Sipping sangria

Winning recipes from readers

You either love or hate sangria, but perhaps if you fall into the latter group it's because you've never had the good stuff. This sweet fruit-juice, sugar and wine blend is belovedly served in restaurants and on patios throughout the country, quenching the masses. Red sangria was introduced to the United States in the early '60s at the New York World's Fair, although it has long been popular in Spain and Portugal. Seems the fun, fruity beverage struck a chord, and imaginations blossomed with possibilities. Americans have been inventing their own recipes ever since, expanding into white and sparkling-wine versions, and adding more and more stuff. Since many declare theirs the best/freshest/most-loved, etc., I set out to uncover the sangria recipe that might deserve such recognition. Many aspiring bartenders answered my call.

A few ground rules when making your own sangria: 1. Unlike what most people think, when choosing a wine, start with a bottle you would drink by itself, as poorly made wine will haunt your finished product. The wine doesn't have to be expensive — Spanish wines are often excellent values, and I used inexpensive Australian shiraz (Rosemount) in my taste-testing; 2. Always serve over ice, except the sparkling version; and 3. Individualize your sangria with different fruit to personalize your recipe. And perhaps this should be No. 4: Never serve premixed sangria. That bottled brand "Real Sangria" stuff is some of the nastiest chemical Kool-Aid I've ever consumed.

The three winning concoctions ...

White Sangria Winner:

Plantation White Sangria

Marc Wagner, Tampa

Comments from samplers: "Tastes like Christmas by the pool; apple-cinnamon flavor, like white wassail."

1 cup water

1/2 cup sugar

1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1/4 teaspoon cardamom

1 apple, sliced

1 bottle white wine

1 cup lemon-lime soda (such as Sprite)

1 cup lemonade

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup key lime juice (be sure to use key lime)

Simmer water, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and cardamom for five minutes, then cool down to room temperature. Mix all remaining ingredients, then add sugar/water mixture. Chill overnight if possible, but if not, pour over ice and enjoy right away!

White Sangria Semi-Finalist

Patti's Party Sangria

Patti Howerton, Charlotte, N.C.

Comments from tasters: "Sweet like a Sour Patch strawberry candy; refreshing berry soda; a porch sipper."

1 1/2 cup frozen black raspberries

1 1/2 cup frozen red raspberries

1 12-ounce can frozen pink lemonade

3 cups Sprite

1 bottle good chardonnay

2/3 cup cognac or brandy

In a large pitcher, combine all ingredients and stir. Refrigerate for at least two hours to blend flavors. Serve chilled in large iced tea glasses, with several berries in the bottom of the glass and a thinly sliced lemon twist on the side of the glass. I usually chill the glasses for a real treat!

Red Sangria Winner

Lemonade Sangria

Scott Garms, Tampa

Comments from tasters: "Crowd pleaser; fruity; a good traditional sangria; easy to drink."

1 lemon, 1 orange, 1 lime, 1 apple, all cut into small chunks

1 quart pink lemonade

1 bottle dry red wine

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Grand Marnier or other orange liqueur

In a large pitcher, add all ingredients and stir. Refrigerate at least two hours and serve over ice.

Recommended Wines

Borsao 2006 Campo de Borja (Spain) A red blend of the garnacha grape (or "grenache" in French) and Spain's own tempranillo grape. A simple, fresh, fruity style, with raspberries, smooth vanilla and a hint of white-pepper spiciness. Refreshingly cheap as well. Sw = 2. $8. 1/2

Sweetness (Sw) rating is out of 10, 10 being pure sugar. 1 (star) rating is out of 5, 5 being wine nirvana.

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