Sangria adds up to a happy drink

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Combine wine, fresh fruit, a little brandy and maybe a few other ingredients, and you have the recipe for one of Spain's great gifts to the world - sangria.

Sangria is a happy drink, perfect for celebrations. Although sangria was originally made with red wine, traditionally Rioja, some regions of Spain developed versions with white wine as well. When made with white wine, the drink is called sangria blanco.

Either way, it goes well with food, says Emilio Sanz, chef at Baltimore's Tio Pepe Restaurant, where sangria is a favorite drink.

"It's not like wine, where red goes with one food and white with another. Sangria goes with all kinds of food," says Sanz.

Even better, it's not very expensive and "is very good," he says. "People enjoy it."

Like most restaurants serving Spanish food, Tio Pepe has its own recipe for sangria, one applauded by several generations of Baltimoreans. But there is no hard and fast formula for the beverage, so don't be afraid to experiment.

A basic sangria will include a bottle of Rioja or other red wine spiked with some complementary liquors - perhaps a shot of rum or brandy and maybe some triple sec - then laden with various fruits. Some recipes call for soda water, lime juice or lemonade or sugar.

Sangria is a forgiving drink, so you can try your own combinations. In fact, experimenting with this wine punch is part of the charm.

Instead of rum or brandy, try grenadine and sweet vermouth, and substitute cranberry juice for the lemon or lime. Or use a peach-flavored brandy with a white Spanish wine and make sure the fruit includes fresh peaches.

Generally, a sangria has at least two fruits. Diced apples, lemons, oranges, grapes, peaches, cherries, melon slices, strawberries - there are plenty of choices, especially this time of year.

Despite all the possible recipes, for many Baltimoreans sangria will always mean the Tio Pepe version. Fortunately, it's one you can easily replicate at home.

Tio Pepe Sangria

Makes 8 glasses or 1 pitcher

1 bottle of wine, a heavy red or a white that is not too sweet

1/2 cup triple sec

1/2 cup brandy

3/4 cup sugar

1 apple diced, with peel

1 orange cut in wedges, with skin

1 lemon with skin, quartered then cut into smaller pieces

Mix ingredients together. Serve over ice.

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