What could be better than a day dedicated to wine? Sangria Day is the perfect excuse to meet with friends and sample the delicious, fruity drink that is one of Spain’s claims to fame in the area of the culinary arts. Make sure your December 20th really packs a punch!
The History of Sangria
Each year more and more people are visiting Spain for its food. Over 2,000 years ago, when the Romans inhabited the area, they knew the water there was unsafe for drinking because of bacteria, and so it was common to fortify it with alcohol to kill it off. The first sangrias (whose name comes from sangre, or blood, and refers to its dark color) were likely heavily watered down mixes of wine, water, and herbs and spices. Basically, the Romans added anything they could to kill off the bacteria in the water and to disguise the taste of mediocre table wine.
Today, spiced wine is an ancient and much-loved tradition, and even though it originates in Spain and Portugal it’s enjoyed world-wide today. It can be served as an iced outdoor treat in the summer, or as a great way to warm up indoors in the winter.
How to Celebrate Sangria Day
Celebrations are pretty straight-forward: gather some friends, pour everyone a glass, then kick back and enjoy the true taste of summer! There are practically as many recipes for sangria as there are drinkers of the fruity punch, and a lot of delightful sangria recipes you should try, but the most common ingredients are wine, fruit, honey and sugar. The recipe can be adjusted to suit any tastes, however: sparkling water can be added to give the drink more fizz, and fruit can be kept out of the glasses using a strainer. Some of the fruit can even be mashed or grated and then stirred into the wine to give it an extra-rich flavor.
How this drink varies centers on the type of fruit, the presence or lack of carbonation and the kind of spirits added, if any at all. While all fruits can be used, the key is to use fruit that’s in season in order to underline the flavor of the drink, and also the type of wine being used. So while citrus and berries are the most popular choices for sangria, also consider peach, pineapple, mango, melon and even apples.
If possible, try to let the fruit marinate in the wine a day ahead, or at least a few hours before serving, to get the most of the natural flavors the fruits add. Brandy is commonly used in sangria to jack the alcohol content up a little, but you can add a few shots of your favorite liquor instead, or a splash of orange juice combined with liqueur such as Triple Sec.
If you’d like to add bubbles, consider soda water or a citrus-flavored soda pop (Spaniards would probably have heart attacks if they knew how you were perverting their drink with Sprite, but what they don’t know doesn’t hurt them). Some sangria lovers add honey or sugar as well.
While connoisseurs say it’s important to use a good quality red wine such as Rioja to get the authentic Spanish flavor, many agree that you should just choose something you like. Inexpensive wines are perfect for this drink–after all, masking the taste of cheap wine is exactly how sangria came into existence.