There is no one right way to make sangria. But if I had to make one version of red sangria for the rest of my days, I think this would be it! Fruity, fun, not too sweet, and with just the right amount of effervescence.
This is a highly drinkable version of the pitcher drink that makes an evening feel like it’s going to turn into a party. It’s just the right amount of boozy, it’s simple to make, and it’s gorgeous. The ultimate summer cocktail!
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Sangria can get such a bad rap, sometimes deservedly so. In some restaurants — and definitely in some pre-made bottled sangria — you can find a drink that is cloyingly sweet, and either overly alcoholic or too watered down. And sometimes you don’t really know where you will land after a couple of glasses! A well-balanced fruity and refreshing sangria is yours for the making if you just keep the ingredients in balance.
Red Sangria: Fruity, fun, not too sweet, with a little effervescence. The perfect version of everyone’s favorite pitcher drink!Tweet This
Fruity Red Sangria
Sangria is an alcoholic drink usually made with red wine, or vino tinto. The wine is combined with chopped fresh fruit, a glug or two of hard liqueur, some sugar or simple syrup, and usually, a carbonated drink, whether more wine, or water. The type of fruit used is very much up to preference. See below for suggestions for popular fruit in sangria, but know that it is a matter of taste. For instance, I read that one wine shop owner in Spain doesn’t use lemons or limes in his sangria because he doesn’t want to have to balance out the acidity with added sweetener, which the tartness of the citrus would necessitate.
It is often enjoyed during the summer months, on its own, sometimes with a meal, often outdoors.
Types of Sangria
Most sangrias are made with wine, either red, white, or rose. Occasionally the wine itself is sparkling, but more often than not, the fizz comes from sparkling water or club soda. And many sangrias have no bubbles at all but are refreshing in their own right. And then, there are all of the possible variations of fruit and added liqueurs.
Once you get the hang of sangria, playing around with different versions is quite freeing. Here’s how I think of it: you can keep adding things until you get to where you want to be. So if it’s not sweet enough, add more sweetener. If it’s too boozy, add more sparkling water or soda or fruit juice. If it’s too sweet, add some tartness or a little more booze. There are no wrong answers in sangria.
Best Red Wine for Sangria
The most classic version of sangria is made with red wine, and which one you choose is important. Some people advocate for a fruity wine, and some for a dry wine. Again, in the end, it’s a matter of taste, and also about how you balance the ingredients and flavors.
Make sure it is a wine you’d like to drink on its own, but don’t spend a lot of money on it. Sometimes sangria makers fall under the illusion that all of the add-ins to the drink will mask a lower quality wine, but nope, that won’t be the case, so make sure you like the wine to begin with! Lambrusco (a fizzy red wine meant to be served chilled), Tempranillo, Rioja, San Giovese, Pinot Noir, or Grenache are all good choices.
Best Liqueurs for Sangria
Triple sec is a very traditional addition to sangria, and its orange base gives the sangria a citrus flavor. Licor 43 is another common liquor added to Spanish sangria, though a little goes a long way. This liqueur will impart a vanilla flavor, which you want to keep quite subtle. A clear brandy is also often added in addition to the more flavorful liqueurs, but this really has the sole purpose of making the drink more potent. Brandy de Jerez is a type of clear Spanish brandy most often used in sangria.
- Liqueur – Another liqueur besides wine is usually added to the sangria. This is where you need to decide if you want your drink to be a little more alcohol-driven, or a little lighter on the booze.
- Fruit – There are tons of choices here! Some of the most popular fruits are citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, and more), apples (green apples are popular), grapes, berries, peaches, apricots, and pears. In addition to cut-up fruit, I also add a nice amount of fresh orange juice.
- Sweetener – Some recipes don’t even call for added sweetener, but most people I know like a little sweetness in their sangria. Using simple syrup — with the sugar already dissolved in the water — allows you to blend the sweetener right into the drink, and control the sweetness in a consistent way. Go easy on the sugar or simple syrup; you can always add more. If you have lots of sweet fruits in the sangria, you may need very little. You don’t want the sugar to overpower the taste of the wine and the fruit.
