Hey, everyone! Sorry about my forced hiatus recently! I had internet troubles whilst moving into a new house! I’m back up and running now though and just in time for New Years! So scroll on down and enjoy yourselves! Thank you all for your continued readership!
Enter the New Year in style with some fancy sparkling wine! Whilst you could go for an expensive bottle of Champagne, sometimes saving a little bit of money is a good shout…
Prosecco, generally speaking, is much cheaper than even a semi-good bottle of champagne. And if you head to a specialist wine shop, you’re more than likely to find a top end brand too!
The best example I’ve come across in the past few years is Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Prosecco Conegliano… It’s usually inexpensive and can often be nabbed when it’s on offer!
Below I give you 3 simple cocktails you can make for your new years eve party. At least to make it a bit more fun for your new-to-prosecco friends! The price detail really hits home if you have a party for more than just a few people!
Prosecco & St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
30ml St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
Top Up TTD Prosecco Conegliano
Using a standard champagne flute, gently add the Elderflower Liqueur into the bottom of the glass.
The simply top up with the prosecco.
Usually used at Christmas this simply made cocktail is perfect to capture the sweetness of the prosecco and pump it up into a sweeter-than-usual mouthful. The St. Germain Liqueur adds a floral note and really does make the prosecco go down easier for those with a sweeter tooth…
I tried this very recently at an italian restaurant with my girlfriend. It was delicious and should be available for everyone to try! My well-known bias for Licor 43 aside, this is my favourite cocktail in this post!
Prosecco & Licor 43
30ml Licor 43
Top up TTD Prosecco Conegliano
Pour chilled Licor 43 into a standard champagne flute.
Top up with the Prosecco and garnish with a twist of orange peel.
This cocktail is one I’ve wanted to try out for a long while and, thanks to my girlfriend, I was able to finally get hold of a full bottle of Licor 43. It’s a very sweet liqueur and can produce many a fine cocktail. But there’s something about this Prosecco & liqueur blend that captures my feelings for prosecco perfectly!
Prosecco, whilst sweeter than champagne, is still a little dry for my palate. But add enough of a sweet liqueur and you have the perfect balance of sweet and dry. Not to mention the addition of various subtle flavours (from the liqueur).
Licor 43 brings its blend of 43 different ingredients into the mix, but it mainly shows off the Citrus and Vanilla in this particular drink… Although there are some herbal undertones there for those with a keen nose…
Prosecco & Creme De Peche
25ml Creme De Peche
Top up TTD Prosecco Conegliano
Gently pour the Peach Liqueur into a standard champagne flute.
Top up with the Prosecco Conegliano…
This cocktail is very much like a mimosa, only it cuts out the fruit juice and uses an alcoholic peach liqueur instead. It has certainly got more bite, but like the other 2 drinks on this list, you get a balance to the dryness of the wine with the sugary liqueur…
This is one of the fruitier of the 3 drinks, with the peach flavour being very, very prominent throughout. Give it a try, and if it’s too sweet, try cutting it back with a dash of fresh lime!
Here’s a little secret: Sangria is a perfect centrepiece for parties. Ok, so it wasn’tsuper-secret – most of you already knew that! But do you know the best way to get the most out of your sangria recipes? No? Well, here is my guide to perfect sangrias every time…
Europe And Its Great But Terrible Sangria Obsession
To be faithful to my story telling roots (or, if you want to put it more bluntly, my rambling nature), I thought I’d start with a bit of history: about the origins of Sangria and, most importantly, about why wine takes centre stage in this universal favourite.
What are the origins of Sangria? Well done for those of you who answered ‘Spain’, but even more points for those of you who said Spain and identified the timeframe of 1700-1800’s. We know this historical period more commonly as the Middle Ages (think Game of Thrones, albeit a little less rose tinted – if that’s possible!). Sangria was created mainly out of necessity! Until the mid-late 19th century, safe drinking water was not as readily available as it is today; therefore, the people of the time looked for safer means of drinking.
