Sangria: The Perfect ‘Wine Cocktail’ of Summer

sangriaMy first experience with Sangria was at a then-popular Mexican restaurant chain that included the ice-cold, sweet drink as part of its Sunday brunch. It was an all-you-could-eat buffet, accompanied by all-you-could-drink Sangria.

I don’t remember much about that morning except for the fact that, not long after the meal, I developed a splitting headache. I would not have Sangria again for 35 years, until my fiancée and I traveled to Barcelona last fall.

Visiting a tapas bar was high on our list of priorities, and I knew that meant I needed to end my personal ban on Sangria and give it another try. We wasted no time in setting out on foot in search of tapas and Sangria.

Without a map and with only our intuition as a guide, we traversed the narrow pedestrian streets, sticking our heads inside gift shops, perusing the outside kiosks, sampling tasty bakery goods and soaking in the historic architecture.

And then, there it was: a tapas bar that seemed to be calling out our names. And inside, two friendly ladies — from Peru, not Spain, as it turned out — guided us through the tapas menu and poured their restaurant’s version of Sangria. Michelle had one made with white wine, while I had one made with red, and both seemed to pair quite nicely with all of the tapas we tried.

YolandaMariaIn the accompanying photo, that’s Yolanda on the left and Maria on the right. Maria was our main server, and helped us select the tapas we’d be sharing. We had only one request — nothing too spicy — and everything that was placed in front of us met that criterion while still being packed with enticing flavors.

Just when we thought we could eat no more, Yolanda came out of the kitchen with a tray of freshly made tapas. She stopped in front of us and said, “Lamb?” I told her we couldn’t eat another bite. But it turned out it wasn’t a question. She just shook her head and put TWO small plates in front of us.

Served on a small piece of toast, and seasoned only with a little salt and pepper, that lamb turned out to be the best thing we’d had all night. It also taught us an important lesson: When you have good servers at a tapas bar, place your trust in them. Maria and Yolanda provided us with the best dining experience we would have in Barcelona during a trip that included not one bad meal.

And what about the Sangria? Well, I thought mine was fine, and I helped Michelle finish hers. Best of all, I didn’t get a headache this time, which means my ban on Sangria is officially over, and I’m now free to try any recipes that may come my way.

Here is one that one of our tasting panel members whipped up recently. It makes about 4 servings.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 large oranges, washed (one orange sliced, one orange juiced)
  • 1 large lemon, washed and sliced
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup Triple Sec
  • 1 (750-ml.) bottle of fruity, medium-bodied red wine (such as California Zinfandel, Sangiovese or Merlot — like those featured in Vinesse’s Sangria Reds Collection on sale now), chilled

PREPARATION

  1. Place sliced orange, lemon and sugar in large pitcher.
  1. Mash gently with wooden spoon until fruit releases some juice, but is not totally crushed, and sugar dissolves (about 1 minute).
  1. Stir in orange juice, Triple Sec, and wine.
  1. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 8 hours.
  1. Before serving, add 6 to 8 ice cubes and stir briskly to distribute settled fruit and pulp, then serve immediately.
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Posted in Editor's Journal, Food and Wine Pairings/Recipes
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