If you've ever had sangria, you've probably got PepsiCo Inc. to thank (or blame, depending on the circumstances). Sangria came to the United States in the 1960s, when Spanish wine purveyor Bodega Santiago mixed up a batch at a trade show in New York City; a Pepsi representative tried it and loved it, then ran back to headquarters with it. Even today, any bottled sangria you find (and bottled sangria is a terrible idea—you should run in the opposite direction) is likely made by Pepsi.
So the sangria-popularization story goes according to Brett Affleck-Aring of Savor Seattle, a company that conducts several food-and-beverage tours. Tour guide Affleck-Aring was drinking sangria at Andaluca last week, on the occasion of Wayne Johnson's 10th anniversary as chef there. (In chef-years, that's approximately 107; after several speeches and many toasts, Johnson beamed while being serially embraced all evening.) Andaluca's sangria is on the Gourmet Seattle tour, which goes around downtown, Belltown, and the Pike Place Market, also stopping for snacks and drinks at Serious Pie, Il Bistro, and more; by the end, the tourists and the occasional local are reportedly well-fed, well-informed, and sometimes tipsy. Affleck-Aring almost knows the Andaluca sangria recipe by heart; it's got apples, pears, oranges, lemons, limes, strawberries, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, and rioja red wine, for which inexpensive is fine (see below for the recipe). Affleck-Aring shared a few facts about the Mayflower Park Hotel, home to Andaluca: Everyone loves working there as much as Chef Johnson, with 70 percent of current employees having passed their five-year mark. And prior to the present ownership's massive renovation, it was a flophouse of ill repute. (One thing you won't learn on the tour: Affleck-Aring feels the same way about prostitutes as he does about tattoos—"I can't afford any of the ones I'd want.")
While Andaluca's sangria is popular, the red-wine-with-citrus-rind astringency combined with Christmastime spices is reminiscent of a holiday candle to some palates. Fortunately, there are as many ways to make sangria as there are people who make it. Belltown's Spanish-accented Brasa is not on the Gourmet Seattle tour, nor is sangria on Brasa's cocktail list, but chef/owner Tamara Murphy makes it at home in the summertime. While the conventional wisdom is that sangria exists to mask bad wine in the form of a highly drinkable party punch, Murphy points out, "I don't think the Spaniards would say that, because they wouldn't say they have any bad wine." She prefers white-wine sangria, and she doesn't go the cheap route ("It's only gonna be as good as the wine you use"). In the recent heat wave, she combined vinho verde—a light, dry Portuguese white with a tiny, lovely bit of effervescence—with drippingly ripe peaches, a little cinnamon, and fresh mint and basil. "It was just perfect," she says.
Courtesy of Chef Wayne Johnson
[Eds. note: This recipe takes two days and it makes approximately an ocean of sangria, so plan ahead and scale down accordingly.]
10 apples cut in 4 slices
10 pears cut in 4 slices
40 whole cloves
20 bay leaves
10 star anise
6 cinnamon sticks
10 oranges split in halves
4 lemons split in halves
4 limes split in halves
25 strawberries cut in halves
10 bottles of rioja wine (inexpensive is just fine)
Preparation: Put slices of apples, pears, whole cloves, cinnamon sticks, anise, and cardamoms in a large pot, add water (just about half of the pot), and boil on a medium level heat for about two hours.
Once you see very little juice remaining at the bottom of the pot, add the strawberries. Boil it for another 20 minutes. Cool down and move it to a larger plastic bucket, and add rioja wine to it. Then squeeze the oranges, lemons, and limes (throw the whole fruit after being squeezed), and leave the bucket in the fridge for about two days before serving it. Strain the juice through a china cap (strainer) and add 1/2 oz. of peach and 1/2 oz. of apple brandy to each glass before serving it to someone.
You may want to reduce the ingredients proportionately according to your needs.