When the mood is right and the weather cools down, nothing beats a cool, fruity, aromatic, and punchy glass of red sangria. This recipe is for an authentic, restaurant-style pitcher with diced apples, sliced citrus, spices, and brandy for a sweet kick. Without added sugar or fruit juice, this recipe allows the flavors of the wine and fruit to shine.
Sangria is a lightly sweet, mouthwatering wine punch with Roman-era roots in what is now Spain. Since the water wasn't quite reliable back then, wine was added to stave off sickness. Then it spiraled into a more contrived drink with fruit and spices. In modern Spain, sangria is more of a tourist attraction than a drink the locals enjoy. And while American-style experimentation with sangria ingredients is half the fun, this recipe errs on the side of authenticity.
So you can use it as a starting point for all your wildest sangria dreams. The ingredient list is short and impactful. Only what enhances the wine. And nothing that doesn't. But no matter how you mix it, red sangria is an enticing libation to serve at parties or to enjoy with your Taco Tuesday. In winter months, this restaurant-style punch is a delicious, crowd-pleasing cocktail for the holidays (and so is apple cider sangria).
The Best Wine for Sangria
An authentic sangria almost demands traditional Spanish wine varietals. And you can find great labels for less than $15. Especially at stores like Trader Joe's and Costco that purchase wine in large volumes. No need to shell out big bucks on a bottle. But I recommend a decent wine you also enjoy in its natural state (if anything, to prevent any morning-after misery).
For smoother sipping, reach for Spanish bottles labeled Denominacion de Origen (DO). Wine with this designation is made according to regulated agricultural practices which equals better wine. And look for Crianza or Reserva, which are aged a minimum of two and three years, respectively. The longer wine matures in the barrel or bottle, the more nuanced it will be and the softer its tannins (a wine's bitter, tongue-drying compounds).
- Monastrell (same grape as France's Mourvèdre wine)
- Rioja (a Spanish red blend)
- Primativo or Zinfandel (not white zinfandel, the dry red variety)
- Syrah or Petit Syrah
A short and sweet ingredient list void of imposters. For the purest pitcher of red sangria, stick with the below. If you prefer a sweeter cocktail, you can mix in a little simple syrup. Brandy is what gives many glasses of sangria that thing that makes you go Mmmm.
- Spanish red wine
- Stone fruit: apples, pears, or even Asian pears
- Citrus: orange, lime, blood orange, or grapefruit
- Simple syrup or granulated sugar, optional
On sugar or simple syrup. Most red sangria recipes call for a little sugar or simple syrup. But you don't have to add any if you avoid processed sugar (like we all should). Honey is the only sugar substitute I recommend. It will lend its own unique flavor to the sangria, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If you choose to add honey, you can warm it slightly with a few splashes of the wine before adding it in. Otherwise, be sure to mix very well until it's completely dissolved. The same goes for any granulated sugar.
On adding club soda or any fizzy drinks. If you'd like to add a carbonated beverage to your sangria, splash a little in the glasses right before serving. The carbonation will fall flat as the sangria marinates, and doesn't bring any great flavors to the table.
The not-so-secret method for a killer sangria is to let the wine, fruit, and liqueur marinate for several hours before serving. Planned ahead and mixed it the night before? You'll enjoy a winner of a red sangria pitcher.
I recommend cutting your apples or pears small enough to be sipped. That way if someone wants to include a piece of fruit in their sips they can (no one wants to get caught with an awkward mouthful of fruit chunks). Otherwise, cut the fruit larger to avoid any from escaping the glass. You don't need to peel the apples or pears, the skin helps the fruit maintain its shape in the punch.
- Boil the simple syrup. You can certainly mix endlessly to dissolve a few tablespoons of granulated sugar in the punch. But simple syrup is a cinch to make and the standard for sweetening cocktails at bars and restaurants. Combine equal parts granulated sugar and water in a small pot, and bring it just to a boil. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for a few weeks.
