Sangrias are the perfect summer refresher
Sangria is a wine-based punch that has its origins in parts of Europe amd South America. This refreshing concoction traditionally uses a red wine base with added fruits and sugar; many classic variations also include brandy and other spirits in the mix. While the name sangria hails from the word sangre (Spanish for blood) because of its usual dark-red hue, there are plenty of versions made with white wine, which are referred to as sangria blancos.
Bars and restaurants love having sangrias on the menu for a multitude of reasons. They're a good way to use excess wine and fruits that might have been hanging around the kitchen; they can be made and served in bulk; and they provide a solid platform for culinary experimentation and creativity.
Todd Brutcher, general manager at Onesto, offers sangria year-round on his menu and changes the recipe almost daily. Though he'll bring back customer favorites from time to time, Brutcher says he strives to do as many unique versions as he can, using whatever he happens to find in the restaurant's walk-in. He ages each five-gallon batch for four days or so, and usually has multiple batches in various states of readiness at any given time. Recent combinations have included cherry-apple-basil, cherry-plum and jalapeno peach.
Marcia Recks of Modesto shops every day for ingredients to perfect her daily sangria offerings. One of the keys to a good sangria—in addition to fresh fruits—she says, is to use a dry wine to ensure the end result isn't overly sweet. She also likes to go the traditional route and include some brandy in her creations.
Restauranteur Paul Hamilton has sangrias on the meny at two of his restaurants, Eleven Eleven Mississippi and Vin de Set. At Vin de Set, he offers both red and white versions, usually made with Argentinean or Spanish wines, while the sangria at Eleven Eleven includes Myers dark rum for some added depth and complexity. This variant is aged for months in the restaurant's cellar to ensure a complete marriage of flavors.
For the summertime DIYers, try this basic recipe for sangria that can be tweaked for endless flavor variations by adding different wines and fruits and more or less sugar:
1 750 ml bottle of red wine
1 lemon, cut into wedges
1 orange, cut into wedges
2 tbsp sugar
2 oz brandy
Pour the wine into a large glass jar or other container. Squeeze the juice from the fruit into the wine, making sure to leave out any seeds, then drop the fruit pieces into the wine as well. Add the sugar and brandy and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Seal the jar and store in a cool, dry place, checking daily until the flavor is where you want it.
Photo credit: Kelly Wright