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Elevated Summer Sangria

July 2, 2018

Red, white, rosé and sparkling sangria recipes for next level mango lovers

As one who has indulged in the intoxicating bliss of good wine for over half my life, I find sangria to be a complicated subject.

But, if you are going to do it, do it well………..

Sangria is basically a spiced wine traced back to the Roman Empire. Versions of spiced wine are found around the world, but the Spaniards and Portuguese are most closely associated with the sangria of today.

I find the logic behind the origins of sangria sound; however, I do find that most sangria recipes ruin a perfectly good drinking wine. In the Roman days, wine was added to contaminated drinking water, with some fruit for flavoring. The alcohol killed the bacteria in the water, and most folks drank this concoction in lieu of plain drinking water.

Modern day sangria is said to have started in Andalusia Spain, near Portugal, where the region’s wine isn’t as exquisite as the citrus. They took their wine, which was often of inferior quality, and cut it with citrus and sugar to create a beverage that was more enjoyable than their wines alone. The trend spread all over Europe, and especially in the watering holes of Spain and Portugal, where day old wines were revamped with the additions of fruits, sugars and, eventually, brandies.

Its rise toward becoming a household name follows logically and even fits with the modern sustainable food folks’ practice of reduce, re-use, recycle…

But somewhere along the way we Americans entered the picture and bastardized the recipes, missing the initial logic and value behind the recipe. While I can appreciate taking crappy, old wine and making it taste good by adding sugar and fruit, I can’t appreciate taking good wine and doing the same. Nor do I believe, if given the choice, folks would choose sugared-up, watered-down wine cut with fruit over clean drinking water. A good red wine with oranges, apples and brandy, just doesn’t cut it for me. I’d rather drink the wine and eat the fruit separately.

Now the challenge is posed… How can we make a contemporary sangria that tastes really good without messing up the wine itself?

For me the essentials behind a great sangria are in the authenticity of the need for it, followed by the understanding of subtle flavor complements. Like a good dish with multiple ingredients, each one should add something to the overall dish. A good sangria is well thought-out but simple, using good quality booze and wine.

Now, I do believe that sangria is a fantastic idea for crowds. I prefer it with summer fruits as a heat quencher, rather than with the traditional fall fruits. A big pitcher done right, iced cold and laden with summer’s bounty on a hot day, is hard to pass up.

Mangoes make the perfect ingredient for summer sangrias with their natural sweetness, keeping the need for added sugar down or non existant. Plus, their tropical perfumed vibrancy pairs incredibly well with summer fruits and leads to a heightened drinking experience.

There are a few tips that I find important to sangria, regardless of whether you opt to go the more traditional or innovative route.

  • The fruit should be cut, cubed or balled into bite-sized pieces that can fall into your mouth as you sip. Sangria is not something you should have to eat with a fork or hands.
  • It’s too easy to buy good, reasonably priced wine these days, so there is no need to get junky tasting wine. The best place to learn about wine is your local wine store. They will surely be able to guide you by price, flavor and personal preferences. You will learn about the variances of individual wines, grapes and regions by investing a little of your time.
  • It shouldn’t taste like hard liquor. It should taste like wine enhanced by fruit and other flavor agents, including liquor and brandies. Subtle flavors are key.
  • It should not be too sweet. There isn’t a need to add much extra sugar. With the right fruits and complementary additions, your sangria can be light and sweet without becoming sugary.
  • Soda, sparkling or seltzer water is optional. It works sometimes but other times it just dilutes and/or confuses the palette. I personally don’t like using sparkling with red wine sangrias. If you want fizz in your Sangria, use red Lambrusco.
  • Light bodied red wines work nicely and are extremely refreshing for summer red sangrias. Be careful with pungent butter whites like chardonnay. More neutral, acidic wines work best for white sangrias. Rosé wines are totally versatile and are perfect for cold summer sangria. Sparkling wines are fun but can easily get too sweet, so try adding a more potent liquor to cut the sweetness.
  • Make sure your fruit and wine are cold before using.

Here you’ll find my best nontraditional attempts at creating crowd-pleasing summer sangria with mangoes, using a red, a white, a rosé and a bubbly.

 

Cold Red Wine Summer Sangria

Lambrusco is both a grape and a production region in Northeastern Italy. It is one of Italy’s oldest grape varietals and almost always used in frizzante (semi-sparkling) or spumante (full sparkling), through a second fermentation, just like in sparkling wine. They are mostly dry and semi-dry, meaning they are not sweet. There are a few whites made today, but they are mostly found in rosé and red wines.

