A summer red wine sangria featuring cherries, stone fruits, infused ice cubes and mixed berries.
Teens gathered with their friends where the sand and water mingled. At a certain hour, they jumped over beach fires, three times, to ward off evil spirits and witches. Streets, restaurants and homes smelled like freshly baked bread and anchovies. It was a combination that grew on me, proving the fish is under appreciated and under used in America (why?).
Pilgrims waited in lines, catholics magically erased sins, and the entire city stayed up late. The alleys and plazas hummed as we made our way into a sloped slice cut from the buildings, a mere alleyway lined with tables and merriment and fire. Welcome to Santiago de Compostela, arguably the burial home of the apostle James but definitely the site of a memorable drinking experience!
It was my summer study abroad in Spain, and it was Saint John’s Eve, one of those Catholic-pagan, Spanish-Celtic cocktails that shakes witches and saints and merrymaking into one solution, then lights it on fire. The solution is Queimada, a punch made from a wine-distilled spirit, herbs, sugar, lemon peel, coffee beans and cinnamon, then mixed in a traditional vessel- a low, clay pot. While the merrymakers mix the Queimada, they recite incantations to ward off the evil spirits who draw nearer with the summer solstice. It might be creepy if it weren’t so lively.
“Hear! Hear the roars
of those that cannot
stop burning in the firewater,
becoming so purified.
And when this beverage
goes down our throats,
we will get free of the evil
of our soul and of any charm.”
As all the participants gather round, someone lights the Queimada, followed by a Brandy pour for the engulfing effect. Then, everyone sips their escape from the dark powers that be.
It was unlike any other tradition I had ever experienced. It was also the experience that removed my nose from books, museums and galleries. LOOK! There is life and music and exuberance all around you, long into the night. There are teens that want to know if you like that song… “Chud-up, Chud-up” by the Black Eyed Peeeeas or maybe Miiii-kaal Yack-son? There are potions and wizards and flames. There is a plaza full of life!
So much of me has changed since then, but that was an unraveling, a chance to see the museum of the here, the now, the streets, the incantations, the flow of the people. There are times I return home from trips and try to combine these ingredients with painstaking precision- odes to the traditions I was fortunate enough to share for but a moment. Then there are times when I simply paraphrase.
This red wine sangria is a paraphrase. It’s just a simple sip. It’s not authentic. It’s not Queimada (though, who wants to get together and try that?). It’s an imprecise attempt to take my mind back to the summer when I spoke Spanglish on a smoky beach, ate octopus as one should eat octopus, went to a bullfight, watched Spanish operas and drank Sangria with tapas whenever possible. It’s an attempt to feel that trip somewhere in my bones, like closing my eyes, staring into the sun, inhaling deeply and trying to feel warmth in waves.
This red wine sangria is a veer. It’s not the traditional combination of citrus and brandy. Simplified, seasonified if you will, this red wine sangria takes advantage of stone fruits and dark cherries, mixed with a bubbly lemonade and frozen fruits. The herb and strawberry infused ice cubes make this a red wine sangria for sipping long into the night. The flavor won’t dilute so much as evolve.
This red wine sangria is the sensibilities of my upbringing mixed with my taste for the world- waste not, wander often. Though savoring the wine-drenched fruit at the bottom of the glass is both the fun and accidental tipsiness of sangria, inevitably, fruit remains after the party has died. Why discard that leftover wine-infused fruit when it could lead to future dessert courses?
Simply, let what little wine lingers continue to impart its flavors overnight. Then drain and puree the fruit and herbs. (Save a few pretty berries or apricot slices for dessert garnishes). The result is a tipsy jam fit for French toast, beignets, ice cream, and baking. It is not, however, very fit for children (though it’s mild in alcohol content- better to be safe).
To bake with the Sangria Fruit Compote, simply top your favorite cake recipe with a layer of fruit spread and bake. If you like to baking but always end up with too many leftover slices, consider these Healthyish organic cake mixes. They’re portioned for one, so I offer their simplicity as a balance to my deep-dive oven endeavors. I feel good about their ingredients, and you can feel good about their individual portions. And, you can still add creative presentation touches and flavor variety.
Simply top with frosting, garnish with any reserved fruits, and enjoy!
Or, skip the jam layer, but don’t skip dessert! Simply garnish with the wine-infused fruit.
Here’s to the grand drinks and simpler reminders. Here’s to sweet excuses to waste less and enjoy more!
Red Wine Sangria
featuring Speak Wines
About this Recipe: Think of this more as a palate guide, than a precise recipe.
1 bottle Speak Wines’ Malbec
1 bottle organic sparkling French Berry Lemonade (available at Trader Joe’s)
Fill a pitcher about halfway full with fruit, then add equal parts red wine and sparkling lemonade. Serve in glasses with infused ice cubes and frozen fruit.
Note: Remember to use clean, organic fruit when making sangria.