In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Food Wednesdays: Refreshing Summer Sangria

Written by Donna Marie Desfor, Culinary Consultant and Chef | Jul 16, 2011 5:56 PM

I’m not a fan of food trends.  I do, however, pay attention when certain beverages (especially of the alcohol laced kind) take center-stage.  Such is the case with Sangria.  Perhaps it is enjoying the spotlight simply because it’s summer.  Perhaps it’s because our very wet spring has turned our early summer produce into juicy luscious abundant ingredients.  Or, perhaps it’s just because Sangria is simply refreshing fun and very adult.  But Sangria is more than just a boozy boost to orange juice.  It’s a nod to a culture and it’s a beverage that is tailor made to suit not only your taste, but also your supply of seasonal fruit. 

Historically speaking, Sangria owes its origins to the Romans who, after conquering Spain in 200 BC, planted its prolific vineyards.  And, ultimately, Sangria made with the red wines is said to be a reminder of the bloodshed; the word “Sangria” having a strong connotation to the word “blood.” 

While Sangria may have a tragic tie to Spain’s history, everything else about Sangria is uplifting.  Especially when it comes to making it.  There are no hard and fast rules.  Instead, the recipe is more fluid and readily adaptable to whatever is on hand.  Best of all, you can intensify or dilute the alcohol content by getting creative and combining fruit and herbal tea to the wine base.  Not only will the fruit tea amplify the fruity notes to the sangria, but the aromatic push from the brewed tea will make this refreshing summer beverage as delightful to the nose as it is to the palate.

Sangria’s “rules” are quite simple.  Start with a pitcher or a glass, fill it with ice, then start adding… .  First up is the wine.  Try a light body wine like Grenache or even a Spanish Rioja or a light-bodied pinot noir will work, too.  If you want a white sangria (which is really very cutting edge) try a white Grenache or a light crisp white wine like a Pinot Grigio.  Remember to take into account the wine’s flavor profile – if it’s got a strong fruity edge to it then complement that with your fruit selection. 

Next up, to intensify both fruity flavor and aroma, add a strong-brewed fruit (or herbal) tea to the mix (make sure the tea is well-chilled, not diluted).  You’ll go for about a 1:1 ratio with the wine, or to taste.  From there, add a splash of brandy (Spanish brandy just seems so right for Sangria), maybe a splash of citrus juice (lemonade, limeade, lemon juice or lime juice, or even a spritz of grapefruit juice in your white sangria. 

Then comes the spice, which believe it or not will make your Sangria a standout.  Add a cinnamon stick or a clove or two.  This simple addition will take your standard bar drink over the top and taste like you’re a master mixologist! 

Next up is the fruit.  Choose whatever you have on hand, in whatever amount you like.  Slice it or just cut it into chunks or wedges; peeled or unpeeled – it matters not.  Try using pears, apples, plums, oranges, peaches, lemons, limes, oranges, mangoes, and of course, grapes.  The final touch is a splash of something sparkling – be it wine, club soda, or sparkling water.  A little fizz goes a long way in blending all the flavors in the glass, not to mention balancing the whole. 

Your Sangria will benefit from a few hours rest before serving, but only if you’ve got the time.  This is to help extract all the fruit juices and have it muddled into the mix.  If you’re in a pinch or looking for that single serving of instant gratification, then just grab a straw, swizzle stick, iced tea spoon, or whatever you have on hand, and give that fruit a little nudge. 

Sangria that has fruit in it will last up to three days when refrigerated.  If you want to really make it last (but why?), then remove the fruit after 24 hours and store refrigerated in an airtight serving pitcher.

Try these terrific tea combinations.  I buy my teas at The Spice and Tea Exchange

Peach Sangria
Blend 2 parts dry Pinot Grigio with 1 part strong, chilled Bonita Peach Rooibus tea. Add sliced Granny Smith apples, frozen peach slices, white grapes halved, lemon, lime and orange slices.

Cinnamon Plum Sangria
Blend 2 parts Pinot Noir with 1 part strong, chilled Cinnamon Plum herbal tea. Add sliced lemon, limes, oranges and Fuji apple slices

Recipe: Summer Sangria

2 cups light bodied wine (for a White Sangria, choose a Pinot Grigio; for Red Sangria choose a Grenache or Spanish Rioja)
2 cups prepared (strong brew) Fruit or Herbal tea, well-chilled
¼ cup Spanish brandy
1 Cinnamon Stick
Splash citrus juice (try orange, lime, grapefruit, or even peach or mango)
Apple, orange, peach, plum, mango slices
Sliced grapes
Splash of sparkling water

Fill a pitcher with ice.  Add all the ingredients and muddle a bit with a long spoon.  Taste.  Adjust taste; pour over a tall iced-filled wine or iced-tea glass.  Add a splash of ice-cold sparkling water and fresh fruit slices to garnish.  Serve immediately.

Note:  The Sangria with fruit can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 day.  To store it longer, remove the fruit and the Sangria will last up to 5 days in the refrigerator (if you don’t drink it first!).

Recipes and Photo Copyright © 2011 by Donna Marie Desfor and There’s a Chef in My Kitchen, LLC.  All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2011 by WITF, Inc.  All Rights Reserved.

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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