This sangria recipe uses a dry red style, ideal for a cold, almost classic sangria, perfumed with a beautiful cherry-mango grenadine syrup.

The added Lillet Rouge, a lightly-spiced aperitif or fortified wine, adds a light but classic feel to this sangria, with its fruit forward orange notes and a slightly bitter edge. It balances quite well with the sweetness of the fresh fruit and mango nectar.

Makes 1 large pitcher

Ingredients

For the Cherry-Mango Grenadine

2-3 mango pits with flesh
½ cup cherries, pitted and chopped
1 cup water
¼ cup raw turbinado sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon

For the Sangria

2 bottles of dry red Lambrusco
8 ounces of Lillet Rouge
½ cup Cherry-Mango Grenadine*
2 teaspoons orange zest
½ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup cherries, pitted and halved
1 cup fresh mango, cubed bite size
½ orange, sliced thin and cut into quarter rounds
½ lemon, sliced thin and cut into quarter rounds

Method

For the Cherry-Mango Grenadine

Combine mango pits, cherries, water, sweetener and lemon juice/zest in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring a little as it comes to a boil. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

Take off heat and allow to cool completely. Remove the mango pits. Blend the cherry mixture on high until totally smooth. Strain and discard solids, and refrigerate the syrup for up to a month.

For the Sangria

In a large pitcher, stir the Lambrusco, Lillet, Cherry-Mango Grenadine, citrus zest and juice. Lightly toss in the fresh fruit, and gently stir. Fill up the remaining space in the pitcher with a little ice, and serve immediately.

 

The Californian – Strawberry-Mango Rosé Sangria

 I’m in love with Amaro Angeleno, a well-crafted Amaro with heaps of logic backing it. Amaro is made all over Italy, and typically each little area has their own unique recipe with distinct flavor profiles, made with ingredients indigenous to the country’s micro-regions.

This California company, Amaro Angeleno, has done the most logical thing in crafting their Italian-style Amaro, using all Southern Californian distilled grapes, botanicals, herbs and citrus. Their classic Italian Amaro is distinctly a Southern California Amaro.

 If you are not familiar with Amaro, it’s Italian for bitter. Amaro is an Italian digestif commonly drank after dinner. It’s bitter-sweet and syrupy, and made with a slew of different herbs, roots and botanicals. It can be too bitter and herbaceous for a lot of people but lends a sultry earthiness and depth to this otherwise sweet sangria, using some of California’s most notorious ingredients, including the infamous California Keitt Mangoes!

I can drink almost any rosé wine and enjoy it, but I think this sangria deserves a more elevated rosé. My pick, a classic old world French rosé, Ehlers Estate Sylviane Rosé, comes from St. Helena and uses biodynamic Cabernet Franc grapes (one of my favorite wine grapes). This wine is bright, fruit forward and an exceptional pairing for this California Sangria. The estate describes it as having “aromas of watermelon, raspberry and cotton candy, mingling with orange sorbet and fresh cherries and a lingering lemon-berry finish.” It’s crisp and dry, with flawless  levels of bright acidity that bodes well with the Keitt Mango. Oh, and it’s 100% CCOF certified organic, just like I like.

Makes 1 large pitcher

Ingredients

For the Flowering Herb Mango Syrup

2-3 mango pits with flesh
1 cup water
¼ cup raw turbinado sugar
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Handful of flowering herbs of choice

For the Sangria

2 bottles rosé wine
8 ounces of Amaro Angelino
½ cup Flowering Herb Mango-Pit Syrup
1 teaspoon lime zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon orange zest
¼ cup fresh orange juice
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ cup mango nectar or thinned puree
1 cup fresh mango, cubed bite size
1 cup strawberries, hulled and quartered
2 pluots, pitted and cut into bit sized wedges
Handful of herbal flowers: borage, Thai basil, lemon thyme

Method

For the Flowering Herb Mango Syrup

Combine mango pits, sweetener, lemon juice/zest and flowering herbs in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil, stirring a little as it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, and let cook for about 10 minutes.

Take off heat and allow to cool completely. Strain and discard solids, and refrigerate the syrup for up to a month.

For the Sangria

In a large pitcher, stir the rosé, amaro, mango pit syrup, citrus juice/zest and mango nectar. Lightly toss in the fresh fruit, and gently stir. Chill in the refrigerator before serving. Preferable served without ice.

