In cities throughout the hottest regions of Spain, when sultry summer afternoons cool off into evenings, it’s time to go out! People stream onto the cobblestone streets and grand plazas for small bites of food, chilled glasses of sangria, socializing, and fantastic people watching.
I’ve been lucky to spend a lot of time in Spain, and as much as I love tapas, my favorite part of this evening ritual is the sangria (because when I’m in Spain, I’m on vacation). Pitchers of cold red wine are sweetened and mixed with brandy and berries or slices of fruit. The brandy makes it a bit stronger than wine, so after just one glass, my Spanish language skills seem to improve magically. If I have a second glass (because, vacation), then I’m ready to spend the night dancing.
I wanted to know whether sangria could be a part of my healthy life at home. Could a special occasion beverage like this fit into a healthy lifestyle? The answer is yes! Our nutrition experts created this recipe naturally sweetened with just the right amount of honey, with enough brandy to make it bold (I used cheap Christian Brothers brandy and it tasted delicious), and a sweet combination of blueberries, blackberries, and strawberries.
Many fruits pair well with sangria, so if you’re feeling creative, try making yours with traditional slices of lemon and orange, apples and peaches, or chunks of watermelon. Serve with a few pieces of fruit in each glass. Chilling the wine for several hours (the longer the better!) allows the fruit flavors to develop fully. For a refreshing beverage with less kick, pour the sangria over ice, and top it off with a splash of sparkling water or club soda.
There is one piece of advice to follow when it comes to choosing wine for sangria: Keep it cheap! With all of the fruit, sweet syrup, and brandy you’ll add to the wine, the nuance of a pricier bottle will be lost. Opt for something fruity, medium bodied, and easy on the wallet. Pinot noir is a good choice, but so are traditional Spanish wines like tempranillo or garnacha.
Serving your sangria tableside? Watch out for falling fruit! It’s easy to make a mess when pouring sangria; all of those delicious, boozy berries can come tumbling out, leaving wine stains on your tablecloth. A pitcher with a lid or strainer lets you portion the sangria without all of the fruit filling the glasses first. Use a wooden spoon to scoop fruit out of the bottom of the pitcher into each glass.
Triple Berry Sangria
Can a cocktail like sangria fit into a healthy eating plan? The answer is yes! This version has a touch of honey and a sweet combination of fresh berries.
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 2 Tbsp. dark honey (like buckwheat, avocado, or wildflower)
- ½ cup brandy (or cherry brandy)
- 1 cup fresh blueberries
- 1 cup fresh blackberries
- 1 cup sliced strawberries
- 1 (750-ml.) bottle pinot noir wine
- 6 small strawberries
- 6 leaves fresh mint
Combine water and honey in a small bowl. Microwave on high for 15 seconds; mix until well blended.
Combine honey mixture, brandy, blueberries, blackberries, and sliced strawberries in a large pitcher; mix well.
Add wine; mix well. Refrigerate for 2 hours.
Evenly add sangria to eight glasses. Add a strawberry and mint leaf; serve immediately.
The Nutrition Facts box below provides estimated nutritional information for this recipe.
Photos by Kirsten Morningstar