Based upon the idea that alcohol kills off the harmful bacteria/nasty stuff that causes diseases like Cholera and Diptheria, alcohol naturally and literally became the only safe way to drink any water. In addition to the health benefits of this plan, it was obvious that certain concoctions would be socially shared (quite merrily, I might add).
As these potent mixtures gained popularity, they also accumulated added ingredients, and thus the first ‘Sangria’ recipes came to be. As milk was considered strictly for babies, and as water was more likely to kill you than keep you alive, this wine mixture was consumed en masse, and even given to young children – talk about an interesting childhood.
Traditionally, the typical Sangria consisted of several ingredients: wine, some type of brandy and fruit. This mixture – in one form or another – became popular across Europe for hundreds of years, and has eventually been refined into the modern Sangria we know and love so much. Introduced into the USA back in 1964’s World Fair in New York, Sangria really put Spain (and red wine, especially) on the map across the Americas.
To this day, traditional Sangria is still made using red wine, brandy and fruit, although sugar and fruit juices are generally both used as well.
But where do you begin with the preparation of your Sangria? What ingredients do you need to rustle up a crowd pleasing wonder? Well, before I share with you my easy-to-follow recipes, why don’t you quickly review this check list to get a basic Idea of the ingredients you’ll need:
Wine or non-alcoholic substitute.
Try using different fruit juices. Base fruit juices such as orange, apple, peach and grape are great possibilities.
Sugar: preferably unrefined brown/muscovado – it’s richer in flavour and is not as bad for you as the refined white cane sugar. Honey/Agave Nectar are also great substitutes.
Spirits: rum, vodka, gin, tequila and liqueurs – choose those that work best with the wine you’ve picked. For instance, try using tequila in a spicy style wine, and rum for a sweet one.
Once you have your plethora of ingredients, you can move on to the step by step guide below (here’s some free advice: for that added ‘special something’, try using locally grown seasonal ingredients; they will add much more flavour and you can direct your friends on where to acquire them).
How to Mix Sangria
One giant leap
Start by mixing the wine, chosen spirit, juice and sugar together and then cover and chill for approximately 1-2 hours.
I find that taking your sweet time will result in a better tasting end product. Stir in the sugar until it is fully dissolved, and mix in your juices and spirits thoroughly.
Did you know? – Whilst traditional Sangria primarily uses red wine and brandy, you can use pretty much any type of wine and any spirit you like. Why not try rum and sparkling white wine (Prosecco/Cava/Champagne) or vodka and still white wine?
Sugar and spice and everything nice
Now comes the best bit: adding your preferred flavours.
First, quickly stir your sugar/juice mixture then introduce your ready-prepared mix of fruits and/or vegetables and spices. You can use any fruit you like, so experiment and have some fun. Once the fruit has been added, cover and return to the fridge for another 2-4 hours
The mid-season finale
Like any decent process, you need to check your progress half way through, so this step it designed to allow you to do just that. Remove the Sangria from the fridge, stir it extremely well to make sure the Sangria ingredients are combining well, and then cover and put back in the fridge for one final time (again for around 2-4 hours).
Did you know? – The best tasting Sangria can sometimes involve leaving the mixture in a fridge overnight to allow the fruit to settle into the alcohol, creating deeper, more meaningful flavours in the mixture.
As cold as ice
By now you should have a large bowl/container/pitcher full of a very fruity and alcohol-laced chilled liquid. But it doesn’t stop there. You need to stir thoroughly before serving and have your carbonated mixer on hand (if you’re using one – you don’t have to!). If serving straight away, then ice isn’t necessary. But have a bag or two ready in case it’s a particularly hot day (or you plan on leaving it out all evening).
Service with a smile
To serve, half fill a glass with ice, then top up with your chosen sparkling mixer!
Prosecco/champagne or lemonade make great mixers, but feel free to try any sparkling mixer you want. I find orange soda works particularly well.
