In the time before food blogs and Tripadvisor, tourists came to Spain expecting little more than paella, sangria and flamenco, opting to eat microwaved paella over traditional tapas, and to watch choreographed flamenco instead of enjoying a Spanish style night out. While these types of tourists still exist, people are definitely savvying up and food and travel icons like Anthony Bourdain allow anyone to attack the local specialities.
But while the modern tourists bounce around looking for Spain’s best craft beers or tasting our popular gin tonics, what has become of the classic pitcher of sangria? Is sangria even Spanish? Is it just a tourist trap and a use for bad wine?
Awhile back I wrote an article on Vaya Madrid called The Sangria Story. I write about how the traditional Spanish sangria recipe evolved, and how it is definitely Spanish in origin. However, I also give credit to the Americans (which would probably seem crazy to some), as after the 1964 New York World’s Fair American cocktail aficionados took the sangria they’d sampled at the Spanish pavilion and elevated it to the delightful combinations you’ll find in American cocktail bars today (green apple and sake sangria anyone?).
For me, sangria is simply the name for a wine based cocktail— although I’d let cider and sake slide in there too. But here in Madrid you don’t find too much variety. The capital of Spain is often respectful to the classic Spanish recipes, and the traditional Spanish sangria recipe is no different.
- 1.5 bottles of young table wine (don't waste top quality wine on sangria but don't use something that's sure to give you a hangover either!)
- 2 oranges
- 1 lemon
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 3 tablespoons sugar (optional)
- 1 green apple (optional)
- 2 peaches or apricots (optional)
- Carbonated beverage (lemon soda, orange soda, or soda water) (optional)
- If using the sugar (which will make a sweeter sangria than if you omit), dissolve the sugar in two tablespoons of water over a low flame to create a clear simple syrup. Let cool.
- Wash the oranges and cut off thick pieces of rind before juicing the oranges.
- Juice the oranges.
- Wash the lemon and cut off pieces of rind before juicing the lemon.
- Juice the lemon.
- In a large pitcher or bowl, stir together the wine, simple syrup, orange juice and lemon juice and add in the chunks of lemon and orange rind. If making a truly traditional Spanish sangria, simply add the cinnamon stick and let sit at least two hours (preferably overnight) before serving over ice. This allows the sangria to take on the aromas of the fruit rind and cinnamon stick.
- If you want to make a slightly more modern version (still not anything too crazy!) add in chopped up chunks of green apple and peach. For the modern version you can also top off with a carbonated beverage (lemon soda, orange soda, or soda water) right before serving for some bubbles.
As you can see, the truly traditional Spanish sangria recipe is actually lacking any carbonation. That’s because carbonated drinks weren’t even invented when sangria got its start! From this classic recipe you can really experiment, using different fruits (I love grapes and mangos) and by fortifying the wine with brandy or vermouth. Some more modern sangria recipes have over 20 ingredients!
Like this recipe? Check out my other Spanish cocktail recipes!
- Warm spiced sangria
- Cava sangria recipe
- Cherry ginger gin and tonic
- White sangria (not my recipe, but delicious!)
Get yummy tapas recipes to pair with sangria:
- Spinach and chickpeas recipe
- Shrimp with garlic recipe
- Fried eggplant with honey recipe
- Ham croquettes recipe
What’s your favorite sangria recipe?
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