The pitcher of red wine dosed with a confetti of fruit and orange slices seemed so festive — until the next morning's headache. That was the old bastardized sangria, the one featured at patio parties in suburban America in the '50s and '60s. And, as it turns out, very far from the Spanish original.
Sangria, it seems, is having another moment. You know sangria is trending when the inventors of White Zinfandel, Napa Valley's Sutter Home, come out with a California-style Sangria featuring "an easy-to-sip style and an approachable price point." That would be $5.99 for a bottle or a four-pack of single-serving bottles.
Sutter Home's is not the only new sangria on the market. Lisa Vanderpump, of "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills," and her daughter, Pandora, have come out with their own, LVP Sangria. It's made with Spanish wine and comes in red and pink versions for about $14.
More interested in the real thing? You should be. Look to this country's reigning Spanish chef, José Andrés, for a recipe that's not sticky sweet but bright-tasting and refreshing on a summer afternoon. His is made with a fruity red wine, preferably a Garnacha from Spain, infused with the flavors of apple, orange, cinnamon and lemon zest — and fortified with a dash of brandy, Cointreau and vodka. Sangria, it turns out, is really a sort of wine punch.
On a hot day, a pitcher of sangria and ice is casual and fun. It eliminates the fuss of opening wine bottles. And it actually pairs wonderfully with everything from a burger or grilled ribs to a paella cooked on the barbecue.
Bartenders are taking on sangria and doing what they do best: riffing on the tradition. One of the more interesting variations out there is from barman Garrett Mikell at Eveleigh on the Sunset Strip. He makes his Summer Sangria with rosé, wheels of lemon and orange, St. Germain (a French liqueur flavored with elderflowers), Chareau (an aloe liqueur) and a touch of crème de violette (a liqueur flavored with violets). That's a lot of flowers, so you need some herbs too. The herbal notes are mint and thyme, and it would be very pretty garnished with thyme flowers.
Sangria is not a lot of work to make, but it also can't be made at the last minute. Andrés' recipe needs to be chilled at least four hours. You'll need to start Eveleigh's sangria two days before to fuse the fruit and other elements with the rosé. That glass jar of wine with bobbing wheels of citrus is a very happy thing to see, whenever you open the refrigerator.