20160703_183400 Long days, warm nights – sitting out on the deck or porch sipping a cool glass of sangria. What a perfect way to enjoy the summer months. You might even imagine yourself relaxing at a café in Malaga, Spain or Algarve, Portugal. But one problem with sangria is that most bottled brands of the elixir are either too weak or too fruity. I have yet to find a brand that I really like.

The solution to this problem is to simply concoct your own version. It really isn’t that difficult – my wife Stephanie and I find it fun to experiment with different recipes.

Sangria is named after the Spanish and Portuguese word for “blood” because of its dark red color. Hmm- not very appetizing. But the word “sanguine” is derived from the same origin, and it means “marked by sturdiness, high color, and cheerfulness.” Now that works.

The ingredients for sangria can vary greatly, but most bartenders and mixologists would agree that all sangrias should have the basic ingredients of wine (red or white – okay, rose too), brandy, and some sort of sweetener. I like to use a Spanish red wine, usually a Tempranillo. After all, Spain is were it all started. Some might insist on chopped fruit- I’m not so picky. And sangria is NOT simply red wine with some cut-up fruit! Then, with these basic ingredients, the combinations are endless. Although not absolutely necessary, it is best to chill sangria for a few hours; or at least serve with ice.

Here are a few of our favorite recipes:

Crazy Jim’s Sangria (named for a guy from our beach town on the Jersey Shore – it is actually an endearing sobriquet.)

– 1 bottle wine (red or white)
– ½ to 1 “finger” brandy (see directions for “finger”)
– ½ to 1 “finger” triple sec
– 1 cup orange juice
– ½ cup lemonade
– 1 can Sprite (Diet can be used)

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher (adding chopped fruit, if so desired) and chill for at least 3-4 hours (overnight works great) before consuming.

Here are the directions for a “finger.” Use a glass or plastic pitcher that is somewhat translucent – enough to see the liquid inside. (You can always transfer the sangria to your fancy pitcher after mixing.) After adding wine, OJ, and lemonade, place your index finger horizontally at the top edge of the liquid (on the outside of the pitcher) and pour brandy until the liquid rises the width of your finger. Do the same for the triple sec.

This sangria packs quite a punch – after all, it is Crazy Jim’s recipe. That’s why you may want to mix your first batch with “1/2 fingers” of brandy and triple sec.20160709_154853

Blobby Flay’s Sangria (Flay is a well-known chef) –

– 1 bottle red wine
– ½ cup brandy
– ¼ cup triple sec
– ½ cup orange juice
– ½ cup pomegranate juice
– ¼ cup simple syrup

Mix all ingredients in a pitcher, add fruit if desired, and enjoy!

Summer Peach Sangria

– 1 oz. peach rum
– ½ oz. Grand Mariner or Cointreau
– 3 oz. rose wine (can substitute blush or white wine)
– 2 oz. lemonade

Serve in a tall glass with ice, garnish with fruit (slice of peach is nice). Serves one.

Tanya’s Special “Sangria de Cava” (Tanya is a friend of ours) –

– 1 bottle of Spanish Cava sparkling wine (Tanya “strongly” suggests semi-sec)
– 1 can Sprite
– 1 ½ oz. simple syrup
– 2 ½ oz. triple sec
– 2 ½ oz. brandy
– juice of 1 orange, freshly squeezed (Yes, “freshly squeezed” – it makes a difference.)
– juice of 1 lime, freshly squeezed (Put rinds in container.)

“Sangria de Cava” is known from Longboat Key, Florida to Toronto, Canada.

Liberty House Sangria (a restaurant at Liberty State Park, NJ – fabulous views of lower Manhattan!)

This sangria starts with a sangria base:

– 2 parts apple schnapps
– 2 parts peach schnapps
– 2 parts apricot brandy
– 1 part coconut rum
– 1 part fruit flavored vodka (Can you believe all these ingredients? We haven’t even added the wine yet!)

20160709_154628Pour approximately 2 oz. of base in glass with ice, add approximately 2-3 oz. orange juice, then fill glass with wine (red or white). It really is worth all the work, and you can keep leftover base in the refrigerator for months!

Photos by Stephanie Sylva