I’ve given myself a ‘Top Chef’ challenge: to make a delicious cocktail with whatever my friend has in his fridge.
I haven’t even looked inside yet. All I know is that he tends to eat healthy, he likes to drink and that if this experiment fails, I can just delete and write another blog post. Purpose? To give the average person a fighting chance at making a delicious cocktail with nothing more than a typical fridge’s contents. Remember, I may love bars but my friend is a video-game distributor in Latin America who has an obsession with technology and masturbating. On the kitchen counter I see an old ‘Papa John’s’ box, a rotten banana, a hair band from the girl he hopes is coming back soon (she hasn’t called in six months) and a birthday card from his mom. He could easily be any of you.
As I open the fridge I find some pre-cut fruit from the grocery store (your typical melon, strawberries, pineapple, etc), yogurt, (I immediately think a blended… wait… no… It’s not the 90s anymore), an open bottle of red wine, vodka, cranberry and orange juices, cheap brandy, un-named crap beer, some old Chinese take out and several water bottles. Slim pickings, he eats out a lot… but I’m done thinking either way. Thank you Spain; I’m gonna make delicious SANGRIA!
Luckily (or unluckily), I’m in South Florida and it’s 85 degrees and sunny. I have a balcony that faces the water and I’m on vacation. I want something light, fruity and easy to make. I also want something that I can continue to drink with little or no work as I slowly slip of out sobriety. Perfect!
Quick history – Spain likes fruit, Spain likes wine. Do you need anymore history? By the 1700s, different recipes similar to Sangria were widespread throughout all of Europe. It was said to be more safe to drink than water (which was used for bathing animals, cleaning foods, etc). Originally, its main purpose wasn’t intended to be intoxicating; quite the opposite! It was meant to be softer than wine which was why fruit and sparkling water are often used in it. I once went to Spain and saw high-rise construction workers, hard hats on the table, drinking a pitcher of it… for their LUNCH BREAK!
Back to ‘Top Chef’ challenge: I grab the left-over cut fruit and toss it into a big bowl. Seriously… my friend doesn’t have anything that remotely resembles a pitcher. I put in a cup of brandy, toss in the left over wine, find another bottle of wine and throw it in, toss in a cup of orange juice and let that sit. I toss it back into the fridge and let it marinade. The key to sangria is letting the fruit marinade with the wine; it gives the wine a delicious, refreshing flavor. I find a lemon and a lime and slice them thin into wheels, toss them in and wait. Two hours later it’s done (or I’m done waiting)! I just add a little sparkling water/club soda to my glass and fizz up my drink. This is easily the best Sangria that was made by someone hung-over who didn’t want to walk to the corner store to find something else… an amazing achievement in my eyes. Lesson: the left-over casserole concept translates to booze too! If you have a cup of this and a swig of that, you can easily make a delicious concoction from your own fridge.
Traditional recipe: Serves about 12 drinks – Emeril Lagasse’s recipe
2 bottles of chilled dry red (Rioja or Bordeaux have historically been used. Luckily, Riojas are REALLY underappreciated still. You can find one for under $10 at your local store)
1 cup of brandy (Presidente or Cardinal Mendoza are favorites of mine. Presidente being the cheap and cheerful type)
1 cup of OJ
1/4 cup super-fine sugar (or you can make some simple syrup/sugary water by heating up equal parts sugar and water in the microwave so it melts and incorporates better)
Thin rounds from 2 oranges, 3 Meyer lemons, 3 key limes
2 apples cut into chunks
2 cups of cold club soda
Instructions: Combine wine, brandy, OJ and sugar in a bowl until the sugar dissolves. Add citrus and apples, then refrigerate for an hour. Add club soda and serve!
Now, feel free to add any other fruits, substitute red for white or even sparkling wine and play with it. The best sangria for you is the flavors YOU like. As long as you stick with fruit, liquor, sugar and wine, you’ll be fine.
Now I’m gonna go drink my drinks… I love booze. I hope you love booze too.