My authentic Spanish sangria recipe is the best and easiest sangria recipe that exists. Make sangria the Spanish way with my tips!
Spanish sangria– it’s one of Spain’s most popular yet misunderstood drinks!
Tourists love it, locals barely drink it… here’s the scoop on traditional Spanish sangria and what I’d consider the best red sangria recipe I’ve tried!
Read to the end for some twists on Spanish sangria– I’m always trying new recipes.
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 set a clear path for anyone to enjoy the local specialties.
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 way to use bad wine?
Where is sangria from?
Sangria is indeed Spanish. The word comes from “sangre” (blood), alluding to the red color of the drink.
The history of sangria is pretty straightforward — when the Romans inhabited the Iberian Peninsula over 2,000 years ago they planted a lot of grapes to make wine. At this time water wasn’t always safe to drink, so it was common practice to fortify it by adding some alcohol to kill off the bacteria.
The first sangrias were a product of this practice, and likely a mix of wine, water, herbs, and spices. Anything to make what they were drinking taste better!
Fast forward a couple thousand years, and many food historians believe sangria became popular after its debut at the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was offered at the Spanish Pavilion, and Americans took note of this sweet and delicious red wine punch. Soon recipes were printed in cookbooks, and American bartenders were making sangria their own.
In many ways, this is still the story today. In most of Spain, sangria is not something locals drink often. And when they do, it’s likely purchased pre-made — from the same part of the supermarket you’d find the soft drinks.
Occasionally people do make their own sangria, and there are many bars serving their version of sangria to tourists. But locals will usually prefer the simpler tinto de verano drink in the summer.
For these reasons, I give some of the credit for sangria’s popularity to the Americans (which may seem a stretch 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?).
In the end, 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 won’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.
So today we are talking about classic sangria — the traditional red sangria recipe that you’ll find in most Spanish tapas bars.
Watch how to make traditional Spanish sangria (1 minute video!)
Key Ingredients: Red wine, lemon, orange, cinnamon stick, sugar, apple, nectarine, and soda.
Ingredient Notes & Substitutions
- Red Wine: Use a decent young and fruity table wine — something you would definitely drink on its own, but one that isn’t too complex (or expensive!). It’s important that it’s good quality (otherwise your hangover will be awful), and also important that it isn’t overly oaky in flavor. That’s why a fruity young red wine works best. You can, of course, sub other wines — but then it becomes a different sangria. See below for options!
- Fruit: The most common fruit you see in red sangria in Spain is by far citrus fruit. Lemon and orange are key ingredients in the majority of Spanish sangrias. Other fruits you may see (and are optional) are peach or apricot and green apple.
- Spices: Usually traditional sangria recipes keep it simple and stick to a flavorful stick of cinnamon. But you can add star anise, nutmeg, ginger, cloves… the options for experimentation are endless!
- Sugar: Again — totally optional. Taste it without sugar and if you need it to be a bit sweeter, add it little by little. I prefer adding it in the form of simple syrup, as it incorporates better.
- Soda: You guessed it, it’s optional! 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! But if you like the extra fizz, add a bit of soda water or lemon soda to your sangria, right before drinking.
- Extra Alcohol: If you want your sangria to pack more of a punch, add a couple of ounces of Spanish brandy or vermouth. My favorite sangria bars in Spain add vermouth to their sangria jugs.
How to Make Traditional Sangria: Step by Step
Making sangria is super simple! I’ve outlined the most detailed version in the recipe found below (but you can omit the optional ingredients and it will be even easier!).
Step 1: Make a simple syrup. I like to use a 1:1 ratio for mine. Let it cool while you prepare the rest of the sangria.
Steps 2-5: Take your citrus fruit (I use lemon and orange) and peel the rind. Then juice the fruits.
Step 6: Now you just combine everything! Put your wine into a big pitcher (or pot) and add all of the citrus juice, peeled rinds, and simple syrup (if using).
