Anyone who still thinks wine is a fussy drink that requires a special vocabulary and fancy glasses needs to sit down and have a big glass of sangria. After all, not just one but two country music stars have penned songs praising the fruity, refreshing drink.
While Blake Shelton’s “Sangria” makes the drink seem like a higher-octane Love Potion Number 9, Jerry Jeff Walker’s classic is an ode to the pleasures of making a big pitcher of sangria and sharing it with friends. Both the song and the drink are summery, casual and easy to like. There’s no wrong way to make sangria, just ways of tailoring it to personal preference.
When Jerry Jeff Walker sings, “Whoa, I loooove sangria wine!” he’s referring to the basic formula of wine, lots of fresh fruit, a small amount of liquor or fortified wine, and a larger amount of nonalcoholic mixer. There are almost as many variations in making sangria as there are fans of it, because any fruit can be added to a base of either red, white or rose wine.
Apparently Mr. Walker likes his sangria sweet: “Start with some apples and wine, blend in some brandy and some sugar’s fine,” he sings. That’s in keeping with the general rule of thumb for making sangria’s proportions. Bartending professionals suggest a ratio of one part sour, two parts sweet, three of alcohol and four of mixer.
Lemons and other citrus fruit are the most common way to fulfill the “sour” guideline. Seasonal fruit such as berries, peaches and melon take care of the “sweet” component. Paired with white wine, strawberries and blueberries make a colorful choice for a Fourth of July drink.
“In Austin on a Saturday night, Everclear is dumped into the wine sometimes,” according to Jerry Jeff, but most recipes use a fortifier that adds flavor as well as alcohol, such as triple sec, brandy or rum. The choice is influenced (but not completely determined, because in sangria, anything goes) by whether red or white wine is being used as the base, and whether it is a dry or sweet wine. Red wine is usually paired with a stronger flavor, such as brandy, while a lighter white wine mixes well with triple sec, peach schnapps or other fruit-flavored liqueur.
The fourth component of sangria is even more unstructured than the other three. Some people consider another bottle of wine to be the “mixer,” while other choices range from Dr Pepper to club soda. Generally, the mixer adds more sweetness and some bubbles. The Walker formula adds both by pouring in sparkling Burgundy, proof positive that sangria is not for wine snobs. Adding a nonalcoholic mixer, and lots of it, is a better idea, because people tend to drink more on hot summer days. Sangria is almost synonymous with long, leisurely spells of drinking and socializing, so keeping it low-proof makes for a safer sipping.
Jerry Jeff Walker identified the most important ingredient for sangria: good company. “I love that sangria wine, when I’m drinking with old friends of mine.“