Traditionally made with red wine, sangria has morphed into many enhanced states of being. White wine is now common, as are sweeteners like agave nectar and more tropical fruits like pineapple, passion fruit, kiwi, mango and papaya. Champagne adds a more festive touch, along with apricots, pears, pomegranate, plums and other elegant fruits.
For spicy sangria, start with an Argentinian Malbec (Rioja works well, too) and throw in a hit or two of chili pepper or jalapeño, plus Cholula hot sauce. Or you can sweeten things up with an orange-flavored liqueur like Gran Torres, Grand Marnier or Cointreau, and fresh-squeezed orange juice.
Once you’ve got the basic formula of wine, fruit and sugar (or honey, simple syrup or fruit juice), anything goes. Do your concocting a day ahead, which allows the flavors to mingle. (Just don’t add the club soda, sparkling water or ice until serving time.)
When choosing wines, stick with those that are light, dry and a little oaky to help balance the fruit flavors and sweetness. And don’t be too label conscious. An inexpensive Spanish wine is perfect.