It’s really just patriotic of me to mix up a big (red!) pitcher of sangria to warm us up as we sit planted in front of the TV this weekend, right? Sangria is my go-to when we have friends over – it’s like mulled wine, minus the heat, which leads me to conclude that sangria isn’t actually a summer drink – although my mind might change mid-July – it’s for the bleak midwinter, when there’s citrus aplenty and it’s just too chilly for a bubbly cocktail. The first batch was all oranges and lime, and I replenished it with sliced apples. (This is another great (dangerous) thing about sangria – the pitcher is bottomless if you replenish it over the course of the evening.)
About ten years ago, when we lived in Vancouver, we made sangria using cheap wine and Five Alive. I’ve only slightly upgraded my choice of wine, and haven’t stopped the Five Alive part. Usually I upend a bottle of red into a pitcher with said Five Alive and a whack of fruit, but recently I made some ginger syrup for something or other, and we had sangria with fresh rosemary and star anise at some restaurant or other, and all of the above are wintery flavours if ever there were any.
Use oranges or tangerines or lemons or limes or the last few wrinkly mandarins, and you can get away with cheap (but not too cheap) wine. And if you’re going to add sugar to your sangria, which is pretty typical, why not make it ginger syrup? Simmer equal parts sugar and water with a schwack of sliced fresh ginger, strain it into a jar, and keep it in the fridge for adding to soda (homemade ginger ale!) or vinaigrettes or cocktails. Or sangria.
To hold the ginger – without is just as delicious – just leave the syrup out. Taste your sangria and add a spoonful of sugar if it needs it, or not. It’s your sangria.
Just make sure you add a few good friends to the mix and it’ll be perfect.
Winter Sangria with Rosemary and Ginger
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
3-4 slices fresh ginger
1 L Five Alive
1 bottle red wine
a sprig or two of fresh rosemary
a few slices of orange and/or apple
a few whole star anise or cinnamon sticks
In a small saucepan, bring the sugar, water and ginger to a simmer; remove from heat and set aside to cool. Pour through a sieve into a jar and store in the fridge.
To make sangria, pour the Five Alive and red wine into a large pitcher. Add a few sprigs of rosemary, some orange and/or apple slices, a few whole star anise if you have them, and a pour of ginger syrup – a couple tablespoons to start, then more to taste. Stir and let sit for an hour before serving. Serves 2-8.