As the cold, dark winter tightens it insidious grip on our collective mood, it’s important to think positive thoughts, namely that in a mere six months we’ll be basking under a solstitial sun, a sweaty glass of something cold in hand. A beer, perhaps? Or maybe not; after all, been there done that, right? The same goes for white wine. What, then? Well, after half a year spent staring out at grey skies and white snow, how about a little something with color? Something both tart and sweet but always quenching? Actually, the heck with waiting until summer—a well-made Sangria hits the spot year-round, rain or shine, hot or cold.
Sangria, which comes from the Spanish and Portuguese word for "bloodletting," can be traced back to Roman times, to a drink known as “hippocras,” which featured a mixture of wine, fruit, sugar and cinnamon. It’s thought that the recipe was brought to Europe from the Orient. Various incarnations popped up over hundreds of years in Europe, a popular British variant called “Claret Cup Punch,” which was made with a blend of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and merlot wines. Most believe Sangria was introduced to U.S. consumers during the 1964 World's Fair in New York. There is, however, a claim that the drink bowed half a century earlier, in 1905, at a restaurant in Ybor City, a historic community just outside of Tampa.
While there are hundreds of recipes, Sangria is typically created from red wine, fruit juices, soda water, brandy and fresh fruit, the most popular being lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits due to their high acidity, which balances the drink's natural sweetness.
"It's difficult for me to imagine anything more sumptuous and thirst-quenching than Sangria,” says Manhattan-based mixologist Jerri Banks in a recent piece on American Mixologist.com. “Best of all, it's a forgiving concoction, so you can't go too far wrong.”
Kelly Berger, general manager of Al Lado in Denver heartily agrees. “We’ve taken the concept of Sangria, and we’re making it to order, almost like a craft cocktail.”
Even better than flexibility, Sangria boasts increasing sales. According to Bill Pecoriello, CEO of GuestMetrics LLC, Sangria sales, up 8% during the first quarter of 2013, outpaced sales of the overall wine category in the same timeframe.
Why? Not only does Sangria’s taste profile fall somewhere between wine and cocktails, so too its price point, which makes it very appealing to diners of all ages.
Click here for a nice graphic from “Wine Enthusiast” on how to make a proper pitcher of Sangria.