- Sparkling wine or water – Some people don’t like anything effervescent in their sangria, but most sangrias that are served in the U.S. (as well as many parts of Spain and Portugal!) have some fizziness to them. If you don’t want the water to dilute the drink, skip it. I frankly find the addition of sparkling water helpful in restraining the alcohol level of the drink. You will not want to just have one glass of this… but you also don’t want to regret it the next day!
How to Serve Sangria
Sangria is most often made and served by the pitcher, though you can certainly order it by the glass in most restaurants that serve it. The pitcher is usually made out of glass or terra cotta. I always prefer glass when making it at home so I can show off the color and the fruit! Sangria jugs are designed with a pinched spout to prevent the fruit from tumbling out of the pitcher and splashing everywhere.
There is usually a spoon in the pitcher for stirring the drink to mix it anew before pouring a fresh glass. The spoon is also there so you can scoop out some fruit and add it to the individual glasses.
When my son spent a few months in Spain, and we went to visit, the fact that sangria isn’t really a locally popular drink was reinforced. Sangria is available all throughout Spain, but apparently, it’s mostly the tourists who drink it. The locals drink Tinto de verano, which is nothing more than red wine mixed with a lemon-lime soda, usually Fanta. That’s it, and while it may sound kind of sacrilegious to mix wine with soda, I assure you it really works! It’s a little sparkling, a little winey, a little sweet, and altogether refreshing.
It is, in fact, a streamlined back-to-basics version of sangria, a mix of wine, and something sweet and something sparkly. However, sangria rocks, and I can withstand the smirk of some Spaniards who think it’s amateur hour, a tourist drink. It did, in fact, originate in Spain and Portugal, and when it’s made well, it’s delicious like nothing else is.
Tips for Making Sangria
- Whether you are using sparkling water, sparkling soda, or sparkling wine, make sure it is chilled. Add it to the pitcher or glass just before serving so the sangria will keep its fizz. Not all sangrias are fizzy, but many have some bubbles.
- Put the ice in the glasses, not in the pitcher. This prevents the sangria in the pitcher from becoming diluted. Just add a couple of cubes to each glass and leave the pitcher chilling in the fridge between refills.
- Keep a long-handled spoon in the pitcher. Then you can scoop out some of the fruit into the glasses as you serve the sangria.
- If you feel like your guests aren’t going to want to pick out the fruit from their glasses with their fingers, provide additional small spoons to everyone can enjoy those boozy pieces of apple and pear!
How to Make Red Wine Sangria
- Combine and refrigerate: In a medium pitcher, combine the wine, triple sec, brandy (if using), orange juice, simple syrup or sugar, apples, and oranges. Stir to mix well and chill for 4 to 12 hours to macerate the fruit.
- Serve and enjoy: When ready to serve, you can pour the sparkling water into the pitcher and then pour the sangria into glasses with a couple of cubes of ice in each. Or, you can pour the sangria into glasses with ice and then pour some sparkling water into each glass to finish the drink. This allows you to keep the base of the sangria chilled, and add cold sparkling water to each serving as you pour it. Keep the sangria chilled and refill glasses as needed.
What to Serve Sangria With
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- 1 (750 ml) bottle dry red wine (preferably Spanish)
- ½ cup triple sec or Cointreau (or other orange liqueur)
- ¼ cup clear brandy (optional; see Note)
- 1 cup fresh orange juice
- 3 to 5 tablespoons simple syrup or superfine sugar
- 1 large green apple (cored, and diced)
- 2 oranges (halved and thinly sliced; with peels)
- 2 cups chilled sparkling water or club soda
- Ice (to serve)
- In a medium pitcher, combine the wine, triple sec, brandy (if using), orange juice, simple syrup or sugar, apples, and oranges. Stir to mix well and chill for 4 to 12 hours to macerate the fruit.
- When ready to serve, you can either pour the sparkling water into the pitcher and then pour the sangria into glasses with a couple of cubes of ice in each. Or, you can add ice to some cups, pour the sangria into the glasses, and then pour some sparkling water into each glass to finish the drink. This allows you to keep the base of the sangria chilled, and only add cold sparkling water to each serving as you pour it.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.