The Cheap-Ass Gourmet: Señorita Smiter’s Sangria (Mucho Fabuloso!)

Up here in the Big Smoke we are having what’s called “unseasonably warm weather,” which is a polite way of saying I’m wearing shorts and a tank top but driving a car that still has its snow tires on. Something is wrong with this picture.

However, that aside, this is the sort of weather that brings to mind one of my favourite summer beverages, and that is sangria, which I believe is Spanish for “If you’ll carry the tortilla chips, we can go sit by the pool and paint our toenails while getting quietly buzzed.”

Sangria: increasingly, a year-round beverage in Ontario, it would seem.

Technically, sangria is a mix of wine, fruit, and brandy, but there is no one “real” recipe for it — some people use red wine, others use white or rose or a combo; some people use orange juice, while others (who should be Smited, if you ask me) use 7Up. And the choice of fruit depends entirely on personal taste and what’s in season or available at your supermarket.

So, with that in mind, here is Dr Smiter’s basic sangria recipe; it takes about half an hour to make (unless you’re including pomegranate seeds, in which case it will take 4 hours of prep plus the whole night to hose down your kitchen afterwards).

Since, as I said, there is no right or wrong way to make sangria, feel free to fiddle with this as you like (although if you add 7Up I will be at your door with a mallet; just saying). I’m giving you a “base” here that will be neither too sickly sweet nor too booze-y, and you’ll want to taste it as you go to make sure it’s optimal. By the end of all the tasting, of course, you won’t even be able to say Sangria, never mind give a coherent review of the nuances of your beverage, but then that’s half the fun. 🙂

Anyway, here is what you will need:

  • 1 750-ml bottle dry red wine (Spanish or Chilean seem to be ideal for this – your local wine store may have some suggestions too; oddly, the cheaper the better)
  • 3 to 6 oz Cointreau liqueur, brandy, or Triple Sec (or a combo), to taste
  • 1 tsp Angostura bitters
  • 1 750-ml bottle of fizzy orange or lemonade (note: NOT orange pop or “orange drink” – the idea here is “sparkling fruit”, not a wallop of artificial syrup. I used President’s Choice Italian orange or lemon soda. Orangina would also be fine)
  • Sliced lemons, oranges and limes; wash them first if you’re leaving the peel on (which is prettier)
  • Fruit of your choice: raspberries, strawberries, halved grapes, pomegranate seeds, peaches … basically anything that looks pretty & tastes refreshing
  • ice cubes

(And no, I don’t know why we measure wine in millilitres but still say “teaspoons” and “tablespoons” for other things. Metric is weird. All I know is that I’m 4.5 hectares tall and my car gets 200 teaspoons per yard of gas.)

Step away from the 7Up, Mr Sangria-maker...

I usually start by preparing the fruit. Wash all of it, even the oranges, lemons, and limes — pesticides can really wreck a sangria, not to mention making you grow unwanted body parts.

Chop, slice or otherwise prepare the fruit, as necessary, for its delicious alcohol bath. (If you don’t know not to chop raspberries, you have probably already been into the sangria.) Set it aside.

Decant (fancy-schmancy word for “pour”) the wine into either a punch bowl or a big clear jug. If you’re going out onto a patio or pool deck, I’d go for plastic — Pier One and Loblaws have some gorgeous patio-friendly sets.

Next, plop in some ice cubes and then add about half the Cointreau/Triple Sec/brandy (hereafter known as the booze), and the Angostura bitters — this leaves you some room to adjust it in a minute if need be.

Now add the fizzy orange/lemon drink and give it all a stir. Have your first taste-test — again, for the uninitiated, use a clean spoon for each taste and do NOT stick it back in the pitcher after you taste from it.  Just one of my pet peeves, and your guests will thank you for not serving them Saliva and Backwash Sangria. 😛

Part of a balanced sangria.

Adjust the booze accordingly, until it tastes acceptable to you. Everyone’s palate is different. Err on the side of being able to taste the wine with just a kick of the orange-y booze.

Finally, put the fruit in. I typically make WAY too much of it, so put in enough to make a pretty pitcher of drink with some bits for everyone’s glass, and put the rest in the fridge either to add later, to add to another batch of sangria (my personal favourite option) or to have as fruit salad when you’re nursing your hangover in the morning.

Goes nicely (as if I need to tell you) with tortilla chips and salsa and — of course — a nice bowl of Dr Smiter’s trademark Squawk-a-mole dip.

Total expenditure:

  • $7-10 for a bottle of cheapola sangria-worthy red wine
  • $2 for bottle of fizzy lemon/orange (7Up is cheaper but will earn you a Smiting… you should know this by now)
  • $5-8 for fruit
  • $5-ish for the booze concoction and the Angostura bitters, which many of you will have in your liquor cabinets already

So a total of about $20-$25, which makes this a bit more expensive than some of the stuff I post here. But because this is to be shared among a group of your friends, who (besides being totally wowed by your sangria prowess) are probably bringing food and munchies or (in the case of my dear friend Ann) providing us with a pool around which to sit in the summer months, this is small potatoes indeed for a fabulous beverage on a hot, sunny summer (OK, March…) day.

This stuff is fabulous -- and that's no bull!



  1. HausElf

    I don’t have enough spoons for this!

  2. JMC

    Clearly you need a set of plastic spoons, then. 😉

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