Summer Drink: Royal Sangria

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I call it Royal Sangria because of the deep purple color, purple being of course the color of royalty. Royal, plain sangria, or delicious...whatever you want to call it, it's a classic drink and one the most refreshing quick cocktails you can whip up in seconds. It's always a crowd-pleaser at parties, and by adding the fruit makes an otherwise great wine so special and fun.
Sangria is a wine punch served in Spain. It can be done with red, white, or rose wine that is infused with fruits, sometimes spice, another fruit-based liquor and some sort of sweetener. The options are endless for sangria - you can use virtually any fruit combination and sweetener (honey, sugar, herb-infused simple syrups, even fruit nectar). You can also make it as strong as you like - for milder alcohol just leave it with wine alone; stiffer concoctions can include other spirits in the combination as well. But whatever combination you do, it must be served cold.
A drink popular among the bars, tavernas and restaurants throughout the summer in Spain and Portugal, it's made an imprint here in the States as well. Although I think not enough. I'll take a good sangria over plain wine in summer any day. And with it being so easy to make, why not?
There are, however, a couple of rules you must obey:
1. Don't get cheap with your wine! You may rationalize "well, all this shit's going in there so I can get a cheap $5 bottle and it'll be fine." WRONG! No matter how much you put in there, it's still going to taste like a cheap $5 wine. Now it'll taste like a cheap $5 sangria. Please spend at least $10 on a bottle of white or red and look at it as enhancing the natural flavors.
2. Choose seasonal fruits that won't disintegrate! We all love fruity fruits. However, these fruits are going to stay a while in this punch. You don't want them to completely evaporate. You want their flavor to infuse the wine, while the wine infuses them! Part of the fun of drinking a sangria is eating the fruit too. So choose carefully. Although you want ripe fruit, stay way from completely soft and overly ripe fruit. Berries, citrus, grapes, apples, cherries, and stone fruits yield themselves nicely for sangria.
3. Always serve cold! Don't serve it warm, even if you're using red wine. You want that crisp, cold flavor. And don't put the ice cubes in the pitcher unless many people are planning to serve themselves immediately. Rather, for a party I'll put the pitcher out and then invite guests to add ice cubes to their glass, then pour the sangria over. This enables the sangria to not be watered down, so every time your guests help themselves it tastes fresh.
Now that you know the basics, let's get down to the recipe for...
Royal Sangria
1 bottle Spanish red (recommended something from the Rioja region)
1/8 cup superfine granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange liquor (triple sec)
1 orange, sliced
1 apple, sliced
2-3 cinnamon sticks
Combine all ingredients in a pitcher. Using a wooden spoon or glass stirring stick, gently press the fruit so they can start to release their juices. Let stand for at least an hour so spices and fruit can infuse. Serve in iced glasses with ice cubes. Can be made up to 8 hours in advance.

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