Peach & Mango (Eau de Vie) Sangria

 We all have a favorite summer fruit pairing, whether that be tomatoes, basil and mozzarella or strawberries and balsamic, we can’t stop thinking about the ways in which to enjoy our beloved fruits. For me the combination of peaches, mangoes and lavender send me into creative bliss. I love the trio, used in silky ice cream, cold popsicles, warm hand-pies and, now, as a potent eau de vie sangria.

The notable liquor in this sangria is eau de vie (French for water of life.) Eau de vie is basically an American version of a Pisco or fruit brandy that has not been aged. It’s clear, potent like gin or vodka, and fruity in taste and aroma, without any sweetness.

It’s making a big comeback among craft distillers all over the country, especially where fruit farmers have an abundance of flavorful fruit with imperfect aesthetics. We are seeing it pop up all over the USA in apples, pear and peach forms. My version uses a eau de vie I accidently discovered: Cap Rock Peach Eau de Vie, made by Colorado craft distillery Peak Spirit Farm Distillery. It’s 100% organic and utilizes some of Colorado’s sweetest Rosa peaches. The New York Times describes an eau de vie as having a “virtual orchard in your glass” and Cap Rock makes you feel like you are swimming in a peach orchard, laden with ripe peaches.

A white wine is the quintessential medium for this sangria. Choose a low-priced white wine that’s refreshing to drink on its own, crisp and on the dry side. My favorite white wines for sangria are from Spain and Portugal. Vinho Verde, Rueda and Albariño would each make a fine choice for this recipe.

 Makes 1 large pitcher

Ingredients

For the Lavender Honey Syrup

2-3 mango pits with flesh
2 tablespoons lavender flowers
1 cup water
½ cup honey
1 bergamot tea bag

For the Sangria

2 bottles of white wine, Albariño ideal
8 ounces Cap Rock Peach Eau de Vie, or peach brandy
¾ cup Lavender Honey Syrup*
2 teaspoons lemon zest
¼ cup fresh lemon juice
½ cup ripe mango nectar
2-3 ripe peaches cut into small wedges
1 large mango, cubed bite size
1 tablespoon lavender flowers
1 cup fresh blueberries, frozen

Method

For the Lavender Honey Syrup

Combine mango pits, lavender, water, and honey in a small saucepan, and bring to boil, stirring a little as it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and let steep, stirring, until the honey dissolves, about 8 minutes.

Take off heat, and toss the bergamot tea bag in the pan. Let tea bag sit for 2 minutes and then remove and discard. Allow the honey to cool completely. Strain and discard solids, and refrigerate until cold.

For the Sangria

In a large pitcher, combine and stir the white wine, eau de vie (or peach brandy), lavender honey syrup, citrus juice and zest and mango nectar. Lightly toss in the fresh fruit and lavender flowers, and gently stir. Chill in the refrigerator. Before serving, toss in the blueberries.

Mexican Sparkling Sangria

This is the ideal sangria, potent and like a cocktail. I love sparkling wine, but used in sangrias, it can get sweet very easily, which is why I find tequila and mezcal to be  wonderful booze additives, keeping the libation less sweet. A healthy dose of acid works well in a sparkling sangria, keeping the sweet to tart balance healthy. A shrub is an excellent vehicle to create depth of flavor without adding sweetness.

Makes 1 large pitcher

Ingredients

For the Mango Sage Shrub

3 ripe mangoes, chopped
1 cup raw sugar
Juice of two limes
Zest of 1 lime
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped
1 cup champagne vinegar

For the Sangria

2 bottles sparking rosé
4 ounces Del Maguey Mezcal
6 ounces of Reposado Tequila
4 ounces elderflower liquor
½ cup mango nectar (thinned out purée)
½ cup Mango Sage Shrub*
¾ cup blackberries
¾ cup strawberries, sliced
½ cup fresh mango, cubed bite size
A few fresh sage leaves for garnish

Method

For the Mango Sage Shrub

Combine mango, sugar, lime juice, zest, salt and sage in a quart mason jar and shake vigorously. Place the lid on the jar and refrigerate for 4-5 days, shaking vigorously a few times a day. Make sure in the first day most the sugar has dissolved. You may need to stir the mixture with a spoon to help it dissolve. After 4-5 days, remove the jar, and strain with a fine mesh strainer or cheese cloth, making sure to push on the solids, and extract all possible juice from them. Discard the solids, and add the juice back to the mason jar. Mix in the vinegar and chill.

For the Sangria

In a large pitcher, combine and store together the sparkling wine, mezcal, tequila, elderflower liquor, mango nectar, and shrub. Gently fold in the berries and mangoes. Chill in the refrigerator. Serve over a few large cubes of ice, and garnish each drink with a fresh sage leaf.

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