How to Make the Perfect Pitcher of Sangria
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Summer is here, which means we're polishing our glasses, sweeping off our porches, and settling in for a season of outdoor entertaining complete with delicious food and refreshing beverages. One of the best summer drinks for a crowd is sangria; it's endlessly versatile and always a hit. Ahead, our food editors share their top tips for making sangria using wine, fruit and herbs galore, and maybe a splash or two of liquor.
Choosing the Wine
Are you in the mood for red, white, or rosé wine? Or perhaps you're like our editorial director of food, Sarah Carey, and feel like enjoying something a bit bubbly, such as a dry sparkling wine like prosecco or cava. No matter what type of wine you're craving, choose a bottle that you'd drink on its own. "I think it's nice to go with something Spanish, but I do think any inexpensive wine that you enjoy drinking chilled without fruit is a pretty good bet," says senior food editor Lauryn Tyrell.
Adding Fruit and Herbs
When choosing which fruits to add to sangria, pick ones that are complementary to the wine you're serving. "In other words, a crisp white with hints of melon and tropical fruit is a natural fit, as is rosé wine and strawberries," says Lauryn. Feel free to get creative and use what you have on hand or what is in season, regardless of what a recipe may call for. "Use good, fragrant fruit so that it can impart some fresh, juicy flavor. If a recipe calls for peaches but you have beautiful ripe mangoes, use those," she says. Most importantly, make sure that the fruit you use is washed well before you add it, since it will be sitting in the sangria for several hours.
If you choose to add herbs, such as mint or basil (two popular options for this beloved beverage), be careful not to bruise them, says Lauryn. Bruised herbs, or herbs that have sat in a batch of sangria for too long, may start to taste murky and lose their vibrancy.
Even More Booze
Some sangria recipes call for the addition of other liquors and liqueurs, such as brandy in our Easy White Sangria or vodka for this vibrant Rose Sangria with Nectarines and Strawberries. While some of our editors skip it altogether, others think that it adds a depth of flavor. "I do think that a light-handed addition of liqueur, like Cointreau or Kirsch, can add a certain 'not quite sure what this is but I like it' layer of flavor," says Lauryn. Pro tip: If using liquor, macerate the fruit with it for a bit before adding in the wine. Sarah is a fan of adding Campari, an Italian bitter liqueur, to sangria for its "straightforward bitter, slightly sweet, and not overly complex flavor."
To get the flavor of the liqueur without drastically increasing the alcohol content in the sangria, our editors like to top a glass or pitcher off with seltzer water or club soda right before serving, which dilutes it while adding fabulous fizz.
Before making and serving sangria, always make sure to chill your wine and any other liquors thoroughly. "Even if it's red wine, make sure it's chilled," says Lauryn. "Sangria is meant to be refreshing on a hot summer evening. You want everything to be cold." However, avoid adding ice to a pitcher of sangria to chill it, as ice will just water down the mixture as it melts. Our editors are also fans of freezing cut-up fruit and using that instead of ice.
Instead of a traditional sangria recipe, deputy food editor Greg Lofts likes making what he refers to as sangria's first cousin: a combination of sweet vermouth poured over frozen cherries instead of ice and topped with seltzer and a squeeze of orange, lemon, or lime. "The botanicals—herbs, spices, fruity notes—in the fortified wine really open up and shine when you pair it with seltzer. It's a refreshing low-ABV aperitif or after-dinner sip in lieu of a traditional cocktail or glass of wine," he says. Greg's go-to vermouth is Carpano Antica, an Italian aperitif that is characterized by its prominent vanilla flavor and pairs so well with citrus.