Classic Red Sangria
When we moved awhile back, we left behind a favorite restaurant – a small, local, mostly Italian eatery. We’d split a dreamy brick-oven quattro formaggi pizza – the perfect size for the two of us – and, buoyed by the fact that we were saving so much money on our simple shared dinner, we’d often splurge on a drink or two as well. My favorite? Their classic red sangria.
Ruby red, earthy, fruity but not too sweet. Most memorably, it was clearly spiced with something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Cloves? Allspice? Cinnamon? Maybe. I decided to start fishing for the recipe – or at least try to score a few hints – but man. They were seriously tight-lipped about their sangria.
I played dumb with a new waiter, pointing at the menu and asking, “Hmm. This sangria looks good. What’s in it?” I got some sort of generic answer. “Red wine. And … stuff.” I asked a waitperson who knew us well, but she was loyal to the restaurant. She offered just about the same amount of info – that is, nada. When a friend’s son began working there as a dishwasher, I thought maybe I finally had an in. A few weeks later, he reported back with something along the lines of the fact that the owner was indeed very secretive about his sangria recipe. No info.
I’ve spent much of the last couple of years on a white sangria tear, but recently, I’ve returned to red. Good old classic red sangria, to be exact. The stuff that sold me on sangria to begin with, many years ago.
Please note: I’m not a sangria expert or anything – I’m not Spanish and I’ve never even been to Spain – yet! But I am a serious sangria fangirl. An enthusiastic one. Based on what I do know, the elements of a classic red sangria are citrus (usually orange or lemon), maybe some apples, a fruity (but not too sweet) red wine, some sugar, and possibly some brandy or other liqueur. Simple, delicious.
For this recipe, I ventured a tiny bit from the classic formula by skipping the sugar (I like to make up for it by adding ginger beer – plenty sweet – right before drinking) and – my secret weapon and I now suspect also the restaurant owner’s – a spoonful of allspice. The allspice adds a wonderful warm, spicy, and seasonal note along with the orange and apples, making for a glorious overall sangria indeed.
When I took my first sip, I practically did a fist pump. Or maybe I actually did – no “practically” about it. This stuff was very, very close to my restaurant fave. But I’m not going to keep my recipe a secret!
Classic Red Sangria
A simple (but potent!) red wine sangria with apples, oranges, allspice, and brandy. A splash of zesty ginger beer tops it off. Beware, this goes fast!
- 1 (750-ml) bottle red wine – I prefer something on the drier side*
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 large or 2 small apples, cored and cut into chunks
- 1 medium navel orange, sliced
- 1 cup red grapes (optional)
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 3/4 cup brandy
- 1/2 cup Triple Sec
- 2 (12-ounce) bottles ginger beer**
To a large pitcher, add all ingredients except for the ginger beer. Seal or cover tightly and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 10 hours. Scoop out a few pieces of fruit and add it to your glass, picking out the allspice if you prefer. Pour the sangria into the glass to about 3/4 full. Top off with ginger beer and stir gently to mix. And now the best part: serve and drink!
* I’ve been using a red meritage blend for this recipe, but Sangiovese is another great choice for red wine sangria.
** A nice, zesty ginger beer is my favorite. Ginger ale or lemon-lime soda will also work. I also like sparkling water but the result is definitely less sweet. If you like a less-sweet sangria, this is the option for you, or you can start with a sweeter wine, or even add a little simple syrup to adjust the sweetness to your liking right before serving.