If asked to think of a typical Spanish drink, sangria is many people’s top answer. It gets a bad rap from anyone who has lived in Spain for any length of time as being simply a gimmick for tourists, or a cheap fiesta drink. If made right, though, it’s refreshing, fruity, and with a little boozy kick that makes it a great start to any weekend (or Monday, or Tuesday…)
The History of Sangria
The first sangrias were made with red wine and got their name from the Spanish and Portuguese words for ‘blood’ because of their colour. Mixing wine with water and fruit is very old practise going back thousands of years around the Mediterranean. Back when water sanitation was poor, adding alcohol to kill the bacteria could save your life. This evolved over time into a fruity, social drink that could be made in big vats. It’s also a great way to make awful wine drinkable. This is why tourists drinking sangria can be a bit of a joke for locals and residents. It’s like watching someone drink the cheapest booze in your cupboard, mixed with sugar and spice until it tastes better!
A lot of people have some strong ideas about what should and shouldn’t go into sangria. If it’s not red, fruity and with a bit of fizz, then it can get dismissed. Some people say it must have brandy, others say it should be flat to be truly traditional.
As with many regional products, there is even an EU ruling on what constitutes sangria and what is merely ‘aromatised wine’. Officially, it is a wine and fruit mix, with or without solid or pulped fruit. It must have no artificial flavours and less than 12%alcohol volume to be true sangria. This leaves the window wide open for interpretation, and is why we now get so many different modern variations. The wine used can be any colour, or even fizzy wine like Cava. Fruits like watermelon, peach and pineapple are used alongside the traditional citrus fruits. Interestingly these colourful variations are very popular outside of Spain, especially in the USA and Canada. The stigma that it’s ‘cheap and cheerful’ rather than a drink to enjoy isn’t easy to shake off in its native country.
Zurracapote (or just ‘zurra’) is a drink similar to sangria that has red wine, peaches, lemons, and cinammon. It’s drank mostly in southern regions such as Granada and Albacete. For a very cheap and easy, modern sangria alternative, try Kalimotxo – it’s easy, just mix one part red wine with one part cola. Tinto de verano is another alternative, usually just wine and lemonade.
We’ve recently added a few delicious, alternative sangria recipes to our Spanish Food and Drink Pinterest board. (There’s a Limoncello sangria that looks SO GOOD!) If you’re feeling inspired to try out a modern twist on this old classic then give one a try, and let us know how it turns out!