Sunday, June 5, 2011

Red Wine Sangria with Agave Nectar

When trying to decide what to bring to a beach party a couple days ago, Sangria immediately came to the forefront of my brain. What is it about this beverage that A) never gets old B) screams SUMMER and is C) something that everyone likes.  If Sangria is on the menu at a resturant I always get it. I've only ever made it once, so I figured I'd give it a try again.

The Best Red Wine Sangria recipe seems to pop up everywhere when I started looking online. One that seeemed to repeat again and again was Cook's Illustrated's recipe.  I love and wholeheartedly trust Cook's Illustrated and stopped looking when I came upon their recipe.   The recipe was simple, but I decided to change it just a little.  One, I wanted to make a little healthier by cutting out the sugar and try making it with agave nectar.  I've been wanting to try agave nectar for awhile so I figured this would why not.  I also wanted to add more fruit then what the recipe called for. the recipe calls for citrus only (a trio of orange, limes, and lemons). Taking a trip to the grocery store I found strawberries and watermelon on sale so I decided on those.  I also grabbed a Granny Smith apple. I figured the tart colorful fruit would make a nice addition. Also most recipes called for brandy, so I figured what the heck. Let's throw a little of that in, too. Ok, so maybe I deviated quite a bit from the original recipe, but it all ended up tasting delicious. 
What I love about Sangria is that it can turn an very inexpensive bottle of wine (as cheap as $6 for one of large 750 mL bottles) into something extraordinary.  Reading what Cook's Illustrated had to say, they agreed that people who tried their recipe (who gets to do this for them and how do I get this job?) actually preferred the cheap over the expensive wine. Woo hoo!

The recipe calls for letting it sit overnight in the refrigerator for a proper marriage of fruit and wine. I personally had only 4 hours.  Oh well- I plunged on anyway.  Making it was extremely easy (why don't I do this more often?). I poured the wine in a large container and then added the citrus.  I cut up each orange, lime, and lemon in half.  I squeezed the juice from half of each into the wine, and cut up the other half into wedges and added those to the wine.  I decided the half that I squeezed into the wine, I would just add as well and remove later. I added the rest of the fruit, triple sec, and brandy to the mix.  Then it came for the agave nectar. On the bottle it reads 1.4 times as sweeter.  Recipes I looked at online called for 2/3 cup, which seemed excessive to me.  I started with 3 Tbs. and worked my way up from there.  I eventually settled on 6 Tbs. and then (yes I admit it) added a little sugar. 2-3 Tbs. to be exact. 

The last thing it called for was some sort of carbonated or sparkling beverage.  Ginger ale, club soda, sparkling water. I opted for a cheap flavored bottle of seltzer water.  Cranberry-lime to be exact.  I really think your choice here is your preference.  Sangria just want some bubbles.

In the end, the 4 hour marriage of my sangria still resulted in a happy one.  So go make some sangria and get summer started.

Sangria Recipe with Agave Nectar
(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated)

1 750- mL bottle of red wine (the cheaper the better)
1/4 cup triple sec
1/2 cup brandy
1 orange (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges)
1 lime (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges)
1 lemon (1/2 juiced, 1/2 cut into wedges)
1 cup strawberries,  cut into quarters
1 cup watermelon, cubed
1 Granny Smith Apple,  sliced
6 Tbs. Agave Nectar (adjust to your liking- I started with 3 Tbs)
2-3 Tbs. of Granulated Sugar (optional- again taste as you go with this)
2 cups of sparkling water, giner ale,  or club soda (I used a Cranberry Lime seltezer water)

1. Combine all but the sparkling water into large pitcher and refrigerate.  Add the sparkling water just before serving with ice. Stir, enjoy. Relax.

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