I awoke in a chilly room, ready to explore the beautiful coast of Luz, Portugal. We meandered through the streets heading downhill toward a café for expats on the beach. I saw a large pitcher mixed with fruit and filled with a liquid akin to a sweet nectar. We each ordered a pitcher of this nectar known as sangria. The waiter asked how many glasses, and we replied we each wanted our own pitcher; he laughed briefly. A few minutes later the owner came out laughing and saying “I always know when Americans come, because only you guys would order a pitcher of sangria at 9AM for each person.”

Out of necessity as a cocktail maker, I have to sample products from around the world. In Barcelona, I have fond memories of deleting Sangria and munching on Tapas. At college, the roommates and I made “ALPHA Nectar”, our take on a fall sangria made with apple cider. Associated with sangria is group drinking and exquisite food.

To celebrate my Mom’s birthday, I wanted to transport her out of the suburbs of Pittsburgh during a pandemic and into the tapas bars of Spain. Luckily, I had enough experience sampling sangria and tapas that the end result came out delicious.

DISCLAIMER: Although common in Spain and Portugal among tourists, Sangria is not actually Spanish. My friends, Andrew Berlin and Molly Brown (who both studied abroad in Spain), mentioned the locals drink “Tinto de Verano”; which is ¾ red wine and ¼ lemon soda. An effective and cost-efficient way to start the night off right.


Sangria is simple to make and is boozy. It is the perfect summer drink to entertain a crowd at a barbeque, or during times like this drowning your worries into the pitcher. Sangria can be deconstructed into five categories of ingredients: (1) wine, (2) liquor, (3) sweetener, (4) fruit, and (5) juice. Additionally, there is not one universal sangria recipe rather each sangria contains one item from each category. Similar to most large batch drinks, sangria is not a ‘science’ recipe and is more of a feel drink.

(1) Wine is simple, go with a dry and fruity Spanish wine. Campo Viejo Rioja is cost-efficient and gets the job gone. (2) Liquor is delicious and adds a subtle flavor to the drink while upping the alcohol content. The taste should complement the sangria and not be too pronounced. I would recommend going with Brandy, E&J brandy is like $10 per bottle and is a perfect fit. (3) Sweetener is for the sweet tooth in us all, you could choose a low-calorie sweeter but scientifically calories do not exist in alcoholic drinks so I recommend brown sugar. There is a trend with the ingredients, just like how red wine goes with red meat; red wine in sangria should be paired with ‘dark’ ingredients such as brandy and brown sugar which are both brown. If making white wine sangria, I would change the liquor to rum and substitute the brown sugar for a white / clear sweetener. (4) Fruit is the most fun part of sangria and you can get creative with it. For the most part, choose fruit that absorbs liquid well. I chose apples and oranges for this batch, but I have made sangria with pears, berries, etc.… (5) Juice is incredibly important during a time like this, orange juice is the only way to beat Corona just like how Trump said Clorox injected can cure Corona; trust me it’s science. Juice is also incredibly important in sangria, it’s a win-win; enhance the taste and beat Corona. I recommend going with orange juice, it’s nice and fruity without being too tart or too sweet.

Just like fine red wine, sangria taste better with time. Not saying to bottle the sangria for years, but letting it rest and absorb the fruit over an hour before serving improves the taste. The first time the roommates and I made “Alpha Nectar” (Apple Cider Sangria) the initial taste was poor. So, like any college student we added another bottle of wine and brandy and magically the taste improved. In hindsight, it was most likely waiting an hour before sampling again that improved the taste. The fruit works wonders absorbing the liquid and dispersing natural sugars.


Making Sangria is easy and quick, the longest part is letting the sangria marinate. The first step is to add the selected fruit. Slice the fruit into little pieces, they should be small enough to fit inside a wine glass and munch on; basically, bite size. One of the best parts of drinking sangria is the little snack you get with fruit in the wine glass. Add the brown sugar and muddle.

Step 2: Adding the Liquids

Add ¾ of a cup of orange juice followed by ¾ of a cup of brandy. ¾ of a cup of brandy allows for a tasty Sangria where the liquor is not noticeable. If your feeling frisky, add some more brandy. Mix thoroughly.

Step 3: The WINE!

The simplest and most fun part, open a bottle and just pour the entire bottle into the pitcher. Mix thoroughly and chill for at least 30-minutes allowing the sangria to absorb the fruit juices.

Step 4: Serving

Sangria is based served chilled with some ice in the glass. I recommend adding the ice directly into the wine glass versus the pitcher to avoid watering down the sangria. In terms of letting the sangria marinate, 30-minutes is an ideal time but 15-minutes or 45-minutes is also fine. The drink always tastes good, but waiting enhances the taste. Finally, make sure to add some fruit into the wine glass. Not only does it look cool, but it’s a nice little snack when drinking.


Tapas are dope. For all the problems in the Spanish and Portuguese economies, they sure know how to live a great life. Taking a mid-day nap and ending the night with tapas is literally the perfect day. To bring some of that spirit home, I made two easy to cook and tasty tapas known as Patatas Bravas and Ham Croquettes. Patatas Bravas is literally baked potatoes with a spicy ketchup type sauce and Ham Croquettes are deep friend dough balls with ham. Both go well with Sangria.

Patatas Bravas Recipe: https://minimalistbaker.com/simple-patatas-bravas/

Ham Croquettes Recipe: https://thenoshery.com/croquetas-jamon-ham-croquettes/

The Final Note

Tapas and Sangria are symbols of casual times, fun memories, and nights you never want to end. I hope you can try these recipes and share some great memories with those around you.

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