How to make a perfect pitcher of sangria, the ultimate summer cocktail

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It’s little surprise that the sangria is the ultimate cocktail for summer entertaining.

With its red wine base and versatile seasonal fruit options, it’s incredibly easy to whip up a pitcher or punch bowl of this festive, fruity thirst-quencher. Besides, who can argue that a boozy fruit salad is not the perfect excuse to start day-drinking before noon?

One of the beauties of this Spanish export is the fact that just about anything goes. We’re talking about a red that hasn’t been finish the day before, or even a cheap one that would never have been palatable on its own. Ideally, you’ll want a wine that’s fruity but dry, slightly acidic, and low in tannins to complement its freshness. However, as is with other cocktails, using quality ingredients will ensure that your version is as authentic as possible, and wouldn’t require additional sweeteners or flavourings to make up for the taste — or lack thereof.

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For the best sangrias, choose Spanish Rioja reds, which use Tempranillo and Grenache grapes to give a well-rounded, full-bodied flavour. The former, for example, is an easy-to-find wine that’s filled with delicious notes of cherry, plum, vanilla, and cedar. Grenache is known for its candied red fruit flavours that are complemented by hints of cinnamon and black pepper.

You can also go wild with the fruits you choose to incorporate — besides the usual apples, oranges, and lemon, adding summer berries or nectarines will give your concoction more sweetness, tartness, and even depth. Brandy is usually used to bolster the drink’s bold flavours, but rum is an equally acceptable alternative that imparts a nice warmth and complexity too.

Those who enjoy their sangrias fizzy will appreciate the recipe below, which sees a citrus-flavoured soda (like Sprite or 7-Up) replace sweeteners to add both fizz and sweetness to the drink. If you want to keep your calories low, or find that your sangria is already sweet enough from the fruits, a dash of sparkling water or soda water would suffice.

Here’s how to make a stunning sangria, and where to buy the best ingredients for it.

(Image credit: Mezclajeté)

What you’ll need: 

1 bottle red wine

1/3 cup brandy (or more to taste)

1 orange (1/2 with rind on, sliced into small pieces with seeds removed; the other 1/2 juiced)

1 green or red apple (cored with skin on, chopped into small pieces)

1/2 lemon (chopped into small pieces)

1 cinnamon stick

Lemon-lime soda or soda water to taste

Directions:

Add the wine, brandy, orange juice, diced fruit, and cinnamon stick to a large pitcher, and stir to combine.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. Serve the sangria over ice, topping off each glass with a splash of bubbly soda (or soda water) if desired.

Tip: Letting your sangria sit overnight will allow the mixture to develop a richer and fruitier flavour. The sangria will taste a bit harsh if you’ve just made it, so be patient and let it sit.

(Featured image credit: Mezclajeté; Hero image credit: Love to Know)

1

As the world’s third largest wine producer, it’s only right you choose a decent Spanish red for your sangria. Produced in the famed Rioja region of Spain with tempranillao, grenache and other grape varieties, this blended red is generous with notes of dark berries, blood plums, and spice. It’ll also offer a slightly piquant finish that adds dimension to your sangria.

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2

Made with grapes from old vines — predominantly Tempranillo with a touch of Graciano — this Rioja from Roda offers expressive ripe plum and berry notes, making it a star addition to your sangrias. The beautifully deep red 2013 vintage Reserva also incorporates aromas of spices and a mineral character with subtle floral notes, and reveals silky tannins on the palate.

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3

Admittedly slightly over the S$50 mark, but this richly flavoured old-vine Grenache is well worth the investment. Hand-selected from special bush vines that were planted in the early 1930s, this Clare Valley wine was matured for 15 months after vilification in a small open-topped fermenter, and was bottled unfiltered to retain its unique flavours. Expect notes of cranberry, dark cherry, chocolate and natural chalky tannins to take over and elevate your sangria.

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4

Pinot Noirs are good alternatives to Grenache and Tempranillo wines because they’re also richly fruity. This option celebrates Yarra Valley’s terroir with bright notes of strawberries, tangy raspberries, and red cherries, and offer a silky soft and supple finish. This red promises a beautiful complexity whichever way you choose to have it, whether on its own or in your sangria.

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5

Any brandy would do but to keep things properly authentic, you can always use a Spanish version like the Brandy de Jerez. Made using Airen and Palomino grapes, Fundador (Spanish for ‘Founder’) was the first brand marketed as a Brandy de Jerez, and is aged in a sherry-soaked Solera to make for a well-balanced digestif. It’ll lend just the right amount of oomph to shine through in a sangria.

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6

If brandy’s not your thing, you can always substitute the liquor with rum. Local distiller Compendium’s copper-coloured oaked rum was aged in virgin French oak wine barrels for a light and comforting rustic flavour.

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7

Not a compulsory ingredient but there’s a reason why there’s almost always a cinnamon stick floating in every pitcher of sangria in Spain. The sweet and woody spice imparts a delightful aroma when steeped overnight in the cocktail. 

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