I used to look down my spoiled, snobbish palate at sangria. Memories of fruit-filled glasses of cheap wine-ish concoctions usually keep me away from the stuff. But a recent trip to Cuba set me straight.
For lunch one day we wound up on the vine-shaded patio of an unexpectedly fine restaurant on a dusty back road in what was described as a fishing village on the Caribbean side of the island. The waiter, outfitted in a pirate-style costume no less, showed us one of the largest lobster tails I’ve ever seen. The drink menu included sangria, and, on another beastly hot day that week in Cuba, the prospect of an icy refresher sounded good. And it was. I asked what was in it, and learned that the red wine – probably an Argentinian malbec or a Chilean cabernet sauvignon – had been spiked with sparkling water and a pineapple liqueur.
Epiphany. For all those lousy sangrias I downed years ago, I’m sure the formula generally involved wine and fruit juice. I don’t think I’d ever considered the possibility of spinning the wine with more alcohol.
Back home the other day, I found a recipe for homemade pineapple liqueur, but properly made it would take four or five weeks. I went searching for the stuff, but scrounging the shelves at Gomer’s on Broadway I came up empty.Well, I thought, maybe I could use a peach liqueur instead?
My personal Gomer’s shopper, Jim Coley, pointed me to a French version, the G.E. Massenez crème de pêche.
At home, I mixed a small batch, using one of my go-to, value-priced house wines — Big House Red, a California Rhone blend that comes in a three-liter, bladder-lined box. A ratio of three parts wine to one part peach liqueur and one part sparkling water seemed like a good place to start. I stirred, poured over ice, topped with a lemon slice and concluded that I was well on the way to a successful and very refreshing summer-long experiment.
The possibilities seem endless; I’ll get some pineapple liqueur in the works this weekend. I’ll try a white version with, maybe, the white Beaujolais that Coley raved about, with good reason, the other day (or a box of Big House White). Various liqueurs are standing by for reserve duty. Welcome back to my life, sangria.
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