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Oct 12, 2000 03:58 PM

what about sangria?

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why does it seem that every time i try sangria, it is a sickly sweet concoction with little trace of robust wine that i expect? I realize that it's supposed to be sweet, but most restaurants take it way too far. Even 'fine' restaurants seem to use a powdered mix with more in common with Kool-Aid than any traditional beverage. (example: the famous Columbia restaurant here in Tampa sells a powdered mix over the counter--- the same stuff they use in their restaurant!) The Olive Garden's sangria (not my idea, a companion ordered it) was disgusting, and had no resemblance to wine whatsoever. The 'peach sangria' was a waste as well, barely drinkable. I realize that these restaurants may not be the best places for such fare, but it seems to be a general rule all over.

so what gives, Chowhounds? Restaurants catering to America's often insensitive palettes? Is sangria this sweet normally? any suggestions for making the real thing? Drinking anything like the stuff mentioned above is just plain depressing--- and if sangria doesn't make one happy, is there really hope?

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  1. My sister, who lived in Spain, makes killer sangria. I'll get her recipe and post it. And yes, in my experience the American sweet-tooth palate means that the sangria you get in most places in the States is too sweet. Peach sangria--yech!

    And this is kind of irrelevant, but here's a funny sangria story. My brother, who used to live in Morningside Heights, was travelling home on the subway from the West Village (that's a far piece for those unfamiliar with NYC). A man got on the train carrying a large paper bag. He sat down and pulled a knife and several pieces of citrus fruit from the bag. Using the seat next to him as a cutting board he finely chopped most of the fruit and quartered a few pieces. He then took from the bag a large jug of red wine, which he uncapped. The man squeezed the quartered fruit over the mouth of the bottle and added the chopped fruit to the wine. He recapped the bottle, shook it vigorously and returned it to the bag. Think he was on his way to a party? Oh, and AFTER he did this, he whipped out a paper towel and wiped off the seat!

    1 Reply
    1. re: Martha Gehan
      yvonne johnson

      Martha's story made me laugh! I wonder if the man was related to Mr Bean (aka Rowan Atkinson)? In his one man tv show Mr Bean made tea and sandwiches on a park bench. This involved him in one of many hilarious moves, taking off a sock, placing lettuce in it with some water and whirrling it round and round as a salad spinner. Bean would have definitely wiped the seat BEFORE he started. Not so sure he'd tidy up.

    2. I agree that a lot of the restaurant-served sangria is too sweet. The good news is that nothing could be simpler to make at home. The basic ingredients are wine (either white or red), fruit and/or fruit juice, brandy, and some type of sweetening agent (liquor, sugar, sugar syrup). Various "recipes" abound both in cookbooks and on the net. The thing to do is experiment, especially with the proportion of sweetening agent, until you get the result that tastes best to you. I usually make sangria with red wine, brandy, fresh squeezed orange juice, lemon juice, and lime juice, sliced oranges, lemons, and limes, green apples, melon, and other fruit as whim dictates (mango, peaches, plums, strawberries, fresh pineapple, etc.), triple sec, and, if the triple sec doesn't provide enough sweetness, simple sugar syrup to taste. I usually keep freshly made sangria in the refrigerator overnight for the flavors to develop and marry.

      1. Yeah, last week I was at an acquaintance's house for a little party. I was offered "wine", then told it was "sangria". Actually, it was that product called white zinfandel sangria. It tasted like Sprite that someone had poured spoiled fruit juice drink into. YUK! I'll take a plain jug wine any day over that.

        1. Is there such a thing as actually good restaurant sangria? I've never had any...not even in places that are otherwise serious about their drinks. And really, why should anyplace bother? People are gonna drink it uncomplainingly, and if they use (at worst) a mix or (at best) the cheapest jug wine they can find and all the rotting fruit in the kitchen, it really won't make much difference in sales. Somehow, I think, sangria breeds cynicism on the part of restaurant owners.

          I do make it myself, though, for big parties, and I try to approach it at least a little more seriously. There's cheap and then there's cheap. My recipe is pretty much identical to Tom's: brandy is key (I always use the cheapo Mexican Presidente), tons of fresh citrus is necessary, green apples are crucial, and plums help a lot. I once made a batch where I tossed in some dried figs, and I thought that was a good touch. What I do, though, is to sugar the fruit, pour on the brandy, and let that macerate for a few hours before adding the wine. There are a lot of inexpensive Spanish wines ($5 a bottle, here in NY) that I think are perfect for sangria--Protocolo and Borsao are worth seeking out. And when I'm making a really big batch, I usually use one bottle of white Rioja (the cheapest one I can find) for every three or four bottles of red stuff--it seems to round it out nicely.

          This was all arrived at from trial and error--I don't really know if "authentic" sangria even exists--but it's served me well. It's always gonna be a goofy, fun drink rather than an earnest life-changing drink, but I do think it can be tasty. At least when -I - make it.

          (And if anybody knows someplace in the NY area that'll change my mind about public sangria, I'd love to hear about it. The least nasty version I've come across is the bar at El Quijote.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: Steven Stern

            Perfect restaurant sangria (must order pitchers, not individual glasses) at Casa Vasca 141 Elm Street, (973) 465-1350 in Newark, a basque/galician hybrid. Try both the white and the red sangria (also good: razor clams and cabrito. Sit at the bar, not in the restaurant).

            Any further discussion of this place should go on the Tristate board, please.

            1. re: Steven Stern

              "if anybody knows someplace in the NY area that'll change my mind about public sangria, I'd love to hear about it"

              Excellent sangria at Pio Pio on Northern Blvd.

            2. Similar to making a good cocktail, the "cleaner" the drink, the better the ingredients should be (mid-priced tequila is fine for a frozen strawberry marg., but you'd want a finer tequila for sipping). So, if you are making a sickly sweet "Olive Garden" variety sangria, sure, you can use lots of sugar, dirt cheap wine, tons of fruit juice, etc.
              If you want to make a realy good sangria, splurge for decent red (I like Rioja and can get nice stuff in the $10 range) and just use sparing amounts of the other ingredients: decent brandy (moderate priced Spanish or CA), I also like to use a little triple sec or Cointreau, some fresh squeezed oranges, lemons and limes, and cut-up fruit. MMMMMMMMM
              Sometimes I use sparkling wine (cava) instead of red. For this type go really light on the other ingredients.
              I've also made white, using a little fresh peach juice.

              1 Reply
              1. re: brad

                I've always liked the sangria at Alegrias in the west village. (Leroy street, I think?) Not too sweet, nice booze-soaked apples. Although this restaurant/flamenco bar was WAY better before it was "discovered" by the NY Times Style section. Last time I went by there was a "Miller Lite" beer sign in the window. *sigh*