Sangria is a wine-based punch that originated in Spain. It's made by mixing wine (traditionally red) with fruit and a variety of other things which might include water, brandy, liqueur, or flavored carbonated drinks, and served chilled. Apparently introduced to America at the 1964 World's Fair, it enjoys great popularity as a drink for all occasions, with the possible exception of funerals.
The first time I decided to mix up some sangria, I went online looking for a good recipe and was promptly overwhelmed by the number and variety of sangria and sangria-like drinks out there. "What is all this?!" I asked. "All I want is a simple, basic recipe that will give me some stuff that everyone at the party will like." After spending a while looking at all the concoctions and pondering their various merits, I put together the following. People tell me it tastes pretty good. I've never been to Spain to try the real stuff, so I wouldn't know. But for anyone else out there who's looking for a basic mixture with universal appeal (and not Mango Marvin's Electric Tangerine Super Tropical Sangria), I hope this helps.
- Put water in a saucepan on medium heat and stir the sugar in until it's completely dissolved. The water doesn't need to be hot, just warm. This is to make sure that all the sugar gets into the sangria, since it tends not to dissolve as well if you mix it straight in with the rest of the stuff.
- Dump the sugar water into a big pitcher.
- Take one orange and one lemon, cut each in half, and juice them thoroughly. Strain any pulp or seeds out of the juice, and dump it into the pitcher too.
- Take the other orange and lemon and cut them up into thin slices. Take both apples and cut them into small pieces (cut out the core). Dump the slices and apple into the pitcher.
- Pour the wine and Triple Sec into the pitcher, and mix it all up real good.
- Let it sit in the refrigerator overnight, to give the fruit time to soak.
- If you want to use the carbonated water, pour it in immediately before serving.
As far as wine selection goes, it actually isn't that big of a deal exactly what you use. The wine is the main ingredient, so don't get the cheapest bottle you can find, but you don't need to break the bank, either. I usually go for a Cabernet Sauvignon when I make sangria, because it's not terribly expensive and it works well. Sangria was originally made with Rioja, so if you want to go for the authentic Spanish flavor, you could give that a try. Nearly every recipe uses a different kind of wine, though, so if you happen not to like the fruity red variety, try something else. It will more than likely taste just as great. Interesting side note: although it was originally made with red wine, other regions of Spain soon came up with their own version of sangria using white wine as the base. When made with white wine, it is officially known as sangria blanco.
On the subject of the Triple Sec: a lot of times you'll see people recommending you use Grand Marnier or something similar instead of this. I have to say, Grand Marnier is some very good stuff. It's also so expensive that you'll end up selling a kidney to buy a bottle, especially if you're a poor college student. The point of having liqueur in the mix is to increase the alcohol content and add more fruit flavoring. Triple Sec does both these things. Grand Marnier does them better, but when you're mixing it with this much other stuff, you'd be hard pressed to tell much of a difference. By the same token, you can certainly substitute some other flavored liqueur or brandy for the Triple Sec, should you so desire. Let me also point out that this recipe makes fairly sweet sangria, probably comparable to most straight fruit punches. If you want to shoot for something a little more winy, a good way to make it less sweet (aside from using less sugar) would be to reduce the amount of Triple Sec (you could go for as little as 3 oz.) or replace it entirely with a regular brandy.
You might be kind of surprised to see apples being used in a drink that's otherwise so citrus based; I was. The reason for them being there is actually kind of interesting. Now, I don't know much about wine, but I'm assured by people who do that the apples actually serve to absorb some parts of the wine that don't taste so good. This is one of the reasons for letting the sangria sit overnight (or a least a few hours) before serving it. Strangely, even though the apples have absorbed the non-tasty stuff from the wine, they themselves are extremely tasty, and are a good snack once you've emptied the pitcher.
The important thing to remember when you make sangria is that, once you've done it a few times, you really stop needing a recipe. Pour some wine, liquor, and fruit juice in a pitcher, and voila! Sangria. The exact ingredients I've listed here are really just a way to get started. If you don't like lemons, use limes. If you want it to have more of a kick, put in more brandy. Or try mixing different liquors. Just throw in whatever you think you and your friends would like, and ultimately you'll hit upon your own way to mix perfect sangria.