- Prep the fruit. Dice your apples and pears into small pieces, around a quarter of an inch in size. This allows the fruit to be sipped in small doses with the sangria. Slice the lime in half, then into thin crescent moons. Do the same with the orange, cutting the crescent moons in half again to create small triangles that mirror the size of the other fruit.
- Mix the sangria. Add the fruit, wine, brandy, simple syrup, and any whole spices to a large pitcher and stir it well. I've seen Spanish chefs add the brandy right before serving the sangria. I add it at the beginning for the mere sake of simplicity and not forgetting later (also, I'm not always around when my clients imbibe).
- Marinate. Let the sangria chill for several hours before serving, or even overnight.
- Serve. Serve the sangria in glasses garnished with a slice or two of the citrus in the punch.
- Marinate the wine for at least four hours. One summer cooking for a client in Malibu I made a lot of sangria. And I found that four hours is the sweet spot for marinating the fruit in the wine. More is better, less is well, less. The longer it marinates, the better it tastes (up to a point). Overnight is a great way to create a smashing sangria. After a day or so, however, the punch will begin to fall flat on flavor as the exposure to air degrades the wine.
- Experiment with different wines. I love red sangria with zinfandel from California's Lodi Valley. In the Lodi growing region, the vines are old and the flavors run deep. Lighter, easy-drinking Italian varietals like Sangiovese can make for a great cocktail, too.
- Add plenty of whole spices. Adding a few cinnamon sticks, whole allspice berries, star anise, or cloves gives your red sangria that sitting-in-an-authentic-tapas-joint feel. Warm and sultry spices pair beautifully with the dark fruit flavors of rich Spanish wine. And lend an intoxicating aroma.
- Sweeten it to taste. For one of my first clients who loved sipping white sangria with friends on the weekends, I left the syrup out entirely. And filled a squeeze bottle of simple syrup to keep in the fridge. Then he and his guests could sweeten their individual glasses to their liking.
Frequently Asked Questions
The best fruit for any given sangria depends on the wine you choose. The goal is to complement the tasting notes and aromatics of the wine. So Spanish red wines like Tempranillo and Garnacha with red fruit undertones pair wonderfully with apples and red anjou pears. Typical white wines for sangria like Albariño or Sauvignon Blanc are delicious with barely ripe stone fruit like peaches, pluots, and nectarines. Cherries and plums are flavor chameleons and bring out lovely notes in both red and white sangria.
Citrus is a common ingredient for the cocktail in all colors, as the acidity balances out the sweetness of the punch. Sturdier fruit like apples and barely ripe nectarines hold up well to long marination. Berries and tropical fruits like pineapple and mango become mushy in the punch rather quickly. So I only recommend adding them right before serving or as a garnish.
No way, José! According to historians, ancient Romans drank a concoction of wine, sugar, and water. So that's likely where the tradition of adding sugar to sangria originated (but their wine probably tasted awful). With the modern marvel that is 21st Century winemaking, you don't need to add sugar for a great sangria. And actually, I believe sangria is more flavorful and authentic with just a little or no sugar at all. Too much can mask the nuance in the wine, brandy, and fruit. Leaving the sugar out also allows those on a low-carb or ketogenic diet to partake in a glass.
You can certainly add a little fruit juice to your pitcher of sangria. But in my opinion, juice only dilutes the flavor of an authentic sangria. And if you are adding sliced citrus, juice from the flesh will make its way into the punch anyway. So for a pure, traditional glass of sangria, you don't need to add any. But you decide. It'll lighten up the cocktail (especially if you've added liqueur). And stretch how many people your pitcher will serve. Aim for half a cup of orange juice for every bottle of wine for a traditional sangria.
You may come across recipes and advice that recommend "Pinot Noir as the best wine for sangria". I professionally disagree and can't understand how this trend began. Sangria hails from Spain. And Pinot Noir is a classic French varietal from the renowned wine region of Burgundy, France.
