Once upon a time, Jim Macdonald gave me his sangria recipe, and behold, it was good. Then I lost it, and I’ve never been able to persuade him to give it to me again.* This year, as sangria season approached, I pulled a maneuver I’ve used to arrive at other recipes that exist in multiple versions: I collected a bunch of vouched-for sangria recipes, discarded the outliers, and redacted what remained. Oddly enough, the results are very like what I remember of Jim’s recipe:
one 750 ml. bottle of robust, inexpensive red wineIf anyone’s interested, the recipes whose genetic material went into that are About.com’s Basic Sangria, Zeke “Easier to Keel the second time” S.’s “official recipe from our spanish cookbook”, Lisa on AllRecipe.com’s Classic Spanish Sangria, and Adam Ried’s recipe for The Best Sangria, originally published in Cook’s Illustrated, as quoted by Grace on the Cooking Light forum.
one lime (or an extra orange)
1/4 C. sugar
1/2 C. brandy
Optional additions: Up to one cup of additional orange juice, to taste. Some amount of an orange liqueur like Cointreau or Triple Sec, which you should add along with the brandy. Some amount of club soda, if you want it dilute and fizzy.
How to: Put the wine in the refrigerator. Muddle the fruit with the sugar. Add the brandy, mix well, and let it macerate in the fridge for 2-8 hours. To serve, add the wine, stir well, stir again before pouring, and serve over ice. If you don’t have time to let it macerate, serve it very cold and use lots of ice.
What are outliers that got excluded? Sangria is an old, straightforward recipe, so the list of anathemas pretty much has to start with turning it into an alcoholic fruit cocktail. This excludes pears, pomegranate seeds, maraschino cherries, kiwi fruit, a cup of fresh basil leaves, and/or a can of Dole Pineapple Chunks. You may add a sliced peach or two or a handful of cherries when they’re in season, but that’s about it.
The same goes for the liquid versions of that heresy, especially the cheap drink mixes added to stretch the number of servings: canned pineapple juice, canned apricot nectar, Country Time powdered drink mix, frozen cranberry juice concentrate, frozen pink lemonade concentrate, artificial peach-flavored anything, 7-Up, and Hawaiian Punch.
I excluded whole cloves and whole cinnamon sticks. There may be some authentically indigenous versions of sangria that include them, but by my lights they’re something that snuck in from mulled wine. I have a similar objection to gin, grenadine, and tonic water: they are not a commutative property of semi-tropical cocktails containing citrus. Finally, sour-apple schnapps and coconut-flavored rum are Right Out, for reasons I don’t want to explain as it would involve having to think about them.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t add whatever you want. I’m just saying it’s your look-out if you do.