Summer is Sangria season

Brian Rung

    Summer is officially here, and so begins Sangria season.
    Sangria is a deliciously refreshing red wine punch of Spanish origin that has taken on many forms over the last few hundred years.  Whether served in a mason jar or the finest crystal, a well-made pitcher of Sangria is your ticket to summer refreshment.
    The origin of Sangria is largely unknown, but we do know that it evolved from a similar red wine cocktail called Sangaree. The term Sangaree is derived from sangre which is Spanish for blood.
    The original Sangaree was served in Spain, Greece, England and colonial America as early as the 18th century.  The version of Sangaree served during the American colonial era was likely a simple mixture of red wine and seasonal fruit, served warm.
    By the early 20th century Sangria had largely disappeared from the American landscape, minus Mexican and Spanish restaurants in the Southwest. It was the reintroduction of Sangria at the 1964 World's Fair in New York that gave rise to the poolside punch that we enjoy today.
    There are very few rules when making Sangria. It must be made from Spanish red wine and it must contain some citrus. Brandy, triple sec, vodka, everclear and rum have all been added to Sangria with varying degrees of success.  More than likely it's all been done, but don't let that stop you from experimenting.
    The standard recipe for contemporary Sangria calls for red wine, citrus and sugar. Apples are commonly added in addition to lemons, limes and oranges.
    Most American Sangria recipes include triple sec and a splash of brandy. Triple sec is a citrus liqueur that has the unique ability to balance the sweet and sour flavors of just about any cocktail hence its popularity among Margarita fans.
    When selecting a triple sec or a brandy for Sangria or any other punch, stay on the moderate end of the price range. Use Cointreau if you like, but the flavors in Sangria will overpower even the strongest orange liqueur. Stick with the lower priced, but quality triple sec offerings from Bol's and DeKuyper.  
    A mixer quality brandy can be purchased for around $20. If you're lucky your local retailer will have a Spanish brandy at that price point. I wouldn't go any lower than about a $15 brandy. I recommend you don't either.
    When shopping for Sangria ingredients, be sure to pick up navel oranges as they will be seedless. Always cut the ends off of your lemons and limes before cutting into rounds as the ends will not help presentation nor flavor. You may cut your citrus in rings or wedges, I prefer rings to drop in the punch and wedges for garnish.
    Most restaurant-style Sangria recipes will include a frozen lemonade concentrate, and this one is no exception. I prefer pink lemonade concentrate to regular lemonade, and I have found that Minute Maid pink lemonade concentrate works best.
    Pick up at least two bottles of Spanish red wine if you are expecting company. Bear in mind that the wine is the main ingredient and the finished product is extremely easy to drink. I like to let Sangria rest in the refrigerator overnight for the most balanced flavor. If resting overnight is not an option, shoot for a minimum of 2 to 3 hours in the refrigerator. It will keep for up to 48 hours, but will start to sour around the 48 hour mark. If made right it will be gone long before there is any concern of spoilage.
    Sangria is built in a large jar, punch bowl or pitcher. This recipe will yield 6 servings.
    One 750 ml bottle dry red wine (preferably Spanish)
    1/2 cup brandy
    1/2 cup triple sec (Bol's or DeKuyper)
    1/3 cup frozen pink lemonade concentrate
    1/4 cup lemon juice
    1/3 cup orange juice
    1 lime (sliced into rounds)
    1 lemon (sliced into rounds)
    1 orange (sliced into rounds)
    1/4 cup pure cane sugar
    8 Maraschino cherries
    Mix wine, triple sec, brandy, fruit juices, lemonade concentrate and sugar together in pitcher or punch bowl. After mixing, float cherries, sliced rounds of lemon, lime and orange into the Sangria and refrigerate overnight.
    Serve over ice, garnish with wedges of lemon, lime or orange.
    For a fizzy sangria, add 1 to 2 oiunces of soda water or ginger ale to each glass.
    Until next week, enjoy responsibly.