We are lucky to live in a climate that offers us such diversity. We chill out in winter, and burn it up in summertime. The scorching heat and blazing sunshine are among the things we miss the most when the mercury threatens to disappear completely. We change more than the number of layers we wear when we move from one season to the next; we change our drinking habits, too. We prefer whiskey with our scarves and hats, and fruity spirits with our bikinis.
Summer is the season for Sangria. This wine-based, fruit-laced refresher made its American debut at the 1964 World's Fair, but has been around for at least 200 years. Its roots date back to a time when most households made their own wine, but proper Sangria has hot-weather roots and as many variations as there are bar chefs. Like the cocktail, which has certain technical requirements,* Sangria has a basic formula which serves as its architecture. Whether it's called sangaree, zurra, or clerico, Sangria is composed of wine, chopped fruit, a little brandy and a sweetener. The only other requirement is a resting period, at least 24 hours, during which the flavors of wine, spirit and fruit marry.
One tricky thing about drinking Sangria in summertime is the inherent danger of drinking red while wearing white. Your linen pants or pretty sundress can be ruined faster than you can say "Tide pen." Take precautions without sacrificing this seasonal delight by making a variant known as sangria blanco.
It's not necessary to break out the best bottle in your cellar, but remember that with Sangria, like all drinks, you will get out of it what you've put in. Whether you serve a traditional red Sangria, or build yours around white wine, serve it in a pitcher with a pinched lip to prevent chunks of fruit from splashing into your drink, and serve it on the rocks, in a medium- to large-size wine glass. Fill it with fresh seasonal fruit and flavors you love. Here's one to try, which gives a nod to Sangria's Spanish connection:
1 btl. White Rioja
1 btl. Cava (sparkling wine)
2 oz. Grand Marnier
2 oz. Brandy
5 Fresh Peaches
3 Fresh Oranges
Use your knife to remove the skin and outer membrane of the Oranges, then slice them into chunks. Slice the Peaches into chunks. Put all fruit into a large glass pitcher or mixing bowl, add Rioja, Grand Marnier and Brandy. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Chill the Cava.
When serving, pour 3/4 glass of Sangria. Top with Sparkling Wine.
(For extra credit, use frozen fruit instead of ice cubes.)