The holiday season is a blissful season, times spent with family and friends in a joyous atmosphere. During this time parties commence, people come and go, bringing forth festive food and spirits. Christmas treats fill candy jars and cookie trays in abundance. Tables are set with kitchen aromas announcing somethin' good's cooking! Enjoyed throughout the holidays is seasonal fruit, either sliced, chopped, diced, mixed together for salad or ambrosia, baked in pies, served in a punch or other fruity, spiced beverage, which by the way is the topic for today.
December 20 is...
Sangria is a spiced wine, an ancient and much-loved tradition, and even though it originates from Spain and Portugal it’s enjoyed world-wide. It can be served as an iced outdoor treat in the summer, or as a great way to warm up indoors in the winter. Its warmth and festive color make it perfect for Christmas time.
There are practically as many recipes for sangria as there are drinkers of the fruity punch, and for sure a lot of delightful sangria recipes you should try, but the most common ingredients are wine, fruit, honey and sugar. What is truly neat about sangria is the ability to adjust the recipe to individual tastes. Before delving into the actual make up of sangria let's take a peak into its origin.
A Bit of Sangria History...
Over 2,000 years ago, when the Romans inhabited Spain, they knew the water 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.
For the choice of fruit, the key is to use that which is in season in order to underline the flavor of the drink. 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 out of the natural fruit flavors. With this being wintertime, apples, quinces (California’s Pineapple quinces and the East Coast's Orange and Smyrna varieties), persimmons, Asian pears are in season but, of course, you can actually enjoy the taste of any fruit year around.
For the type of wine, connoisseurs suggest using a good quality red wine such as Rioja to get the authentic Spanish flavor. However, many agree that you should just choose something you like and it does not necessarily have to be an expensive wine. Inexpensive wines are perfect for this drink—after all, masking the taste of cheap wine is exactly how sangria came into existence.
Other variations suggest adding a good brandy, a few shots of a favorite liquor, or a splash of orange juice combined with Triple Sec. Do remain mindful, however, with every little bit added is an increase in alcohol content. Of course, sangria doesn't have to be alcoholic at all! If you’d like to add bubbles, consider soda water or a citrus-flavored soda pop. Some sangria lovers add honey or sugar as well. It's all about individual taste!
Sangria is NOT just for summertime! Sweet Sangria Recipes for Christmas, New Year's, Birthdays, Mondays...You Get the Idea!
Is your mouth thirsting yet?