Steps 7-8: Now give it a stir and add your spices (I use a cinnamon stick), any additional fruit, and brandy or alcohol (if using). Add the soda (if using) right before drinking.
Step 9: Voila! A traditional Spanish sangria to enjoy with your favorite tapas.
Recipe Tips & FAQs
Traditional Spanish sangria is made with red wine, water, herbs, spices, and fruit. Today’s sangrias have a wide variety of ingredients, and each recipe is different. Soda and brandy are common modern additions.
The best wine for making sangria is a young and fruity red wine. Any Spanish tempranillo wine would be perfect. You don’t want anything aged, and you want to make sure the wine is good quality to avoid a hangover.
Traditional sangria recipes do not include brandy. Brandy is an optional ingredient in sangria that will make the cocktail stronger because of the higher alcohol content.
Classic sangria is not very high in alcohol (less than a glass of wine). The reason is it is basically diluted wine. If you add hard alcohol like brandy, however, the alcohol content goes up.
Traditional Spanish sangria only includes sugar present in the wine and in the fruit added to the sangria. So it is not a very high-sugar beverage. But some people add additional sweeteners, so it depends on the recipe.
Yes! Sangria can be made ahead of time, and it actually tastes better that way. I recommend making sangria the night before serving it, which gives the fruit plenty of time to macerate and release their flavors. Then, right before serving, add the soda (if using).
I recommend keeping sangria no more than two days in the fridge. By that point the fruit is past its prime.
Sangria is the perfect beverage while enjoying a variety of Spanish tapas. Some of my favorite tapas to make with a pitcher (or two!) of sangria are:
- Spinach and chickpeas recipe
- Shrimp with garlic recipe
- Fried eggplant with honey recipe
- Ham croquettes recipe
- Sesame cheese puffs with honey
- Almond coated fried goat’s cheese
- My favorite Spanish empanada recipe
- Homemade patatas bravas recipe
More Sangria Recipes
Like the idea of sangria, but looking to stray from the classic red wine version? Try one of these other delicious sangria recipes!
- White wine sangria
- Warm spiced sangria
- Cava sangria recipe
- Rose sangria recipe
- Watermelon sangria recipe
- Non-alcoholic sangria recipe
- 4th of July sangria recipe
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Best Traditional Spanish Sangria Recipe
- 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)
- 2 ounces brandy or vermouth (optional) you could sub any hard liquor of your choice
- 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, lemon juice, and brandy (if using), and add in the pieces 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.
Update Notice: This post was originally published on May 15, 2014 and was republished with new text and photos on March 12, 2021.
Photography by Giulia Verdinelli
Like this recipe? Watch the web story!
What’s your favorite sangria recipe?
I was first introduced to sangría when living in Madrid in the early 70s. I got my recipe from a friend from Algeciras. I serve it often to guests and at parties. I do not juice the citrus, just slice oranges, lemons, and limes, put them in a glass pitcher, fill it with wine, and put it in the fridge overnight. I used to add some sugar also, no fizzy stuff or hard liquor. Now I like it a little lighter, so no sugar, but just before serving I add a little Sprite (wish I could get lemon soda here!) I like to add strawberries in the spring & summer. It’s always a hit. You’ve made my mouth water today with your recipe. Thinking now it might be good for Easter!
I’m Spanish, and from Valencia. Sangria is very very popular in Valencia, and it’s not drunk with meals but usually used for parties. Saying sangria is not popular in Spain is outright wrong… I think you need to mingle with Spaniards (of all social strata) more to make such statements. It’s particularly popular in low-medium socioeconomic classes.
Of course it goes without saying the popularity of the drink is not due to the Americans. British, German and French have been raving about sangria for a lot longer than Americans have. I’ll grant you the popularity in US might very well be due to the reasons you mention, but that’s not the case elsewhere.
