Start summer with Sangria


Sangria is a refreshing accompaniment to summer parties. A mixture of wine, fruit, sugar and traditionally a bit of brandy, Sangria reportedly originated on the Spanish peninsula where it was named after the word for blood-letting, due to its distinctive deep red color.

It remains hugely popular in Spain and Portugal, and as of this year is even protected under EU statute so that Sangria from Spain or Portugal will be allowed to be bottled and labeled as such – but why buy it pre-made? So much more fun to make it yourself.

Drinking wine mixed with other flavors has been popular for centuries. The Romans created “hippocras,” a wine cocktail made by mixing wine with sugar and different spices, including cinnamon, mace and cloves. After allowing it to seep for a least a day, it was passed through a conical cloth filter known as a Hippocratic sleeve and often served it warm.

By contrast, Sangria is really meant for warm weather and it is typically much easier to make. To begin, grab a clean bucket or large pitcher and pour in a bottle of flavorful but inexpensive red wine. Since this is a Spanish creation, using a rioja or other Spanish red is a welcome nod to tradition. Throwing in a measure of brandy gives it another whiff of authenticity. Add a cup of orange juice, then stir in a ¼ cup of granulated sugar (stir until dissolved). Throw in some sliced fruit such as lemons, apples, melons and even mango, then chill for an hour or two (although overnight is best) in the refrigerator. Before serving, add ice and 2 measures of club soda along with any berries, which are best when added late. Stir, pour (perhaps with a filter to prevent the fruit from toppling out and splashing everywhere) and watch the smiles.

There are innumerable variations. When made with white wine it is called Sangria Blanca or (in Argentina and Paraguay) Clerico. Some prefer to add a soft drink like 7-Up or Sprite or an off-dry sparkling wine rather than OJ and sugar. A quick version uses a 1:1 mixture of red wine and Italian soda with frozen fruit, while the “Lazy Girl” Sangria is made in a glass by muddling some fresh raspberries and adding a ¼ cup of orange liqueur, 4 ounces of red wine, some club soda and a big cube of ice. Garnish with an orange slice – or not. The variations are seemingly endless.

So have a go at it. Consider the Tobia Alma Mater Rioja 2011 ($11), a value-priced, mevushal and tasty Spanish red that is a good foundation for any of the plentiful Sangria recipes available. Its medium body, fruity and pleasant but overall thin delivery is crying out for a bit of Sangria mixing. Be sure to chill well, use fresh fruit and consider making a second batch of this very popular summer crowd-pleaser.

Spirits-wise, we thought we’d stick with the Spanish and Portuguese theme for a moment and revisit port, the fortified wine par excellence. OK, so it is not really part of the spirits category, and port is really more of a cold weather libation, but with a little tinkering some mighty fine, soothing summer cocktails can be made.
Port wine is made from various varieties of very foreign-sounding grapes grown in the Douro Valley region of Portugal. There are more than 100 grape varietals officially sanctioned for Port wine production, but the five most typical are Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz (the local name for Tempranillo), Tinta Barroca and Tinto Cao.

Port is a typically heavy, rich, sweet, high-alcohol (usually 18-20 percent abv) wine not only due to the type of grapes used, but also because it is fortified – the winemakers add some measure of distilled grape spirits (a local brandy called aguardente) to fortify the wine with an artificially higher alcohol content which, in turn, immediately kills the yeast cells, halting the fermentation process before the grapes’ remaining sugar is converted into alcohol. The wine then gets aged in oak barrels or vats of concrete or stainless steel, depending on style (and eventual price).

Port comes in an off-puttingly confusing variety of styles and can also be produced as a semi-dry or even an extra-dry wine, but generally, sweet is what the market and tradition call for. To date only one of these styles – ruby, which is very sweet – has been made in a kosher version. Whatever the style, port is usually served at the end of a meal, with dessert or as the dessert. These days, however, port has come back into fashion in cocktail form.

While the Portuguese would undoubtedly prefer that only their wines be called “port,” similarly labeled and similarly styled fortified wines are produced throughout the winemaking world, including in Australia, U.S., South Africa and Israel.

There are, in fact, only three actual kosher port wines from Portugal available (we’ve reviewed them all previously), but there are also some fabulous kosher alternatives from Israel (some of which we’ve also reviewed previously). Of the kosher authentic port wines, the best of the bunch is the Quevedo Ruby Port (19.5 percent abv; $24; comes in a nonkosher version too, so make sure to check for the kosher certification). This vibrant, fresh, very fruity ruby port offers great balance between acidity and fruit, with jammy flavors of black currant, cherry, raspberry, and also vanilla and mocha, with lovely aromatics of flowers, blueberry and hazelnut. Gets better as it breathes. Full-bodied, full-flavored.

Whether you get the Quevedo kosher port or one of the many kosher
port-style wines, consider making the following cocktails:

Ruby port on the rocks: This will likely call to mind better tasting cold kiddush wine, but … fill a highball or rocks glass with ice and cover with ruby port, garnish with an orange wedge and a mint sprig.
Port lemonade: Into a highball glass filled with ice add 1/2 ounce ruby-style port, 1 1/2 ounces of citrus flavored vodka (lots of great kosher options abound), 2 ounces of lemonade, stir well, and serve garnished with a lemon wheel or wedge and a straw. Delicious.
Ruby Manhattan: Into a mixing glass with ice add 2 ounces of rye whiskey, 1 ounce of ruby-style port, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters (kosher certified) and then stir until well-chilled, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass and (optional) garnish with an orange twist and/or maraschino cherry.

Irish Stout Sangria: This one is adapted from Lucy Brennan, the owner of Mint and 820 in Portland, Ore. Into your serving glass pour 12 ounces Murphy’s or Guinness Irish Stout and a 1/2 ounce of simple syrup; allow this to settle, then add a 1/2 ounce of ruby-style port. Gently stir this a few times, then top with the remaining 4 ounces of Irish Stout (the cans come in 16-ounce servings). Allow to settle for 30 seconds or so, then serve. Delicious … and filling. L’Chaim!

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