Real Sangria

Sangria is a party drink served at homes, not establishments.


When I was studying in Madrid, I often went with my roommates to a bar off the Puerta del Sol where they served cheap sangria.

Sipping my glass goblet, filled with red wine and chopped citrus, I felt like I was the epitome of sophistication. I’d sit at the bar, nibble on the free tapas, and practice Spanish colloquialisms.

!Que chulo! (How cool!)

No matter that I wore a red scarf around my neck like some sort of wannabe flamenco dancer, or that I spritzed myself with a perfume from the Corte Inglés department store, I remained just as uncool as I had been back when I was 11, wearing scratched glasses with my head stuck in a book. 

It wasn’t until I made some actual Spanish friends that I learned that no native would ever order sangria at a bar or restaurant, let alone a Puerta del Sol tourist trap.

Real Spaniards never order it when they’re out because they know that what they’re going to get isn’t sangria at all. Sangria is a party drink served at homes, not establishments. Instead, Spanish restaurants and bars serve a drink called tinto de verano - which translates to “summer red wine,” but means equal parts red wine and lemonade or lemon-lime soda. It’s topped with chopped fruit and passed off as sangria to visitors. Nothing against tinto de verano, but it doesn’t offer the kick of real sangria. You’re better off ordering sangria at a Spanish restaurant outside of Spain than any place in Spain if what you want is actual sangria.

Fortunately, it’s easy to make your own sangria. The red scarf and Spanish perfume are optional.


1 750 ml bottle Spanish red wine

283 ml (1 cup) Gran Marnier (see note)

Juice of 1 to 2 oranges

1 sliced orange

1 sliced lemon

1 sliced apple

Stir all ingredients together. Refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. Serve with ice and top with club soda, if desired. Makes 1 pitcher of sangria.

Note: Gran Marnier is a French orange liqueur, but it has a base of brandy so you have no need to add both brandy and orange liqueur. You can replace red wine with white or rosé, but if white, switch out the apples for peaches, and if rosé, switch out the apple for berries. 

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