Going Gluten-FreeAugust 8, 2012

Salud to Sangria!

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Posted by Living Without contributor Alison Pitzer

One of my most memorable experiences was the college semester I studied abroad in Spain. I fell in love with the country – its history, culture, people, wine and food. Yet despite my best intentions to recreate favorite Spanish recipes once I got back to the States, I never quite managed to find the time. The only Spanish recipe I mastered is one for sangria, the delectably flavored fruity cold wine drink that’s an ideal beverage for these hot summer evenings.

Most experts agree that the name sangria refers to the color of the wine used to make it. Barons Wine Lover’s Companion cites this helpful tidbit: “The blood-red color of this beverage inspired its name, sangria, which is Spanish for “bleeding.” Rest assured, the beverage tastes better than it sounds.

In its most basic form, sangría is made with red wine that is flavored with fruit and served over ice. Liqueur, brandy, and soda water can also be added.

There is no official history surrounding sangría’s origin. During ancient times, most Mediterranean wines were sweetened in some form, and wine mixed with fruit juices likely became commonplace. Since the basic ingredients for sangria grow abundantly in Spain, the tradition of mixing fruit with wine gained popularity in Spain and became associated with Spanish origins.

The United States didn’t enjoy sangria until the 1964 World's Fair in New York, when Spain introduced the wine punch to the rest of the globe. Spain’s open-air restaurant at the Fair featured seafood, Spanish snacks and jarras (pitchers) of sangria made with red wine, soda, and lemon and orange slices.

Hundreds of sangria variations exist today and you now have the happy task of determining your own personal favorite. Try mixing different fruits and spirits and experiment by adding carbonation. It’s important to allow time for the fruit flavors to infuse the rest of the ingredients. Most preparations call for cutting the fruit into small pieces and mixing it with the wine and liqueurs several hours in advance of pouring over ice and serving.

While you can use any red wine to make sangria, experts recommend a Rioja for authentic Spanish flavor. If you’re sulfite sensitive, make sure the wine you purchase is labeled “no sulfites added” or “organic,” meaning no sulfites have been added. These labels indicate natural sulfite levels between 6 and 15 parts per million. Look for these wines in specialty wine shops or in natural food stores like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.

Some stores carry ready-made sangria mixes that can be poured directly over ice or mixed with fresh fruit and soda water. Most mixes contain items like high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar and fruit juice concentrates. Scan the list of ingredients carefully before buying to assure that it is safe for your specific dietary needs. Avoid any artificial flavors or additives. The best sangria is made using fresh ingredients.

For those who don’t like red wine, sangria bianco is a good alternative. Keep in mind that white wines typically have more sulfites than red wines. To avoid sulfites altogether, substitute grape juice for wine. You’ll end up with an alcohol-free beverage the entire family can enjoy.

Raise a wine glass to Spanish ingenuity! Homemade sangria is easy and it’s allergy friendly. Try these two refreshing recipes, a great way to cool off.

Traditional Sangria


1 bottle red Spanish wine (such as Rioja)
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice from 1 large orange
Juice from 1 large lemon
1 large orange, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and wedged
1 cup club soda

1. Combine all ingredients except the club soda in a large punch bowl or serving pitcher.
2. Mix well and refrigerate overnight.
3. Add club soda immediately before serving.
4. Serve over ice.  

Fruity White Wine Sangria


1 bottle of your favorite white wine
Juice from 1 large orange
Juice from 1 large lemon
Juice from 1 large lime
1 large orange, thinly sliced
1 large lemon, thinly sliced
1 peach, peeled, pitted, and wedged
1 cup strawberries, sliced
½ cup lemonade
½ cup sugar
2 shots of fruit-flavored brandy (I recommend peach or apricot)
2 cups ginger ale
1 can of diced pineapple pieces with juice (optional)

1. Pour wine into a large pitcher and add juice from the orange, lemon and lime.
2. Toss in fruit slices.
3. Add lemonade, sugar and brandy.
4. Mix well and refrigerate overnight.
5. Add ginger ale immediately before serving.
6. Serve over ice.

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