Sangria is a crowd-pleaser — it’s delicious and versatile, easy to make, and a perfect drink to make for groups. I’ve been making a batch of sangria on Christmas Day at my family’s house for the past few years based with red wine and green apples to suit the Christmas palette (and palate!). Sangria is a no-fail kind of drink because there’s lots of room to experiment, but here there’s a few rules of thumb to keep in mind.
Sugar and spice. Before throwing all your ingredients into a pitcher, make a base spice mixture separately to make sure your spices really breathe in your drink. Pour 1 1/2 cups of red wine into a small sauce pan along with honey and spices (think cinnamon, allspice, cloves, nutmeg). Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally so the honey dissolves and becomes aromatic. Let this mixture cool before adding to your pitcher.
Pick the right red. In line with my previous post about mulled wine, it’s ok to go for a more affordable, lighter bottle of red when making a wintry sangria. It’s advisable to avoid heavier wines with high tannins, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, which can turn out chalky and itchy once it’s chilled. Stick to light or medium-bodied flavors that can take on the fruits and spices and be expressed even more.
Festive fruit. I highly recommend using green apples with a red sangria really for the sake of Christmas, but they do impart a nice sour note to compliment sweeter fruits. Oranges are also a great touch because they always seem to be around during the holiday.
Supplemental spirit. Sangria can really take on other fun spirits to add more body and depth to the batch. Try adding brandy or another fun liqueur to add some complexity.
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[photo: Food & Wine (c) Lucas Allen]