A wine connoisseur might turn his nose up at the mention of sangria, a fruit and wine “mixed drink” that aims for fun over refinement. But that would be a real shame because (a) sangria is the epitome of party and (b) isn’t fun what the holidays are all about?
This jewel-toned, many-things-go libation is the perfect drink for a festive holiday party or New Year’s Eve cocktail, and here’s why:
Sangria is a simple, one-time, make-ahead drink that requires very little prep.
And served up in a pitcher or punch bowl, it’s the ultimate invitation for guests to serve themselves. This frees you up to tackle other essential party tasks, like refilling the snack plates or actually hanging out with your friends. (Gasp!) You just “set it and forget it,” and if you’re hosting, that makes it a no-brainer.
It’s a crowd-pleaser.
Fruit-forward and with a bit of a kick, sangria is an easy-drinking mix (sometimes too easy) that balances sweet, tart, and astringent really well. Refill, anyone?!
Citrus and pomegranate are fresh and flavourful right now. But whatever the time of year, you can easily swap seasonally appropriate fruit. A curated mix of seasonal fruit not only adds an element of beauty and flare, but also contributes to the aromas and flavour infusions that get people into the holiday spirit.
Of course, cocktails themselves aren’t exactly the beacon of healthy living. But in the spirit of a healthier happy hour, if you’re going to drink you might as well get a bit of benefit out of it.
For the health-conscious holiday drinkers, you’ll be happy to know that despite a bit of back and forth on the topic, health experts still ascribe benefit to a serving or two of red wine a day. Red wine is full of antioxidants. And resveratrol, a polyphenol antioxidant found in red wine, can pass through the blood-brain barrier to protect brain and nerve cells. What’s more, it may also prevent damage to blood vessels, reduce LDL cholesterol (commonly known as the bad cholesterol), and ultimately prevent blood clots.
Moderate consumption then, may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. And that’s something worth sipping on! So, if you’re drinking responsibly (a 5oz glass/day for women and 2 5oz glasses/day for men), you could already be reaping the rewards.
In summary, it’s a party favourite, a bastion of hope for the overwhelmed hostess, a beautiful reflection of what’s in season, and a healthier alternative to many other market cocktails. I’d say cheers to that!
Recipe for Citrus Pomegranate Holiday Sangria
When selecting the wine, consider a dry Spanish wine for more authentic(ish) flavour. But more importantly, choose a wine that you would like to drink on its own. Then, ensure its chilled before making the drink.
Instead of using ice, for maximum impact, freeze extra slices of citrus or more arils to add to glasses when serving.
If you’re looking for an alcohol-free option, see notes below after the recipe.
- 1 large cara cara orange, cut in half, then into half-moons (navel oranges also work)
- 1 clementine cut into rings
- The juice and arils from a medium-sized pomegranate
- 1 tbsp maple syrup (sugar also works)
- 1 tbsp freshly-squeezed lemon juice
- ½ cup brandy
- 750mL bottle of reasonably-priced dry red wine (less than $20), chilled
- Place the cara cara slices, clementine rings, and pomegranate arils in a pitcher. Add the maple syrup and lemon juice, then pour the brandy overtop to dissolve anything that might be sitting. Finish by pouring the wine over top of everything. Stir to combine.
- Taste and adjust your flavours, as needed. Depending on the wine you choose, you may want to add more maple syrup, lemon juice, or even the juice of half an orange.
- You can serve it immediately, but it does come into its own a bit more after sitting in the fridge for at least a few hours (or even overnight), so plan ahead!
- Serve in wine or tumbler glasses with ice or pieces of frozen fruit.
If you don’t currently drink red wine, that’s not to say that you should take it up. The same antioxidant compounds can be found in other foods, like plain old (unfermented) grapes, berries, citrus fruit, green tea, onions, cinnamon, pomegranate, tomatoes, and dark green vegetables, among others.
The addition of pomegranate and citrus to the sangria (hold the onion, please!) elevates the antioxidant load, so it’s a triple whammy of free-radical fighting power. If you want to go alcohol-free, infusing sparkling water with these same fruits will also provide benefit. And for a little more festive colour, add in a splash of 100% pure pomegranate or cranberry juice. Mocktail heaven!
In the spirit of healthy happy hour, we’ll take it wherever we can get it.