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Summertime means sangria – The San Diego Union-Tribune

When I was growing up, summertime in our house meant family entertaining. My dad, a former professional cook, did the food prep and worked the grill the day of the party, while my mom was organizer/sous chef/dessert maker/hostess extraordinaire. Meals were often good all-American barbecue favorites like ribs, burgers and hot dogs, along with bowls of coleslaw and potato and macaroni salads. Or there could be Mexican favorites like carne asada, pollo asado, carnitas with crunchy homemade chicharrones and crispy pig ears paired with a big pot of fresh beans and stacks of hot corn tortillas and an array of salsas.

As for beverages, kids got soda while the adults’ drink of choice was almost always sangria. And even though as a child I was never tempted to drink alcohol, the adults seemed to enjoy this so much that I envied this summer ritual and I could hardly wait to be old enough to join them.

Sangria is a fruity alcoholic Spanish punch often served at gatherings and typically paired with antojitos (appetizers), also known as tapas. Although I have fond memories of the sangria of my childhood, it’s a far cry from what I have come to love following my exploration of Spanish food and tapas bars in my late 20s and early 30s.

First, we’d take down the “for company only” crystal-cut wine glasses from the top shelf of the china cabinet and fill them with ice. Then my mother would fish out the 4-liter bottle of Carlo Rossi Sangria generally kept at the back of a less-used kitchen cabinet. She’d pour the wine to the halfway mark of the ice-filled glasses, then top it off with 7-Up. That’s it. For years, the adult me loved this beverage and thought it was the best and only way to enjoy sangria.

Then I discovered how easy it was to forgo the bottled wine version for a homemade Spanish sangria that was more fruity and satisfying than the sangria of my youth.

For years, I have hosted a white elephant gift exchange where the cuisine is always themed. The themes have included Mexican food, dessert, cheese and wine, finger foods, Italian food, and make your own sandwiches, to name a few. At one event about 25 years ago, I chose a Spanish tapas theme for the first time and went out in search of a good sangria recipe. I found one I liked and made it for the party. It was a hit, but I never stopped experimenting.

I’ve tried several recipes over the years. About 15 years ago, I settled on a version where I took the best of my most successful sangrias and modified them to develop a satisfying, foolproof recipe that my friends have enjoyed at all of my gatherings ever since.

Refreshing and fruity, this is by far my favorite anytime drink, but it’s especially perfect for warm-weather get-togethers. I start by layering a wide selection of fruit in a large pitcher: apple, orange, lemon, lime, strawberries and raspberries. Then comes wine, brandy and caster sugar, followed by the essential ingredient: time. This concentrate needs to rest in the fridge for at least 48 hours (I do 72 hours).

As for the wine, many red sangria recipes say to use any mild red wine, which I did when I first started making the drink . But I have found that using a bolder Spanish red Rioja that you also enjoy straight from the bottle will produce the most consistently satisfying results. Like most things in life, it’s cause and effect: quality ingredients equal quality products. These days, I prefer Marqués de Cáceres Crianza Rioja (available at BevMo).

Since it’s delicious with barbecue, now that most vaccinated people are resuming gatherings with nonhousehold members, invite some friends over this weekend and make this. Get started today, so that come Saturday, you will have a luscious base to add some bubbles to.

Be sure to let the sangria concentrate hang out in the fridge for at least 48 hours to maximize the fruit’s infusion into the wine.

(Anita L. Arambula/Confessions of a Foodie)

Ani’s Spanish Sangria

Keep a pitcher in the fridge with the concentrate ready to go.
Makes enough concentrate for 10 cocktails

1 apple, cored and sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
½ cup strawberries, hulled and sliced
½ cup raspberries
1 bottle Spanish Rioja, red
1½ cups brandy
¾ cup caster sugar

Lime and lemon-flavored soda such as Sprite or 7-Up (or club soda)
Extra berries or sliced oranges for garnish

Layer the first six ingredients in a large gallon-size pitcher. In a separate pitcher, combine wine, brandy and sugar. Whisk until sugar fully dissolves. Pour into the fruit pitcher. Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator at least overnight (I make mine three days before my party). When ready to serve, pour the sangria concentrate into an ice-filled glass, stopping halfway. Top off with soda and add fresh fruit to the glass for garnish.

Storage notes: The concentrate keeps in the refrigerator for up to a week, or longer if the fruit is removed (add fresh fruit when serving).

Make it party-style: The day of your party, do not strain the concentrate. Add it to a 1.75- to 2-gallon beverage server with spout. Pour in a 2-liter bottle of lemon-lime soda, stirring gently to combine. To avoid diluting the sangria, add ice to individual glasses and not to the beverage server.

Caster sugar, left, is ultrafine compared with standard granulated sugar, right.

Caster sugar, left, is ultrafine compared with standard granulated sugar, right.

(Anita L. Arambula / Confessions of a Foodie)

What is caster sugar?

If you’re a seasoned baker, you’ve probably come across the term “caster sugar” (above, left). If you’re not, you might be left scratching your head. Caster sugar is known by a variety of names, from caster sugar to ultrafine or superfine sugar, to baker’s sugar. Caster sugar granules are about half the size of standard granulated sugar granules (above, right). Bakers love it because it produces lighter baked goods. The finer crystals meld into butter faster, so you don’t have to spend too much time creaming (overly creaming butter and sugar can result in greasy butter).

Because the finer crystals mean that the sugar dissolves faster, it’s the perfect choice for mixing into liquids. It’s important to not confuse this ultrafine sugar with powdered sugar (also known as icing sugar or confectioner’s sugar), which is produced by mechanically pounding granulated sugar into a fine powder. I always have caster sugar in my pantry and prefer it for baking and for making simple syrups.

If you don’t have caster sugar or can’t find it at your local market (C&H sells it under the name Baker’s Sugar Ultrafine Pure Cane Sugar), you can try making your own. Just add an equal amount of regular white granulated sugar plus 1 teaspoon into a food processor fitted with the S-blade (the extra teaspoon is to account for any sugar that becomes dust and airborne or left behind in the processor). Place a clean kitchen towel over the top opening to trap dust and pulse for 1½ to 2 minutes, until the sugar becomes finer but before it becomes powder.

Recipe is copyrighted by Anita L. Arambula and is reprinted by permission from Confessions of a Foodie.

Arambula is the food section art director and designer. She blogs at, where the original version of this article published. Follow her on Instagram: @afotogirl. She can be reached at [email protected]