The beauty of sangria is its simplicity. Red wine, liqueur, and fruit served over ice pretty much sums up the drink. For me, that’s exactly why it’s wonderful.
No fancy herbal infusions. No special ingredients to hunt down. A quick mix, and I have a refreshing drink meant for sipping with good friends on long summer nights.
Sangria is often considered the tourist drink of Spain, which, if I’m honest, is exactly what I was the first time I tried it. While I don’t think indulging in sangria on my patio will be quite as memorable as sipping it on a balcony overlooking fields of olive trees when I was 19 years old, it does evoke those memories—sometimes that’s just as good.
What Is Sangria?
To put it simply, sangria is basically a big batch wine cocktail made with red or white wine, liqueur and/or brandy, and fruit such as oranges and apples. You can also cut the alcohol by adding carbonated water, tonic, or lemon lime soda.
What Is the Best Wine for Sangria?
For this recipe, I use red wine as the base. Traditionally, sangria is made with a Spanish wine called Rioja. You can use other wines, such as merlot—as long as the wine has fruity undertones, you can use it for sangria.
Choose an inexpensive bottle–you’re doctoring it up with fruit, spices, and liqueur, so you don’t need a wine with subtle nuanced flavors. You definitely want to go above the MadDog 20/20 price point but below the $35 bottle Pinot. I spent $14 on the bottle I used for this recipe, and it was perfect.
Orange Liqueur or Brandy?
I love a Spanish liqueur called Licor 43. It’s scented with hints of orange; it's smooth and has a subtle sweetness, but it can be difficult to find. If you can find it, use it as a 1:1 replacement for the Cointreau in this recipe.
Cointreau is my second favorite choice. It’s readily available at most liquor stores and supermarkets. It also has a lovely orange flavor that boosts the fruitiness in this drink. You can’t go wrong with either Licor 43 or Cointreau in this recipe.
A lot of sangria recipes call for brandy. I tried it with this recipe, but even after a day in the fridge, the brandy was just too over powering for me, so I opted to leave it out.
What Is the Best Fruit for Sangria?
Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are common additions to sangria. They add color and flavor to the drink immediately, but also over time. The longer fruit and spices sit in the boozy concoction, the more complex and fruity the flavor becomes.
Once the pitcher is about half-drunk, I like to muddle the citrus with a wooden spoon, which gives the drink a whole new dimension. I don’t do it at the beginning, because I want to keep the fruits pretty for presentation purposes. Halfway through a pitcher of sangria, and no one cares what anything looks like!
How to Make Sangria
Sangria is one of the easiest cocktails to make! Pour sugar into a pitcher. Add a couple of cinnamon sticks, then the booze and orange juice. Stir to combine, and top it all off with some orange slices. Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, and you, my friend, are ready to party!
If you want to party a little less, feel free to pour a half glass of sangria and top it off with a little carbonated water. (Bubly is my favorite carbonated water brand, mostly because it’s friendly. The tabs say hi, or hey, but I digress.)
How Long Will Sangria Last?
You can make this sangria three days before you want to serve it and be just fine. The cinnamon flavor will grow more pronounced the longer you keep it, but I personally like it that way. If you wanted to make it a week ahead of time, feel free; just wait until the day you plan to serve it to add the sliced oranges, and reduce the cinnamon sticks from three to two.
Love Sangria? Try These Recipes!
- Sparkling Strawberry Sangria
- Mixed Berry Sangria
- Cranberry Apple Sangria
- Pear and White Wine Sangria
- Apricot and White Wine Sangria
Easy Red Wine Sangria
Sangria is best made a day or two in advance, which gives the flavors time to meld, but you can make it few hours before your patio time, and it will still be a delicious, refreshing summer drink!
- 5 oranges
- 1/3 - 1/2 cup sugar
- 3 cinnamon sticks
- 1 bottle Rioja wine
- 1 1/2 cups Cointreau
Prepare the oranges:
Slice 1 orange into rounds, then cut them into half-moons. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the skin from two of the oranges in long strips. Make sure you leave the white pith on the orange. You want the strips to be thin, about 1/2-inch wide, and long enough to twist.
Slice in half the oranges you just peeled and the two oranges that remain unscathed, then juice them. The four oranges should give you about 1 cup of juice. If you have a little more or a little less than 1 cup, that’s okay. Put the orange peels in a covered container and place them in the fridge.
Combine the ingredients:
In a large pitcher, add the sugar, cinnamon sticks, wine, Cointreau, and orange juice. Stir to combine and let the sugar dissolve. Add the orange slices.
Give it a rest:
This is optional, but the flavors really develop over time, making this sangria even more delicious. Put it in the fridge for 2 hours or up to 4 days.
When ready to serve, add ice to the pitcher or pour the sangria into glasses filled with ice, and add an orange peel twist to each glass.
Sangria is pretty boozy. To extend your patio sipping time and reduce your hangover possibilities, you can cut each drink by filling it half full with sparkling water or lemon lime soda (if you like it extra sweet).