No matter your comfort level with mixology, cocktails aren't made in a vacuum. Rather, cocktails are the embodiment of our performance as a host to our friends and loved ones. It's crucial to be a good listener and to adapt to the preferences of your audience because their satisfaction is your ultimate reward. The key is creating an experience rather than simply a beverage. You know how sandwiches always taste better when someone else makes them for you? Cocktails follow the same principle.
One of my biggest goals has been to develop recipes that align with the tastes and preferences of my family. They're open to new things if I make them, but I know that they love red wine and tend to stay away from harder spirits. Therefore, I've looked for ways to ease the alcohol content of some of my favorite recipes and created new recipes built upon lower ABV ingredients.
This sangria recipe is family tested and both mother and father approved!
To me, a well-made sangria is dressed with fruit flavors that complement rather than mask the underlying wine. In other words, it should taste like a wine cocktail rather than fruit soda. For this time of the year, I chose to add fresh squeezed Meyer lemon and orange juice as well as bottled apple cider and tart cranberry juice. I recommend using fresh squeezed juices whenever possible or checking the sugar content on the bottles you purchase so you're not surprised by the sweetness of the final product.
In order to give this sangria a holiday feel, I added flavors reminiscent of mulling spices. The quickest way to do this is grabbing a bottle of Chicago-based Jo Snow's Christmas in a Cup syrup (think brown sugar, cinnamon, cloves, molasses and orange). A little bit of this delicious, small batch and all-natural syrup goes a long way and it's equally wonderful in cup of coffee. If you prefer to make you own, I'd recommend using brown sugar or dark maple syrup along with cinnamon sticks, cloves and several strips of orange peel.
Winter Spice Sangria
- 1 bottle red wine (I recommend a Cab)
- Juice of 1 orange
- Juice of 1 Meyer lemon
- 6 oz Jo Snow Christmas in a Cup
- 0.5 cup VSOP brandy
- 0.5 cup tart cranberry juice
- 0.5 cup apple cider
- Club soda, to top
- Citrus slices, for garnish
Mix all ingredients other than soda and citrus slices in a large pitcher, bottle or jar (at least 1.5 liters). For both flavor and ease, I strongly recommend making the sangria in advance and storing in the fridge for 1-2 days. When you're ready to serve, simply pour into a punch bowl, top with desired amount of club soda and garnish with fresh slices of orange and lemon. Enjoy with family.