Dietribes: Summer Sangria

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"¢ In reference to its base of red wine, the word sangria means "bloody." Despite its eerily evocative etymology, Sangria is considered a friendly and socially-inclined drink (perhaps too friendly, to those who have had too much of it!)

"¢ Today its popularity expands beyond the drink itself and gives its name to nail polish, laptop colors, soaps, even chewing gum.

"¢ But before I get carried away let's start out with the obvious - what's in Sangria? The drink was originally conceived to help make a lacking base wine more tasty, and at it's most general, it offers "a mix of wine, cut-up fruit, brandy or other spirits, a sweetening agent such as sugar or honey, and carbonated soda," (although the specifics have a wide variance depending on region and preference).

"¢ Though Sangria was popularized in 1964 at the World's Fair, it had already enjoyed a fairly robust history. Sangria is an outgrowth of the red wine punches that were popular at parties throughout Europe in the 1700 and 1800s.

"¢ An early Sangria drink in England was known as "claret cup punch." The drink had a base of a red claret wine, usually a French Bordeaux or Spanish Rioja, with brandy and fruit added. This punch variant was the choice drink of Jane Austen heroines as it was served at many parties of the era.

"¢Â The blood/wine connection continues with the Haro Wine Battle in Spain. Participants dress in pristine white. The idea is to stain every inch of clothing a deep purple as quickly as possible. Unsurprisingly, the festival "recreates" an ancient bloody battle. However, the current "battle" may be more against ones own Bacchanalian whims ...!

"¢ Blue Law Alert: In 2006 a Virginia bar was cited for serving sangria in violation of an old state law that prohibits mixing wine or beer and spirits. It includes punishment of jail for a year (!). Luckily, the Virginia General Assembly repealed the law in 2008.

"¢ Finally, here are a few favored recipes for those with some time and a well-stocked cabinet.

"¢ The history of Sangria turned out to be rather straightforward, so let's turn to the present and future for more discussion. I need you guys to weigh in: is pre-mixed bottled Sangria from the grocery acceptable? What are some of your favorite recipes or places that serve Sangria? I can see this being a good drink for this week's 'True Blood' finale, and since I've never made it I am at your mercy for tips and suggestions!

Hungry for more? Venture into the Dietribes archive.

"˜Dietribes' appears every other Wednesday. Food photos taken by Johanna Beyenbach You might remember that name from our post about her colorful diet.

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September 9, 2009 - 7:42am
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