Even though the official start of summer is about a month away, the Memorial Day weekend serves as the start of its prelude here. The sticky heat acts as a warning of the wet, hot, American summer that is to come and the water-saturated air almost makes me suffocate when I run, even late in the evenings. These humid, almost-summer nights make me want to have something really cold, to cool off. And what better way to do that than with a cold, white sangria? So to kick off the Memorial Day weekend here is a recipe for a sangria full of summer flavors.
White sangria is extremely easy to make, you just need to give it some time to marinate to allow the alcohol to penetrate the fruit and in turn infuse the drink with its juices. You can use a variety of different fruits or just a few. I like to use the flavors that tend complement the white wine: apples, peaches, citrus or mango. You can also add or substitute what's in season or what you can find in the store or at the market, including strawberries, melon, pears, plums, or even grapes.
In this recipe I used a South African chenin blanc from the Paarl region. It is a dry, very crisp white wine, with a very faint hint of altogether pleasant bitterness. It is otherwise quite neutral in flavor, lending itself well to sangria as it is able to absorb the flavors of the different fruits. I picked it up, as I do with so many wines, on a whim: this particular one simply caught my eye with its name, "Tormentoso" and an endearingly grotesque looking fish on the label. It is so named because of where it comes from: according to the label, the southernmost tip of South Africa was named Cabo Tormentoso by the Portuguese explorers. It means Cape of Storms, but can also mean its English counterpart - torment - because the grape has grown in an unlikely climate, its roots tormented by the rocky soil. The end result has actually become a favorite around these parts.
A few weeks ago, we were sent to try out Cascal, which is a carbonated, fruity soda made with fermented juices (with no sugar other than from the juice). I was intrigued by the description and thought the drink would pair well with sangria while adding a hint of fizziness. There are five flavors altogether. The flavors we used here are Bright Citrus, which in addition to the citrus has a rich pineapple flavor, and Crisp White, which is dry and crisp, less sweet, with notes of pear, and of all things, petals (it claims magnolia). The latter is my favorite for this recipe, and its flavors pair very well with the fruit in the sangria. If you can't get your hands on some Cascal, or other low-sugar, fizzy beverage, you can use club soda. Or, for a stronger sangria, you can dispense with soda altogether.
As white sangria is served chilled, sometimes with ice, I added a few bits of frozen strawberries instead for added flavor.
White Summer Sangria
You will need:
1 cup strawberries, chopped into small cubes
1 green apple, cored and chopped into cubes
1 mango, peeled, pitted, and chopped into cubes
Other fruit, e.g.: plum, pear, peach, etc., cubed
1/8 cup agave syrup
1/4 cup brandy
1 bottle dry white wine
12 oz Cascal or club soda
Mint, for garnish
1. Reserve 1/2 cup chopped strawberries. Place the remaining fruit into a punch bowl or a pitcher. Stir together agave syrup and brandy and pour over the fruit. Add the wine and stir. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours or overnight. Freeze the reserved 1/2 cup strawberries (to use in place of ice cubes).
2. To serve, spoon some fruit into the bottom of a wine glass. Add a few frozen strawberry slices. Fill the glass 1/2 full with sangria. Top off with Cascal or club soda. Add a few mint leaves to each glass and serve.