The Best Summer Drink is Sangria - No. 127
Who cares if only tourists swill it in Spain? I invited Everyday Drinking’s Jason Wilson to talk true sangria and share recipes just in time for July 4. It’s the red in red, white and blue.
BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT SANGRIA, we must talk about the truth. I know that sangria conjures images of flamenco and bullfights and Costa del Sol. But the reality is that Spanish people do not drink a lot of sangria. Sangria, in Spain, is mostly a drink for tourists.
To be clear, people in Spain do enjoy wine cocktails, and there is a whole universe of wine-plus-soda drinks that Spaniards love. Among them is the Calimocho (red wine mixed with Coca-Cola), the Rebujito (fino sherry mixed with 7-Up or Sprite and garnished with mint) and the Tinto de Verano (red wine mixed with 7-Up or Sprite and a squeeze of citrus).
Yes, these drinks sound vaguely trashy, but trust me, they are delicious over ice on a hot day, and a good use of last night’s leftover wine. (Check out Everyday Drinking for a few variations on those, uh, classics).
Now, let’s talk about sangria, which was introduced to Americans at the 1964 World’s Fair in New York.
Almost six decades later, whatever sangria you are mixed at an American bar has long detached itself from the Iberian original. And that’s fine!
On this 4th of July, let’s just consider sangria to be an American drink, to be enjoyed on this American holiday. Who cares how they do it Spain, amiright?
Still, I would like to make a case for quality sangria. My issue with the drink is that it’s almost always made incorrectly. Sangria is not simply chopped fruit dumped into cheap wine and left to turn soggy.
The most dramatic example of this was at my cousin’s wedding, about 15 years ago, on a gorgeous island in Puget Sound.
On the sunny afternoon of the wedding, I was relaxing on the balcony of my hotel room when my mother came running up. “I think they need your help,” she said. “Your cousin is freaking out because they’re making her sangria for the reception all wrong.”
I had just started writing my drinks column for the Washington Post, and rarely saw what I did for a living as important. But here was my mother asking me to save the cocktail hour, or at the very least my cousin’s frayed nerves. Heroes do not always wear capes.
I swaggered over to the resort bar and found what looked like fruit cup in a pitcher. I delivered a brief class on how make a proper sangria for 300 guests. I am certain the bar staff did not appreciate my intervention, but my cousin was able to go get into her wedding dress, and it all worked out fine.