A lot of people ask me ‘what’s the deal with sangria?’, as they invariably sip on a luminous liquid. Well for starters it should look like a drink and not a fruit salad. Trust me, I’ve seen all sort of weird and wonderful things in there; kiwis, pineapple, bananas (?) and even tequila. While it might taste nice (which I doubt – most things that contain tequila, taste like they should be used for cleaning paint brushes) it’s definitely isn’t sangria. So what does make for an authentic sangria?
Well there’s a couple of key elements:
1 – Wine. Sounds obvious, but use something that you wouldn’t be ashamed to put on the table when your mother-in-law comes round for dinner. And yes that does mean no boxed wine, wine in bags or anything except for a classic glass bottle. And don’t scrimp – in Spain that means nothing under four euros, seven pounds in the UK or ten bucks in the U.S. Trust me, your head will thank me in the morning.
2 – Fruit. While I certainly wouldn’t advocate anything that isn’t grown in the Iberian peninsula (I’m looking at you banana) there is a plethora of fruits that will give sangria its unique flavour. Oranges and lemons are mandatory, in pieces, and squeezed into the mix. Apples, pears, plums and peaches are all more than acceptable. Guava, jack fruit, rhubarb, figs, dates, plums or elder berries shouldn’t even be looking at sangria. Actually they shouldn’t even be in the same room.
3 – Spirits. Traditionally we are talking about Brandy. Though Orange Curacao is very nice as as well, as is Madeira. My bet? Vermouth. It gives the Sangria a lovely sweet and slightly bitter flavour. And be generous. Very generous.
4 – Mixers. Unless you want to be under the table before you’ve even got going it’s probably not a bad idea to add something to dilute it a shade. Soda water is a good option, though it does dull the flavours somewhat. Bitter Lemon or Lemon Fanta would be my choice, though Sprite or 7-Up are not bad options either.
5 – Time. No not thyme, I’m talking about a good few hours to let the brew stew and allow the flavours to really get along with each other. Traditionally Sangria is stewed in wooden barrels overnight, but a good couple of hours in a glass will serve you just as well.
Some nice, salty cured meats, a couple of slices of aged goat or ewe cheese with some bread sticks and you’re in business.