If I find myself in an authentic tapas, Spanish or even Mexican restaurant, I have a hard time not ordering the sangria. Here is as classic a red sangria recipe as you might find, with traditional brandy adding a sweet, scintillating punch!
The origins of sangria
Sangria is a traditional Spanish wine punch, often concocted with chopped fruit and splashed with liqueur. You will find many variations, but it seems the most classic version includes chopped apples, sliced citrus and brandy. Not necessarily in that order (wink, wink). In a restaurant, sangria is typically sweetened with simple syrup (water + sugar + brief boil). But at home, you do what you want (my husband follows a keto diet and skips the syrup).
No matter how you mix it, red wine sangria is a flavorful libation that’s great for parties, perhaps a Tuesday, and in colder months can be just the ticket.
How to make homemade sangria
The key to spicing up a fruity Spanish wine like Tempranillo is to add a splash or two of brandy, Grand Marnier, or both. While these spirits are not the cheap ones, you don’t need a lot, so a couple little mini bar bottles are all you need.
Basic Red Sangria Ingredients
- Bottle of Spanish wine
- Chopped/sliced fruit: apples or pears, oranges, lime or lemon
- Brandy or orange liqueur
- Simple syrup
Spice it up
I love adding a couple cinnamon sticks, whole allspice berries and/or cloves to my red sangria. Whatever I may find in the cabinet. The sultry spices pair beautifully with the dark fruit flavors of Spanish wine, and give the punch an intoxicating scent.
I especially love a spiced sangria around the holidays when the fireplace is crackling away. When in season, I love to add pomegranate seeds, too. The seeds add a fun, sweet burst of flavor as you sip.
It’s your sangria – sweeten it however you like. Or not at all.
For one of my private clients who LOVED sangria, I would actually leave the syrup out entirely, or just add a little. Then I’d leave additional simple syrup in the fridge, so he and his guests could sweeten their glass to their liking.
The only alternative sweetener I recommend is raw honey. Honey will of course lend it’s own unique flavor to the sangria, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. For those following a paleo or GAPS diet, it checks the box within the rules.
If you choose to add honey to your sangria, be sure to mix it very well to fully dissolve the honey. Otherwise you’ll end up with a clump of honey in the bottom of the pitcher, and a not-as-sweet-as-you-hoped punch.
The best red wines for sangria
Tradition dictates that if you set out to make sangria, a Spanish wine is the way to go. I like the following wine varieties because they are easy to find, and many bottles are less than $15, or even less at Trader Joe’s and CostCo.
Traditional Spanish wines for red sangria
- Tempranillo (or any Rioja-region wine)
- Monastrell (same grape as France’s Mourvedre)
- Any red blend from Spain
Non-traditional (but fun!) wines for red sangria
- Primativo or Zinfandel (not white zinfandel, the red variety)
- Syrah or Petit Syrah
I love making sangria with a great zinfandel from California’s Lodi Valley. In the Lodi growing region, the vines are old and the flavors run deep. A Merlot or Syrah will make for a less fruity sangria, but one with earthier notes that will pair wonderfully with roasted meats.
Wines to avoid for sangria
I’ve read in many online sources for sangria recipes that “Pinot Noir is the best wine for sangria”. I strongly, professionally and respectfully disagree. Pinot Noir is a lighter wine, with soft fruit, gentle tannins and a thinner mouthfeel. Adding fruit, a sugar syrup and liquor will overshadow the more subtle nuances of Pinot Noir.
On the other side of the wine aisle, a big, bold, tannic wine like Cabernet Sauvignon might not play so nice with a bunch of milder flavors like apples and sweet liqueur. And if I’m looking out for you, pairing brandy with a high alcohol wine like Cabernet Sauvignon could prove a source of regret the next morning. Not drinkable times.
But like I always write – it’s your kitchen, you’re the boss. If you’re dying for sangria and you love Pinot, or all you have on hand is a Cabernet – grab the pitcher and have some fun. I’ve never regretted drinking wine of any kind, in any way. Okay maybe a couple times, but that’s another story for another day.
Yours in wine,Print
A classic sangria recipe that’ll take you straight to Spain, or your favorite tapas restaurant! Adding whole spices like cinnamon and cloves add a lovely spice for a holiday punch.
Friendly reminder: Sangria is best after the flavors have had time to marinate. Make you sangria at least four hours, or even a day ahead.
- 1 bottle Spanish wine (or your favorite medium-bodied, fruity red)
- ¼ cup simple syrup (see above about other sweeteners)
- ¼–½ cup brandy (about 2–4 mini bottles)
- 1 apple, chopped
- ½ navel orange, sliced to your liking
- 1 lime, sliced into half moons
Boil simple syrup
- Bring one cup of sugar and one cup of water to boil in a small saucepan.
- Remove from heat immediately, and set aside to cool. Simple syrup can be stored chilled for a couple weeks.
- Slice and chop fruit. I like to chop the apples or pears small enough to be enjoyed with the sangria.
- Stir fruit, wine, syrup, brandy and any whole spices together in a large pitcher.
- Chill sangria for four or six hours before serving, or even overnight.