Respectfully, a passionate Spaniard,
on your sagria ” recipe”I lived in a pueblo in the Valencia region for more than 15 years,and ALL the old villagers told me apart from cheap red wine wine there was no recipe.All they did was throw anything and everything into a big jug,with some ice,and drink it.This includes,any bits of spirits,etc,also hits of left over cider,etc. So it’s really up to you what you want in it.Just pour it all in AND drink and enjoy.
Looks great! I’m not a fan of soda in my Sangria.. good to know I’m just keeping up with tradition!
In New Mexico, USA, sangria is like a backyard bbq punch, haha. You make it at home, but probably won’t find people asking for it in a restaurant.
We do red wine, orange and lemon slices (limes are an option too), orange juice, brandy, grand mariner or another orange liqueur (optional), simple syrup (optional), and a cinnamon stick. Very similar. But my favorite add-on that I never skip now are berries. You can use any kind, but big sweet cherries and raspberries are the best.
I have been making Sangria with Dark rum, my friends love it.
Just enough to give a little flavor.
I would like to hear if you have a recipe for Pulpo Gallego.
Yum, that sounds great! I have never made pulpo a la gallega (yet)! Will post if/when I do 🙂
The above recipe is more of a modern version of Traditional Spanish Sangria, which does not generally squeeze any juices into the wine. The basic idea is that you should still see a clear wine color, or actually see through the wine if you decide to add water, or a “gaseosa.” Yes. My grandparents did occasionally add sugar to the mix, but not all the time. Keep in mind that sangria was a refreshing drink of choice on hot days; especially for farmers, peasants and hunters. Later on it became more of a festive component of family gatherings. It was not intended as an all year-round beverage. The key was simplicity of ingredients.
The very basic traditional recipe is:
1. Red wine
2. Water, or soda (optional)
3. Cut up lemons (without juicing)
4. Cut up oranges (without juicing)
5. No other fruit!
The “juicing” is left up to the individual drinker! 🙂
Now don’t get me started on traditional paella…
Thanks for that Carlos! Definitely agree, although in recent years traditional has come to mean something else! Remember that originally it would have definitely been water, because soda is a more recent ingredient. I’ve also read that spices were likely in the original sangrias, and that oranges often weren’t.
Currently in Spain and traditional sangria includes brandy. It’s delicious!!
Hi Jenna, thanks for the comment! I mention in the post that you can fortify the drink with brandy or vermouth if you want. Many of the bars here in Madrid make it with vermouth, and but you can read in my article on Vaya Madrid (http://vayamadrid.com/sangria-history-and-symbol-of-spain/) the most traditional of all were essentially water, wine and fruits/spices. There really is no one national recipe, though definitely many people fortify with the great brandies from Jerez.
Thank you for your lengthy response. Noted….
I love researching on my own, and hearing about traditions from my family that’s here in Spain. But thank you!
Of course! And nothing is clear cut when it comes to food history!
This is so interesting! I definitely want to try some of these. Thanks for featuring my recipe! I know you wrote this a while ago, but I just discovered it. 🙂
Thanks for commenting, your version is great!
Hey there! I really liked your website as I´m living in south Spain since now two years.
I came here thanks to http://www.onspanishline.com , because I was learning spanish and they convinced me to move here, thanks God! Sangría is one of my special dishes, where I live in Granada they make with so many arabian mixtures, it tastes awesome!
Thanks for the blog!
Excited to try this one today!
Worth the try!
I’m missing sangría here in Australia, so I may have to give this a try!
Hahaha, I always say you should choose a wine that’s not Don Simon or its ilk but also nothing above €3 either! You definitely don’t want a cheap-wine hangover.
I do love sangria, though I tend to drink it in the U.S.!
Sounds delicious! I can’t wait to make it!
I had no idea sangría was so simple…and so Spanish as well, what with all the citrus and cinnamon! I like that you pointed out that *traditional* sangría doesn’t include fizzy/carbonated drinks, because they weren’t even invented until about 100 years ago.