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Sangria: Ultimate Summer Party Drink, or Anarchy in a Pitcher?

Sangria is fruity, delicious, alcoholic anarchy. There are no rules outside of it having a wine base along with fruit and some sort of spirits. Over the years, I’ve experimented with combinations of flavors that sometimes have wound up in the sink drain, but that’s the fun of it. Lesson number one: taste as you go.

Paying homage to its Mediterranean roots, I like to start with a more fruit-forward Spanish red wine like Rioja or a Spanish Grenache like today’s Torres Malena offer.

For each bottle of wine, I tend to use around a quarter cup of brandy. Sometimes I’ll go for a standard unflavored one, but I like to experiment and have tried everything from peach brandy to orange liqueur. So far, my personal favorite is Laird’s Applejack, an American apple brandy. And if you’re feeling more adventurous, try adding spiced rum, or an American or Irish whiskey.

It wouldn’t be sangria without fruit, and I like to tell myself that the more that goes in the healthier it is. Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons work beautifully with the wine – make sure to squeeze some of the juice in too before slicing them up. I’d also suggest using frozen fruit like cherries, peaches, pineapples and grapes. It will keep your punch cooler longer and the fruit won’t get mushy.

If you enjoy a sweeter style of Sangria, I highly recommend using simple syrup instead of straight sugar, as the latter will just sink to the bottom of the pitcher. Simple syrup is easy to make: just mix equal parts sugar and hot water. Add in small quantities and taste as you go.

Throw the mixture into the refrigerator a few hours so the flavors have time to mingle together. When it’s time to serve, add lots of ice and a little sparkling water to give it some fizz. Sangria is best enjoyed cold on a warm day with great friends.

Here is my basic guideline for building your ultimate pitcher of Sangria:

—1 bottle of fruit-forward red wine
—1 lemon, cut into wedges
—1 orange, cut into wedges
—2 oz. brandy
—2 cups club soda or ginger ale

Mix together with ice in a pitcher and serve.