If the last time you had Sangria you drank three carafes by yourself and ended up on the floor of a Benidorm bar, I can understand why the mere mention of the word turns your stomach. However, Tinto de Verano, Sangría and other Spanish summer drinks can be quite refreshing. And they are just as easy to make at home as to order in a restaurant.
Tinto de verano (summer red wine)
This simple and delightful summer drink is more popular than sangría amongst the locals. The recipe is simply red wine (vino tinto) served over ice and topped up (ca 50/50) with sparkling sweetened soda water. If you ask your waiter for a tinto de verano con Casera, you will be given a traditional Sprite-type gaseosa, whereas tinto de verano con limón will give you red wine with sparkling lemon soda. If you make it at home and prefer it less sweet, try mixing 1/3 red wine, 1/3 lemonade and 1/3 sparkling water. Some also like to add a dash of vermouth or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Either way, it is a cheap and cheery drink, and an excellent way of putting leftover opened wine to good use.
The secret to making sangría is a generous supply of over-ripened fruit. Peaches, pears, apricots, plums, berries and even bananas are great. Traditionally the drink is made in a large ceramic bowl, but according to the size of the drinking party, any generous salad or punch bowl will do (min 3 litres).
Start by pouring in a bottle of red wine. No point in splurging on expensive wine for the occasion, so we usually buy a litre bottle of cheap tempranillo at our corner store. Next, peel and chop some fruit, the juicier the better. Wedge oranges and lemons, leaving the peel on and adding some fresh juice if you have oranges to spare. Spaniards generally add a cup or two of sugar, but it is not absolutely necessary. Finally, add about a litre of lemon soda and/or sparkling water. For festive occasions, or to get more ‘kick’, add a splash of brandy, Triple Sec or vodka. Serve with ice in tall glasses, and make sure not to wear your finest whites!
As a variation, you can also make Sangría Blanca, where you replace the red with white wine or cava. Don’t ask for too many refills, as it slides down very easily…
Similar to the world-renown mojito, the rebujito is typical to Andalucía, especially during férias and other summer celebrations. As with all local recipes, the content varies depending on the maker and where it is made.
The most common recipe mixes two parts sherry (usually a dry Fino or the slightly more floral Manzanilla) and one part sparkling soda. Pour a bottle of the above into a large glass jar, already filled with ice cubes and lots of fresh Hierbabuena (good herb). If you cannot find this fragrant member of the mint family, people say that spearmint is its closest relative. Personally, I would rather use lemon balm as a replacement. Our Spanish friends also stir in copious amounts of brown sugar. You can use soda water instead of sweetened soda. It is all a matter of taste. Serve the rebujito over ice with a couple of slices of lime and a fresh sprig of hierbabuena.
As far as Spain’s beloved cerveza is concerned, other than drinking the beer straight, the Spanish also serve their version of a Shandy. You can order una clara (beer with Casera soda) or clara con limón, which is beer with a splash of sparkling lemonade. Both are too sweet for my palate, so I usually drink a sin, meaning beer without alcohol, not very sinful at all…
It might sound a bit odd to mix wine or beer with sparkling sodas, so why do they do it? It is certainly not because they want to save on alcohol, which often costs less here in Spain than bottled water. The only explanation I can think of for this summer drink tradition is that people need more liquid in the heat and most aren’t big water drinkers. Spain’s social drinking culture has adapted to the climate, so we can enjoy a cooling drink or two, while still keeping our heads clear.
N.B. All the above-mentioned drinks can of course be made without alcohol.