Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Don't eat the fruit!

"Don't eat the fruit!" That's the first thing I learned upon joining a sorority and, really, the first thing I learned in college. After completing a week or so of rush, the freshmen men and women announced which sororities or fraternities we were joining and then went off to fraternity field parties (literally, we took busses out to the middle of a field) where "hooch" (aka Purple Jesus, Jungle Juice, etc.) was the drink of choice.

For those of you who missed this experience, a typical recipe for "hooch" involves soaking sliced fruit for a couple of days in a large tub of Everclear (grain vodka) and then adding some Hawaiian Punch, Kool-Aid or whatever was available in large quantities and cheap. For us freshmen women, it was good advice to "not eat the fruit" because it absorbs a lot of the liquor and can result in bad consequences, especially if your out in a field in the middle of nowhere with a bunch of drunk frat boys and the bus doesn't come for a few hours still...

I am now too old and too sensible to drink hooch. But my hooch sipping/mixing days laid the groundwork for my now famous sangria.

At its heart, sangria is really just hooch for adults. A basic sangria recipe includes: wine, sliced fruit, liquor, sugar, and soda. I like to be creative and try different concoctions, but my basic red and white sangria recipes are party staples.

Sangria is the one recipe that I am routinely asked for. The problem is -- I don't have a recipe. I'm like a little old lady who just eyeballs something and can tell you whether it is the correct amount or not. You know the type that give's you a recipe that has a lot of "to taste" instead of measurements? That being said, I will attempt to divulge my basic sangria "recipe."

Common Ingredients:

There are certain ingredients common to any of my sangria recipes:
  • Fruit - I generally use at least 1 apple, 1 lemon, 1 lime and 1 orange. For a sweeter sangria, I'll add berries such as frozen strawberries or blueberries or cherries.

  • Sugar - The amount really depends on the size container you are using and how sweet you like your drinks. I generally start with 1 cup and then add more as I taste it.

  • Sprite - The key here is really a carbonated beverage. So 7-Up, gingerale or seltzer will work. With gingerale or seltzer, you may need to add more sugar though. Again, the amount depends on the size container you are using. I generally start with the equivalent of 1 can and then add as needed.

Red Sangria Ingredients:

  • All of the common ingredients listed above

  • Red wine - I usually go with a sweeter red wine like Cabernet Savignon. Red table wine will also work. I usually avoid Merlots (and not because of Sideways, but because they tend to be more expensive and aren't as sweet). Remember, that you're going to be mixing the wine with a lot of different ingredients, so it doesn't have to be a good red wine. For a large party, I typically purchase a large jugs of wine.

  • Tequila

  • Brandy

White Sangria Ingredients:

  • All of the common ingredients listed above. Note that you can substitue orange juice for some of the sugar or Sprite.

  • White wine - Again, cheap wine is fine. And a sweeter wine is usually better. Savignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio or plain white table wine work. I generally do not use Rieslings because I'm generally making sangria for a large party and cannot find Riesling in large quantities for cheap, but it would work fine if you're making a smaller batch; just reduce the amount of sugar. I also generally do not use Chardonnay (unless it's the end of the night and I'm refilling the pitcher and that's all I have left, but I'm not a Chardonnay fan).

  • Light rum or vodka

  • Triple sec (optional)

Summer Blush Sangria (very refreshing on a hot day):

  • For fruit, I used 1 lemon, 1 lime, 1 orange and whatever berries are fresh and on sale. Most recently, I used strawberries and blueberries.
  • For wine, a blush wine or White Zinfandel.
  • For liquor, I used a raspberry rum and used less liquor than usual. (Mango rum would also work nicely.)
  • Double the amount of Sprite used in the typical recipe.

Directions (applies to all sangria recipes):

  1. At least 1 day before serving (but usually I do two), cut up all of the fruit and put it in a serving container. When cutting the citrus fruit, be sure to squeeze some of the juice into the container.
  2. Cover at least 3/4 of the fruit with liquor. As between the two liquors listed, I would use 3 parts tequila or rum/vodka for every 1 part brandy or triple sec. Some people complain that my sangrias are too strong, so you may want to use less depending on your crowd.
  3. Pour wine into the container. Make sure to leave a couple of inches of space at the top of the container.
  4. Stir it a couple of times to mix the liquor and wine and then let it sit until just before party time.
  5. Just before party time, stir the mixture. Then start adding sugar and Sprite. Start with a cup of sugar and a cup or so of Sprite. Stir and sample after each addition. If it doesn't taste "right," keep adding more sugar and Sprite.
  6. Sangria is best served over ice. I usually just have ice available next to the container because adding ice to the mixture will water it down.
  7. If you run out during a party but there is still fruit left in the container, just add more wine and more Sprite. Don't worry if it isn't the exact same type of wine as what you started with. But stick with the same general type of wine (i.e., don't go from a red to a white but Savignon Blanc to Pinot Grigio is okay).

A word about sangria containers - Remember that - despite what I learned in college - people will want to get at least a few pieces of fruit in their glass. So either have a wide-mouthed pitcher, a pitcher with a slotted top or provide an open top and a ladel for scooping out fruit. The first time I made sangria, I just put everything in the large jug that the wine came in. One of my friends spent days fishing the fruit out with a seafood fork.

These days, I'm usually making sangria in large batches and it is not unusual for me to have to transport it to someone's house. As a result, I use a 2 gallon Igloo cooler with a spout at the bottom. I leave the top open and provide a ladel for scooping fruit. If you're not taking the sangria anywhere, a large hurricane vase or punch bowl definitely looks more classy though and displays the sangria nicely. Just make it ahead of time in a pitcher and then transfer to the container of your choice before adding the sugar and Sprite.


  1. Sweet! I think I'll try this for a family get-together this weekend!

  2. Thank you!! That sounds really yummy!!

  3. I have used Allison's recipe at my parties and all I can say is you can't go wrong serving this!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It is the bomb!