Now don't get me wrong, a carefully-crafted Pinot Noir is a stellar wine. It pairs wonderfully with a variety of dishes. But load it up with fruit, brandy, and sugar and you miss out on all that makes Pinot Noir, well, Pinot Noir.
But if you love it, or it's all you have on hand, I say your glass, you're the boss. Grab the pitcher and have some fun. I've never regretted drinking wine of any kind in any form. At least that I'll admit to.
- 1 bottle (750 mL) of Spanish wine
- ¼ to ½ cup of brandy
- 2 apples and/or pears, diced small
- ½ of a large orange, sliced and halved
- 1 lime, sliced into half moons
- 2 to 4 cinnamon sticks
- 1 tablespoon of allspice berries, optional
- ¼ cup of simple syrup, optional
For Simple Syrup
- ½ cup of granulated sugar
- ½ cup of water
To Make Simple Syrup
- Bring the sugar and water just to a boil in a small pot, stirring to dissolve the sugar well.
- Remove it from the heat immediately, and set it aside to cool.
- Store simple syrup in an air-tight container for up to a couple of weeks.
Mix & Marinate the Sangria
- Prep the fruit. Dice your apples and pears into small pieces which allow the fruit to be sipped in small doses with the sangria. If you don't want any fruit to be sipped, simply chop it larger. Cut the lime in half, then into thin slices. Do the same with the orange, cutting the slices in half again to create small triangles. Save a few slices of lime or orange for garnishing the glasses.
- Mix the sangria. Add the fruit, wine, brandy, simple syrup (if using), and any whole spices to a large pitcher and stir it well.
- Marinate. Let the sangria chill for several hours before serving, at least four for the best flavors. You can also mix sangria the night before.
- Serve. Serve sangria chilled garnished with a slice of citrus.
Marinate the wine for at least four hours. Mixing up sangria for clients I've found that four hours is the sweet spot for marinating the fruit in the wine. At least as a minimum. More is better, less is well, less. The more it marinates, the better it tastes (up to a point). Overnight is a great way to create a smashing sangria. After a day or so, however, the punch will begin to fall flat on flavor as the exposure to air degrades the wine.
For the most authentic sangria, choose a Spanish wine varietal such as Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell, or a Rioja (a red blend). Primativo, Zinfandel, and Syrah also make for fun pitchers of sangria.
On the Liqueur
Brandy is a popular addition to sangria for good reason. The fortified, fermented grape juice-based spirit pairs beautifully with wine and traditional sangria flavors. An orange-flavored liqueur such as Triple Sec, Cointreau, or Grand Marnier works well in this recipe, too.
On Adding Club Soda
If you'd like to add a carbonated beverage to your sangria, splash a little in the glasses right before serving. The carbonation will fall flat as the sangria marinates anyway, and doesn't bring any great flavors to the table.
On the Nutrition Facts
The nutrient amounts below are based on the recipe as written with half of a cup of brandy and no added sugar. It doesn't include any calories from the fruit, since consumption on that front varies widely.
- Prep Time: 5 minutes
- Cook Time: 4 hours
- Category: Drinks
- Method: Marinating
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Diet: Vegan
- Serving Size: 1 7-ounce glass of sangria
- Calories: 220
- Sodium: 0.3 mg
- Fat: 0 g
- Saturated Fat:
- Carbohydrates: 4.9 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
Keywords: red sangria recipe, authentic red sangria, sangria with brandy, how to make sangria
More Drinks Recipes
I'm happy to tell you, this is not your average food blog. There are few, if any, product links, or annoying pop-up ads. But there are:
- The culinary techniques and simple formulas for success
- Recipes that work for all types of diets
- How to save money on groceries
- A direct line to me, Chef Christina, to ask any cooking or baking questions you have, anytime
The first five emails will be my series: Just Cook. It's a free quick-start guide to get you cooking like a pro, without having your eyes glued to a screen. Think of it like free culinary school, with a friendly (not yelling) chef.
Because life's too short to waste time scrolling through recipes.
When you could be sipping wine while cooking, instead.