As summer approaches, it’s time to start thinking about light, refreshing beverages that are ideal for sipping and savoring on a warm, sunny day.  White wine, rosé, and even some reds are wonderful wine choices, of course, and we’ll be highlighting some especially good choices in the posts to come. But say you’re having a party, or just celebrating a special day with a friend or significant other.  You might want something a little more special and different than a regular glass of wine.  Wine cocktails are a really fun way to use wine in a unique way. One of my all-time favorite wine cocktails is this White Wine Sangria.  I make it all the time for barbecues and beach parties, and my friends always request it.  It’s light and delicious, perfect for relaxing on those perfect warm days. There are many, many ways to make Sangria, a drink that originated in Spain.  At its most basic, Sangria is wine with fruit added to it.  The fruit is allowed to soak in the wine for several hours or even several days.  This gives the wine a delicious, fresh fruity flavor.  It also gives the fruit an irresistibly rich, winey taste. The recipe for Sangria that follows isn’t particularly traditional, but it is delicious.  It’s important to remember that this recipe is very adaptable.  Feel free to change it to suit your own tastes, whether that means making it a little sweeter, changing up the fruit used, or using a different brand of wine.  Make your own signature Sangria, and your friends will be requesting it at parties for years to come! White Wine Sangria This recipe serves a crowd, so make sure you start with a big enough container.  A large punch bowl is perfect.  Add to the container:
  • 2-3 bottles of white wine.  Use your favorite summery variety. Quality isn’t too important here, since you’re going to be adding so many other flavors to the drink, so don’t feel like you have to break the bank here.
  • Orange juice to taste.  Using freshly squeezed oranges really makes a difference here.  If you don’t want to take the time, use a high-quality 100% juice brand like Simply Orange. I find that juices from concentrate are too sweet for this recipe, but if you happen to love sweeter drinks, feel free to use them!  I’d start with half a bottle.  If you want to really taste the wine flavor, add less.  If you want to make more of a fruity cocktail, add more.  Remember you can always add more if you want it, but you can never take it out!
  • A variety of fruit, cut into bite-sized pieces.  Use plenty of fruit, as you’ll want each glass to have a generous amount.  You’ll want to lean towards whatever is seasonal and especially delicious (bonus: seasonal fruit is also the least expensive).  My favorite combination is oranges, green apples, and strawberries.  The oranges mirror and enhance the orangey flavor from the juice, the apples add a delicious tartness, and the sweet strawberries are the perfect foil for the wine, soaking up the alcohol and really bringing out its deep, rich nuances.  But let your imagination run wild!  It would be great to use tangerines instead of oranges, or try different types of berries, or even grapes. Play to your tastes!
  • Optional: rum to taste.  I love to use dark rum when I’m making this for a party.  It adds an interesting spicy flavor.  Feel free to use white rum if you prefer it.  Warning, this drink can sneak up on you: it’s fruity sweetness really masks the alcohol taste.  So add rum at your own discretion.
It’s best to make the recipe up to this point in advance.  A few hours in the refrigerator before party time gives the flavors the chance to mingle and develop.  The fruit really needs time to add its tastes to the drink, so give it a chance by making the drink ahead.  If you want to take some of the stress out of party planning, you can make the recipe  up to this point the night before, and refrigerate it overnight.
  • Right before you serve it, add a bottle of champagne to the drink.  The champagne gives it a light, refreshing quality and really turns it into a party cocktail.  I tend to go the dry champagne route, but use whatever you like.  As with the wine, quality isn’t that important, so don’t waste that nice bottle you’ve been saving on this recipe.  Important: DON’T stir the drink after you add the champagne, or you’ll ruin the bubbles!
  • Serve in a punch bowl or in a pitcher (you’ll need to keep refilling it).  Provide your guests with some kind of wide-brimmed glass to make room for the fruit.  A margarita glass is perfect, but red wine glass works too, and even a regular drinking glass is fine in a pinch.  Make sure you bring along a big spoon so that your guests can get some fruit into their glasses, and encourage them to eat the fruit, not throw it away—most people think it’s the best part!
Don’t forget that you can really change and adapt this recipe to suit your tastes.  Here’s one idea: Tropical Sangria perfect for a Luau.  Use the above recipe, substituting pineapple juice for the orange juice, and using tropical fruits like mango, kiwi, and pineapple.  Aloha!