Looking for the perfect holiday sangria recipe to celebrate this year? Well, we have one for you, and it’s great warm or on ice!
When you think of Spanish cocktails, is sangria the first thing that comes to mind? And for a warming winter beverage, is it mulled wine? Same here!
This holiday season, we’ll combine the best of both worlds for our party tables: a versatile recipe that tastes equally good on ice or toasty warm!
But First…Who Invented Sangria and What Actually Is It?
Here’s the thing about sangria. There’s a lot of debate about what exactly makes authentic sangria since no one can actually pin down exactly who invented it. Here on the peninsula it’s widely believed that its origins began in either Spain or Portugal. However, the Greeks and Italians also love their versions, too! There are even some that suggest that sangria as we know it was invented in New York City in the 19th century.
However, the concept of a great sangria? Now that is definitely a thing here in Spain. Life in Spain just wouldn’t be complete without it. In its simplest form, sangria is just adding something(s) to red wine. That something is often soda water or lemon Fanta. Or, it could be more alcohol like brandy or local orujo. Fresh fruit and local spices are also a very strong possibility.
The most important thing to remember, however, is that real sangria needs time for all of its glorious flavors to meld together. This is the reason that when you order sangria in a classic neighborhood Spanish bar, you’re most likely to be served tinto de verano: a combo of red wine and lemon Fanta made in the moment. (I know, it sounds strange, but trust me… it is really, really works.)
So now that we know what we’re working with, let’s start to assemble all we need to make the perfect holiday sangria recipe. Anyone else a huge slow-cooker fan like me? Ahhhh, yeah. When I first made this festive adult beverage, it was a pretty obvious that I would use my favorite appliance to make that magic flavor-melding happen.
And since it’s the holidays, what could be more festive than a warm drink filled with Christmas spices? Ahhhhh, in my mind I’m already wandering through a frosty Christmas market in Germany, glühwein in hand…
The Beginnings of a Holiday Sangria Recipe…
This year, I couldn’t decide what I wanted more: chilled, bright, light sangria on ice? Or warm mulled velvety wine filled with wintry spices? So…. why not both? Below, you’ll find a single holiday sangria recipe with two different endings.
The recipes in themselves are pretty similar: a couple of bottles of red wine, a (very) generous slug of stronger alcohol, lots of fruit, and some additional flavoring. If that recipe sounds very vague, that’s because it is.
At its best and most traditional, sangria is a do-it-yourself, “make do with what you have” kind of thing that is really meant to a) use up leftovers and b) make not-necessarily-very-nice wine taste incredible.
It’s Here! Our Very Adaptable Holiday Sangria Recipe
Okay, after A LOT of taste-tasting, I’ve perfected it. But, remember, the best holiday sangria recipe is the one that you can easily make! So feel free to substitute with ingredients and flavors you have on-hand. I merely offer you the recipe that I love. And… well, my guests love it, too!
Here it is:
- 2 bottles red wine (a young Rioja is a great choice! Just remember, though you don’t want to waste a $50 bottle on a mixed drink, nor should you use anything you wouldn’t want to drink at all. Hangover central! $8-14 per bottle should do nicely.)
- 1 cup apple juice or apple cider
- ½ cup brandy or sweet red vermouth
- ¼ cup triple sec
- ¼ cup honey
- 2 cinnamon sticks
- 1 apple, diced
- 2 oranges thinly sliced (add at very end to prevent bitterness)
If you’re making a chilled drink:
- 1 lemon, thinly sliced
- 2 peaches, diced
- lemon or orange Fanta or fizzy soda of your choice (Go wild here! Sprite, 7-Up, and anything sweet and fruity will work.)
If you’re making a hot version:
- 4 cloves
- 1 star anise
- 1 pear, diced
Combine all the alcohols, the honey, cinnamon, and the fruit of your choice. Apple is traditional for both warm and cold wine-based drinks. If you’re going for a sangria on ice, try peach and lemon for brighter flavors. For the slow-cooker version, we like to add pear, but use whatever fruit you have that you think would be a good combo!
Then, if you’re using the slow-cooker, add your spices and turn it on to its lowest setting for at least two hours. Add your sliced oranges at the very end so the pith doesn’t make the drink bitter.
If you’re going for a cold drink, start with the same mix of alcohols, sweetener, and cinnamon sticks, as well as all your fruits except the oranges. Leave to combine for at least two hours (or in the fridge overnight) so the flavors infuse. When you’re ready to serve, add in the oranges and top off with something fizzy!
Don’t Be Shy…. Mix It Up!
As I mentioned, please don’t be shy when it comes to experimenting! Try more vermouth or less, Sprite instead of lemon Fanta, amaretto instead of brandy. The possibilities are endless. And the more you experiment, the more you’ll have to taste test.
All-in-all, you really can’t mess up this holiday sangria recipe. What matters is that you and your friends and family enjoy! And if you need more ideas on how to celebrate the holidays in Spain… or Spanish style… check out this article here. Have fun!!!