From backyard picnics to tapas bars to your local Outback Steakhouse, sangria is a summertime staple. The Spanish wine cocktail is one with a muddled history, tracing back to an early Greek and Roman drink called “hippocras” (wine, sugar, spices, and varied ingredients). A similar drink showed up in Spain around 1100 B.C., eventually spreading to England and France in the 1700s and 1800s.

Here in the U.S., sangria started whetting summer palates at the 1964 World’s Fair in Queens, New York, where it was featured at the Spain pavilion.

If you’re wondering the best way to make sangria, or how it should be served, look no further. We’re here to answer those questions and more. Now you can make your own sangria at home, or at least order it more confidently the next time you’re at Outback

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1. What is sangria?

Sangria’s popularity in the wine section of shops and restaurants might have you wondering “is sangria wine?” Well, sangria isn’t a type of wine per say, but it is a delicious wine-based beverage that emphasizes wine’s delicious fruit-forward elements. There are some extra ingredients in the mix, including fresh fruit and a little extra booze, so in our books, sangria should be considered a cocktail.

2. What is in sangria?

The basic ingredients of sangria are wine, some sort of sweetener, a liqueur, soda or other non-alcoholic mixer, and fruit. Typically, red wine is the base.

Here’s a classic recipe that we love:

  • 2 bottles of Rioja wine
  • ½ cup of triple sec (or Cointreau)
  • ½ cup of  brandy
  • ½ cup of simple syrup
  • 4 oranges (2 sliced, 2 squeezed into juice)
  • 1 sliced apple
  • 1 handful of red grapes
  • 1 handful of blackberries (or strawberries)
  • 1 sliced lemon
  • 1 sliced lime
  • 1 half-liter of soda water

In a pitcher or punch bowl, combine the wine with triple sec, brandy, simple syrup, and juice. Stir. Add fresh fruit ingredients and stir. If you’re serving right away, let stand for 15 minutes to let ingredients meld. Ideally, refrigerate sangria for at least two hours or overnight.

And, by the way, sangria can last in the refrigerator for several days. Add a half-liter of soda water just before serving over ice.

3. What kind of wine should I use for sangria?

“Sangria” is Spanish for “blood,” referring to the drink’s traditional base of red wine. If you’re going classic, look for a Spanish red wine like Rioja or other Tempranillo-based wine. A bold and fruit-forward Spanish Garnacha can also work well. Here are some of our favorite red wines for sangria.

That said, anything goes! As long as you (and your guests) think it tastes good, you’re golden. Beyond the traditional red wine version, you can make light and refreshing white wine sangrias, sparkling sangrias, and rosé sangrias.

Sangria with white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio pair well with cucumber, lemon, and Sprite. Rosé sangria is great with peaches, melon, and citrus. Pick inexpensive (but still tasty) rosés like Liquid Geography Rosado from Bierzo, Spain; Bodegas Muga Rosado from Rioja; or Blanc Pescador Rosé for fresh red-fruit flavors with citrusy tang.

4. What kind of fruit should I put in sangria?

As with most punches, sangria is incredibly versatile. Recipes call for everything from chopped pineapple and peaches, to apples and pears, to strawberries and sliced citrus.

One good rule of thumb is to add fruits whose flavors are present in your wine. If your chosen bottle has strawberries on the nose, quarter some fresh ones. Picking up some green apple on the finish of that unoaked Chardonnay? Grab a Granny Smith and start slicing. The same is true for peaches, lemon, cherries, and so on.

5. I like my drinks strong. Can I add booze to sangria?

Totally. These days, many sangrias have a little extra booze in them to bump up the alcohol content, be it with brandy or a flavored liqueur. We’re partial to this Hennessy recipe.

6. Is sangria sweet?

It can be. Sangria is as sweet as you make it. As a general rule, it’s going to be fruity, so start with a dry red wine to keep that sugar content down. Pick fruits that lean more tart than sweet (like Granny Smith apples rather than white peaches), add more acidic juice like lemonade, or simply don’t add sugar to your mixture.

7. What does sangria taste like?

As we explored above, sangria can have varying levels of alcohol and sweetness, as you adjust the recipe. This allows the drink to offer a range of flavor profiles, adjusted to your specific preferences. The one through line that can be found in all sangria, though, is the presence of the fruit, which always adds fresh flavors and an increased complexity to the beverage.

8. How to serve sangria.

If you’ve got a punch bowl, use it. If not, sangria can be served in a simple pitcher. If you’re planning to sip that sangria all day (or save it in your fridge for the whole weekend), go for a punch dispenser.

9. How to drink sangria.

Sangria is best enjoyed cold, so serving it over ice is important to the experience. It helps if your sangria is kept in the fridge until it is served as well, rather than baking in the hot sun in a punch bowl for hours. Other than that, sangria is a great refreshing cocktail to enjoy outside, and is perfect if you are looking for something to batch for a big group. 

Happy sangria-making!

Bonus: Our Favorite Sangria Recipes

  • If you’re looking to keep things classic, then check out our Traditional Sangria recipe. It’s a tried and true classic that never fails to please.
  • Looking to lighten things up? This is one of the best White Sangria recipes you can find. It’s a real crowd pleaser.
  • If you’re looking for a recipe that’s perfect for a celebration, look no further then this Sparkling Sangria recipe.
  • Love rosé? Then this Rosé Sangria recipe is just for you.
  • Forgot to prep and need a recipe that takes mere minutes? No worries, this is the easiest Sangria recipe we know of. It’s also pretty delicious.
  • Want to kick things up a notch with Cognac? This Hennessy Sangria recipe is a delicious upgrade.
  • Who says sangria is only a summer drink. Our Autumn Sangria recipe brings together all of the the crisp, fruity flavors of fall.