Happy Hour Helper: This Sangria More or Less Makes Itself

2 min

10 shares, 61 points
Happy Hour Helper: This Sangria More or Less Makes Itself 1

PERFECT PITCHER It’s worth having a batch of sangria on hand for an easy cocktail hour anytime.

Photo: Kate Sears for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Liza Jernow

BLAME IT ON Spotify. A few months back, “Sangria Wine,” the ’70s classic from “gonzo country” singer-songwriter Jerry Jeff Walker, popped up in my work-from-home playlist, and I haven’t been able to get the tune, or the drink, out of my head since.


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In the song, the words “sangria wine,” “friends” and “drunk” repeat dozens of times, which will seem entirely appropriate to anyone still nursing memories of college hangovers and the sticky pitchers of doctored plonk that caused them. Still, the vibe of extreme chill—so elusive in 2020—that runs through the music and the drink struck me as damn enticing. Who would object to a pitcher of “sangria wine” made for sipping (at a safe distance) on the stoop?

It is lamentably easy to make bad sangria: by pouring on the sugar, goosing it with grain alcohol and/or selecting as a base the sort of wine that comes in a handled jug. Yet making a fine rendition can be equally simple. You needn’t splurge, but do start with a dry and full-bodied wine that you would actually like to drink. A Grenache or Rioja from Spain is always a safe (and appropriately Iberian) bet.

Brandy is the traditional fortifier, but if your liquor cabinet needs a restock, a glug of vodka or rum will get the job done. After tinkering with my own formula, I found that a hit of orange liqueur—a Cointreau or triple sec—gives the grog a welcome citrus stimulus. Orange juice is another must, but because you want a smooth sip, not a pulpy one, this is one instance when fresh-squeezed is not the pro move.

As for the layer of chopped fruit that typically garnishes sangria, a clean-out-the-crisper-drawer approach works, within reason. When I made my first batch in summer, sliced nectarines and plums were what I had. These days, thanks to an overzealous family orchard excursion, I’ve switched to apples.

Beyond that, once you’ve stirred it up and stashed it in the fridge, all a pitcher of sangria really requires is some time, a commodity most of us currently possess in abundance. By the time happy hour arrives the next day, the mix will be well chilled and mellowed. And not long after that, as my muse, Mr. Walker, knew so well, you’ll be on your way, too.

Happy Hour Helper: This Sangria More or Less Makes Itself

Kate Sears for The Wall Street Journal, Food Styling by Liza Jernow


  • 1 (750 ml) bottle dry red table wine, such as Grenache or Rioja
  • ½ cup brandy
  • ¼ cup triple sec
  • ¾ cup orange juice
  • 1 cup sliced apples, oranges, nectarines or plums
  • Seltzer


  1. In a large pitcher, combine wine, brandy, triple sec and orange juice. Add sliced fruit. Refrigerate overnight.
  2. Serve sangria and a spoonful of fruit in an ice-filled wine glass. Top with seltzer and stir.

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