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Posted: August 13, 2009


7-Up Sangria not so trashy after all

Cathie Beck—The Wine Wench

Two years ago, our “Sassy Sangria” column extolled all of the virtues of Sangria in the heat of the good ol’ summertime.

In that column, I alluded to a “friend” who made something called “Trailer Trash Sangria” — Diet 7-up mixed with any old red table wine — poured over a large glass of ice. That “friend” was actually yours truly and the reason I didn’t reveal the identity of said “friend” was this: Though everyone drinks the hell out of my “Trailer Trash” mix — everyone, with equal relish, makes great fun of it all night long, especially as the night gets lubed with said TT Sangria.

I am vindicated!

A Colorado winery that makes a dozen reds, some whites, port and more had a party awhile back. Said winery put out some of those big “Costco-sized” clear refreshment dispensers — the kind that hold a dozen gallons of liquid and have a little spigot on them. I overheard the vintner instruct a co-worker to, “Mix the 7-Up with the Sangiovese and put some ice in there and put it out for everyone.”

Holy handpicked grape! A multiple-generation vintner tells a worker to mix a carbonated soft drink and some red wine and serve?

It may not be traditional, but when it’s 98 degrees in the shade and the thought of drinking anything but ice water seems ludicrous, Sangria — made with soda pop or not — hits the spot.

And it turns out that “Sangria,” at least in the eyes of those who live in Spain (where it originated), is thought of as a low-rent drink as well.

Here’s what one cynical “travel writer” wrote:

“To the Spanish, Sangria is a party drink and is there for one reason — to get you drunk very cheaply. There is no magical recipe to make perfect Sangria. To make real Sangria, you take the cheapest red wine you can get, the cheapest spirits in the supermarket (brandy, whiskey, anything will do) and the cheapest fruit that you have lying about — usually apples and oranges and peaches that are too mushy and old to eat. If it tastes gross (which it usually will) add something to take the taste away — sugar and cinnamon usually works.

“Sangria is to the Spanish what punch is to most of the English-speaking world: a great social lubricant at a big house party but something you wouldn't dream of ordering in a bar. So, bar Sangria is aimed almost exclusively at tourists and is charged appropriately — bar owners know foreigners will pay over the odds for Sangria as they see it as being 'Spanish.’”

The trick, it would seem, to making a great summertime Sangria is not so much about having a “Sangria secret,” but about using simple red wine, some fruit, and a cavalier attitude. Having made a pitcher or two myself, I’ve learned that just about any dry, fruity wine works: Zinfandel, California Gamay, a dry Beaujolais — or any red table wine, preferably a cheap one.

And for those who find the idea of a soft drink mixed with a cast-off red a bit too bourgeois, note the time-tested, excellent and “authentic” Sangria recipe below.

Everyone else? Grab a pop-bottle opener and get mixin’.

Secret Family “Louisiana” Sangria Recipe
Prepare the day or evening before serving

2 chilled bottles inexpensive red wine (dry Beaujolais or from Spain’s Rioja region)
¼ to ½ c. Grand Marnier Liquor
2 oranges
1 Granny Smith apple
1 pear
1 lemon
1 liter cold club soda
chipped ice
Simple syrup:
1 c. sugar, 1c. water – dissolve together over a medium-low heat until clear; cool completely

Mix wine and simple syrup together. Add Grand Marnier and squeeze the juice of one orange into the mix. Slice and add the second orange, the apple and the pear. Squeeze about two tablespoons of juice from the lemon into the mix and add two slices of the lemon. Chill 24 hours. Pour into goblets filled with ice, leaving about ¼ of goblet empty. Top with club soda and slightly stir.

Check out these local restaurants, known to serve Sangria:

  • Samba Room (Denver), 720.956.1701
  • Vespa Dipping Grill (Denver), 303.296.1970
  • Baca at The Inverness (Englewood), 303.397.7222
  • Rioja (Denver), 303.820.2282
  • Cucina Calore (Denver), 303.322.8942
  • Café Gondolier (Boulder) 303.443.5015

Word o’ the Week
Tempranillo — The tempranillo is a black grape native to Spain and used to make full-bodied red wines. It is the primary grape used to make Rioja wines, and Spain considers it their “noble grape.” It’s also excellent to use as a base for making Sangria.

Coming August 27: Rallying for the Reisling
Reislings sometimes get a bad rap, reduced to being a “German sweet wine” with little worldly import.

But Reislings can be dry, sweet, bitter, high- or low-alcohol content and offer one of the broadest wine drinking options in the world. We’ll talk about the variations of the Riesling wine palette on August 27.

One Winning Wine Tasting: Wine For Chocolate Lovers
On Friday, August 28, Cook Street School of Fine Cooking will host “Wine For Chocolate Lovers,” from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. The event will look at how chocolate is made and will provide guidelines for pairing wine and chocolate, including food and wine chemistry. Six wines will be evaluated and paired with six chocolate selections. Cook Street School of Fine Cooking is located at 1937 Market Street in Denver and further information can be found at

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Cathie Beck, a/k/a The Wine Wench, can be reached at: Please forward any and all wine events, wine-related news items directly to her.

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