Sangria has all the makings of summer in a glass. While there is a traditional recipe for this Spanish wine-based cocktail, it offers mixologists the building blocks to create something new. Sangria’s foundation of wine, fruit and liquor is ripe with complex flavors ready to be played with.
A traditional red sangria has red wine, brandy, orange juice and slices of apples and oranges. White wine, sparkling wine and Rosé can also be used in this refreshing drink. Once you’ve settled on a wine, you can customize your sangria with complementary ingredients.
We’ll give you the fundamentals to create your own sangria. When your satisfied guests ask where you got the recipe, simply smile and point to your temple. There are just a few steps between you and sangria mastery.
How to pick a wine for sangria
Before we even get to the wine aisle, let’s talk about quality. You’re about to add juice, liquor, sugar, seltzer and chunks of fruit to your wine. This thought may send you directly to the bottom shelf. Resist this urge! Junk wine makes junk sangria. We’re not advocating for a super pricey bottle, but don’t skip on quality. Look for a reasonably-priced wine that you would enjoy on its own. Sangria is all about melding flavors. Find a wine that will play nicely with your other ingredients.
For red sangria, look for a fruity wine that is dry with good acidity. Avoid wines with heavy tannins as they’ll overpower the mix. Rioja is the Spanish varietal most associated with sangria, so it’s a safe bet. Merlot, Garnacha, Zinfandel, Tempranillo and Pinot Noir are solid options as well.
When crafting white sangria, consider Pinot Grigio, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnay. A crisp, dry wine will let the fruit lead the way. The same rule should be applied to sparkling wine and Rosé. If you use a sweeter wine, you may want to balance the flavor by leaving out extra sweeteners.
How to pick liquor for sangria
Traditionalists will opt for brandy, but there are a lot of options to transform your wine into a winning cocktail. We recommend looking for a liquor that has similar notes to your wine. Play up peach notes with peach schnapps. Enhance the floral aromas with St. Germain. Rum, vodka and cognac are also good ingredients to play with.
The beauty of making your own sangria is you’re the boss. If you like the edge of liquor, pour it in! If you want to cut it a bit, add sparkling water. Don’t like booze? No problem, boss. Leave it out!
How to pick fruit for your sangria
You’ve picked quality wine with a lovely liquor companion. Don’t screw this up with a mealy apple. Fruit is important — both in its flavor and appearance — to this drink. Nice looking, good tasting fruit is the way to go. The fruit you use depends on your wine’s characteristics.
Red sangria usually has oranges and apples. Using citrus and non-citrus fruits will add to the flavor and texture. Oranges and apples also look nice in a punch bowl. Bobbing orange slices and either sliced or cubed apples add to the visual appeal.
Let the wine be your guide. A white with peachy notes is begging for slices of peach. If you detect lemon or lime flavors, use that fruit to bump up the brightness. Strawberries, pineapple, watermelon and grapes can also meld nicely with white wine. In a red sangria you can rely on plums, cherries and pears.
As you develop your own sangria recipe, consider the whole fruit and the juice. If visual appeal is more important to you, sliced fruit will be enough. But if you want to really elevate a specific note, add some juice along with the fruit pieces.
Balance with other ingredients
We’re almost there. At this point, your main ingredients are leading the way. You can use some additions to balance it out. If your sangria is too dry, add a sweetener. The options here are broad: sugar, simple syrup, agave nectar or maple syrup. Conversely, if your wine and fruit are overly sweet, sparkling water can bring your recipe back into balance.
Put it all together
For best results, you should make your sangria in advance so the flavors can meld. It also helps to give the fruit a chance to soak up the alcohol. We recommend at least two hours of resting in the refrigerator.
The exception to this rule is anything with bubbles. Sparkling wine and seltzer should be added right before you serve so the cocktail isn’t flat.
Finally, serve your sangria in a glass pitcher or punch bowl. Your sangria looks great, show it off!
Tell us about your perfect sangria in the comments below!