This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in August 2017.
Sangria is one of the easiest cocktails on the planet, right? Red wine plus lemonade plus fruit, stirred and served over ice. Sounds straightforward enough, but the summery Spanish cocktail is easy to get wrong. An incorrect ratio of wine to mixer can leave a bad taste in the mouth (and a banging hangover to match). Missing out a few orange slices might seem permissible, but you'll likely be left with zero flavour.
To find out how to nail the perfect summer sangria every time, we enlisted the help of Angel Zapata Martin, executive chef of London's Barrafina Spanish tapas restaurants.
But before he starts prepping the punch, Martin has a confession to make.
"My actual easy drink would be red wine and Coke. It's what I grew up drinking with my friends when I was younger and started having alcohol," he says. "I would actually still drink it now!"
Today, though, he's making the slightly more grown-up version of a red wine cocktail.
"Sangria takes me back to old times with my friends and family. I grew up in Barcelona and it was something that we used to make in the garden when it was sunny and we did a barbecue," he remembers. "It was always funny to see your father prepare it because we'd make big pots for 30 or 40 people. When you're a kid, you don't always like the taste of alcohol but having fruit makes it more attractive and sweet."
He continues: "There's no one recipe for sangria. Everyone adds their own touches to it."
For Martin's sangria, that means upgrading your fruit from just plain orange slices. Instead, blackberries, raspberries, and peach slices are mixed with pieces of orange, and then marinated in agave syrup, a glug of Cointreau, and brandy. Ideally, you want everything to soak for a good two hours but if you're pushed for time, it'll still taste great.
"Really, it would be best to leave the fruit marinating overnight. Then, it starts fermenting a bit," says Martin. "In Spain, I'd normally also put in things like melon and watermelon. You want to use fruits with a lot of water so you can leave it to marinate a while. I wouldn't usually put berries in but in the UK, they're just in season and really easy to get."
He adds: "The fruit juices make the sangria really easy to drink because you taste less of the alcohol, but after a couple of glasses, it'll hit you."
The marinated fruit goes into a pitcher followed by red wine. Hot tip: don't buy the cheapest bottle, but don't bother splashing out either.
"I'd suggest not putting in a really cheap wine, but I would never put a really old, aged wine in either," advises Martin. "I would use something young, not too expensive, with a strong flavour and a bit of acidity to balance out the sweetness and fruitiness."
RECIPE: Easy Red Wine Sangria
Soda water, a vanilla pod, and the zest of an orange also go into the pitcher. Martin sneaks in another glug of Cointreau for good measure and stirs. Load up a glass with ice and you're good to go.
Stupidly simple sangria that you'll be drinking all summer long. You can thank us later.