In the UK, the attractions of a holiday in Spain are often summed up as either ‘Sun, Sea and Sangria’ or ‘Sun, Sea, Sex and Sangria’ and visitors are forever asking ‘but where can I find the best Sangria?’. So, what is Sangria, how is it made, who drinks it, which bar serves the best Sangria and how is Sangria affected by the fluctuations in price of Middle-East crude oil?
Sangria, from the Spanish word sangre, meaning ‘blood’, originated in Spain and Portugal and has been around in various forms for centuries. It is basically just a wine punch. A typical modern day recipe for Sangria will include at least the following ingredients:
Orange juice or honey as a sweetener
Bits of seasonal fruit, chopped or sliced
Soda water (gaseosa)
Spirits of one’s choice (usually brandy, triple sec, white rum)
The best Sangria’s are when the fruit and alcohol have been allowed to soak for at least a few hours in the fridge, with the soda water and ice being added at the last moment.
There is a Sangria made with white wine, known as Sangria Blanca, but you do not come across it very often.
Tourists flock to the bars and restaurants in Spain in search of the ‘real Spain’, the ‘real Sangria’, and it is a common sight to see them sitting with a litre pitcher, stirring it occasionally with the wooden spoon which usually accompanies the drink. So, where will you find the best Sangria?
The answer is almost certainly not ‘in a bar or restaurant’. It would be a rare sight indeed to see a Spaniard ordering, let alone drinking, Sangria in a bar. It is 99% sure that if you see someone drinking Sangria in a bar it is a tourist. What you are more likely to get in a bar is a glorified tinto de verano.
Sangria is traditionally a social or party drink, pretty similar to a ‘punch’ in the UK, one of whose principal purposes is to at least slightly intoxicate the drinker. When was the last time you went into your local and ordered a ‘punch’? You wouldn’t dream of it. The same applies to the Spanish and Sangria. It is for informal or home occasions, and that’s where you’ll find the best Sangria. So either get yourself invited to a local party, or make it yourself.
Recipes for Sangria vary wildly, depending upon fruits available at the time, quality of ingredients, budget and desired alcoholic content, so it shouldn’t be too difficult a task to come up with something reasonably palatable if you decide on the option of making it for yourself. There is no ‘secret’ to making a good Sangria, it’s simply trial and error.
The wine is the dominant ingredient, the base of any Sangria. You can go for a good Rioja, but a cheap wine will do just as well, and more often than not, does. Cheap spirits from the local supermarket, any fruit that you have lying about or the cheapest you can buy locally. Don’t worry if the fruit is a bit soft and approaching (or past!) its best, it is going to get soaked in alcohol anyway!
Having said that, if you are going into a bar in Nerja looking for a ‘good’, tasty Sangria, then I would personally recommend Jago’s in calle Barrio or Esquina Paulina in calle Cristo. Both serve a pretty mean brew with no skimping on the ingredients. As for the effects of fluctuations in Middle East oil prices, you may be surprised to learn that there is absolutely no connection as far as we are aware.