavours is the main sticking point I have noticed when it comes to the otherwise laid back nature of sangria making. For some, the only liquid necessary is the wine. Others swear by the addition of seltzer, soda, or even just water to smooth out the edge of wine that may have just a little too much bite. On the other side, the addition of some hard liquor also has a strong following and can make an otherwise too-easy-to-drink beverage just a little more dangerous and raise the chance of your friends singing Wagon Wheel at the top of their lungs about 5 times.
Personally, I find going with only wine a bit strong, so I like to add some kind of effervescent mixer in to tone back the alcohol and add a little bubbly fun. Depending on how sweet the wine is, I either go with unflavoured seltzer or a lemon-lime soda. As for hard liquor, I will serve sangria with an assortment of liquor on the side for guests to pick and mix on their own. You can always add more alcohol in, but you can't take it out.
Five-Star Boozy Supporting Actors:
- Light Rum
- Orange Liquor (Orange infused tequila, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, etc)
So now you have the basic building blocks of a fine Sangria, but what do you do come assembly time? Here is probably the most important tip - the ratio. Nothing can ruin a good drink like having it be out of balance. So here's a quick way guide:
4. 2:2:1:1+F: The quickest way to remember the balance of ingredients in a Sangria is to follow the Ruby Red-Ratio (I just made that up) And that means this:
The Ratio Broken Down:
- Two of Red
- Two of Sweet
- One of Crisp
- One of Meat...errr...Bubbly Stuff
- Plus Fruit of Choice
Hey, I tried to come up with some clever rhyme, but I only got so far. Give a guy a break.
The above combo will produce a sweeter, crisp red Sangria which people love, because it's easy to drink, not too strong, and balances the brightness of white wines with the body and depth of red.
The Two of Red can be any two parts of a sweeter red wine - sweet red blends make for a sweeter overall product, while a dryer red like a Cabernet Sauvignon would make a drier (less sweet) sangria.
Two of Sweet should be two parts of a sweet white wine. I almost always go for Riesling in this case. It's bright and just sweet enough without being sugary. Another option is Moscato. I usually can't drink Moscato on its own because it's usually too sweet for me, but in a Sangria, it is works well.
The One of Crisp is a white wine that is a little on the drier side but has a light, bright flavour. Pinot Grigio is my go to for this. White Zinfandel can work here as well but I would avoid most Chardonnays. The flavour tends to be a little too intense and oaky to play well with the fruit.
The One of Bubbly is your soda, seltzer, or even champagne if you're feeling it. If you go with an alcoholic option, keep in mind your ending Sangria will obviously be stronger. Pick your mixer wisely as this part of the recipe will play a large role in how sweet your end drink will be.
Plus Fruit of Choice is your license to get a little creative. Remember the aforementioned tips above and get ready to come up with some fun combos. Peach-Strawberry may be calling your name today or what about Pineapple-Mango?
Congrats, you now know the basic ingredients and technique to making a kick-ass sangria in your own home. What now? Well, it's time to build. It's pretty simple, just make sure you're set with these four things ready first:
- Find your serving container and make sure it's clean
- Refrigerate all your wines until cold
- Prep and slice all your fruit
- You have space in your fridge for your container
Ready? Add all your prepped fruit into your container of choice first, then add in all the wine. Stir to combine evenly and then cover and let the wine and fruit mixture sit in the fridge for at least 2 hours before serving. I would not let your sangria "marinade" for over 12 hours even though some recipes may call for it. In my experience, that can make some fruit start to taste bitter and impart off-flavours to the drink.
When you're ready to serve, add in your mixers and/or soda and give it one last stir before enjoying. To keep it cool, I would suggest making a single large ice-ball in a bowl or plastic tupperware and adding that in versus dumping in the small ice cubes out of your freezer's ice dispenser. A single large ice block will keep your drink cold and will melt much more slowly versus dozens of little ice cubes, keeping your drink from being watered down.
So there you have it. Sangria: an easy crowd pleaser that's easier to make well than you think. Mix and match your wines and fruit to make your own unique creations, you wild motherfucker. Looking for a recipe to get you going down the path of sangria stardom? Try this below:
- 1 - 1.5L Bottle Barefoot Sweet Red Blend Wine
- 1 - 1.5L Bottle Riesling
- 1 - 750mL Bottle Pinot Grigio
- 2 cups Lemon-Lime Soda
- 2 Peaches, pits removed and sliced thin
- 1 Pint Strawberries, hulled and sliced thin
- 1 Navel Orange, sliced thin
- 1 Lemon, sliced thin
- 1 large block of ice
- Optional - 1/2 cup orange liquor
- Chill wine in fridge until cold
- Combine fruit in large drink dispenser
- Add wine, cover container, and store in fridge for 2-4 hours
- Before serving, add soda and ice and stir well
Enjoy responsibly with friends and good music. Cheers.