Serious Entertaining

Seasonal menu planning for the perfect dinner party.

Serious Entertaining: Sangria 101

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[Photograph: Helen Jane Hearn]

Having a personal sangria recipe is a hallmark of the thoughtful summertime entertainer. The basics I follow include chopping the fruit, marinating the fruit in sugar and alcohol, adding wine, chilling and serving.

However, sangria can be a risky enterprise with pitfalls including:

  • Using too ripe fruit
  • Using too much or too little hard alcohol
  • Using the wrong amount of sugar
  • Not letting the fruit and alcohol mixture sit

Serving sangria is no easy task either. Regular punch dispenser containers don't work because the fruit clogs the nozzle. Pitchers with strainers leave you without any additional fruit in the cup.

The most effective Sangria servers I've used are either a large jar or punchbowl with a ladle. Other options include the inexpensive plastic pitchers available in grocery stores or just mixing it in a clean cooler. Ladles help guests get the fruit and drink into their cups at the same time.

I often put out a cup of skewers next to the cups for serving. Guests are then able to skewer the fruit at the bottom of their cup for eating rather than tipping the cup back to get a face filled with boozy fruit.

Due to the adulterating of the mix, we can serve much less expensive wine for sangria. Naturally you don't want to serve anything offensive, but serving anything over $10 a bottle would be a waste.

Sangria Wine Chart

Type of Sangria Type of Wine Brands
White Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, White blends Sutter Home, Beringer, Barefoot, Fetzer
Rosé Rosé (not White Zinfandel which is also pink) Robert Oatley, Chateau Ste. Michelle, Gran Feudo Rosado
Red Rioja Reds, Malbec, Merlot, Shiraz Campo Viejo Spanish Red, Little Penguin Shiraz, Middle Sister Rebel Red

Menu

Helen Jane's White Sangria »
A Delightful Rosé Sangria »
Classic Lusty Red Sangria »

About the author: Helen Jane Hearn writes about creative entertaining at helenjane.com. Founder of the national cheese club Cheesewhizzes, Helen Jane's bimonthly cheese potlucks have been called "Napa's Best Parties" by Food and Wine magazine (December 2009). During the day, she runs Maplevine, a design consultancy specializing in wineries.

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