This 5 step guide is genuinely all you need to produce party-popping Sangria mixes every time. You can make non-alcoholic Sangria using the same ingredients as detailed above. Whether alcoholic or not, your Sangria will be the envy of all your friends and before you know it, they’ll all be after your recipe.
Since it’s taken you nearly an entire day to create this masterpiece on your table, respect it and take every opportunity to enjoy every scent and sip. Did I mention it’ll keep, in a sealed container, for up to 24-48 hours depending on the fruit/juice used?
And, as I don my Etiquette hat for a small moment; A good host always remembers to be responsible when serving/consuming alcohol, and will check thoroughly that no one is allergic to the fruits/vegetables being used.
One Last Thought
I love to take the slower, more traveled path when creating a great cocktail. I’ll go out and buy ingredients to make my own infused syrups rather than buying pre-prepared, lower quality products. This process scales elegantly in mixtures such as Sangria. Of course you can create a decent version in a couple of hours; but to really blow your guests away, use fresh juice, locally sourced ingredients, maybe something a little less known, and of course take your time preparing it. You should always treat Sangria like a joint of meat in a marinade – allow plenty of time for the flavour to develop.
Stay tuned for next time – I’ll have something a little seasonal once more, in the form of a very well known and historically charged topic: London Dry Gin.
Tequila is something I’ve never been able to get my taste buds use to, and that’s probably because all I’ve ever been exposed to is Jose Cuervo and Sauza. Whilst both brands do produce high grade 100% agave tequila, supermarkets sell just sell the cheaper ‘impure’ products (they are cheaper and show better sales – trust me it’s how they think – which is a shame I know).
Recently however there has been somewhat of a boom in the tequila industry, with more and more focus on ‘craft’ and aged ‘pure’ 100% Agave tequilas (especially across the USA). Here in the UK there are plenty of good quality tequila’s available, if you know where to look. Sainsbury’s for one stock a couple of 100% agave brands; El Jimador (Blanco & Reposado) and, along with Waitrose, Aqua Riva (Reposado). Both brands can say they are 100% agave and therefore better for you than those products that are not so.
Fervent Shaker Funny Fact: Due to the purer filtration processes 100% agave tequilas will not result in as bad a hangover as those tequilas that are ‘blended’ (basically any tequila that doesn’t say 100% agave on it). This is because some chemicals (the ones that cause severe hangover symptoms) are reintroduced when the ‘blended’ products are mixed. This does not happen with 100% agave tequila’s as once the chemicals are removed, that’s it, and they’re gone for good. Huzzah.
So moving onto this evening’s cocktail: The Catalina Margarita…
(42ml) 1 ½ measures Tequila
(28ml) 1 measure Blue Curacao
(28ml) 1 measure Peach Schnapps
(112ml) 4 measures Sour Mix*
1) Combine all the ingredients over ice in a shaker and shake until frosted.
2) Serve straight (preferable in a chilled Margarita cocktail glass).
3) Garnish with a lime twist.
Now a famous use of Catalina was the Catalina Wine Mixer…
The Catalina wine mixer is a fictitious event in the film Step Brothers. The film is hilarious, starring Will Ferrell as one of the brothers and he is the host of the wine mixer at the end… This cocktail as far as I can see, whilst not actually based on this reference, would have suited such an event perfectly. Sure it’s not a wine based cocktail, but Margaritas are literally perfect for any event. Keeping the recipe close to the original as possible (although this version is a lot longer than a classic margarita) this cocktail will wash away any shyness you feel at any event. It will help you forget your insecurities at any event you feel you don’t quite belong at. Whether that’s a good thing or not is a decision I will leave to you…
This slightly tweaked version I’ve created has taken its inspiration from the event. Who cares if it isn’t real, it’s the fucking Catalina wine mixer!
Catalina (Wine Mixer) Margarita:
(42ml) 1 ½ measures Tequila
(28ml) 1 measure Blue Curacao
(28ml) 1 measure Peach Schnapps
(56ml) 2 measures Sour Mix*
Top up Sparkling Wine
1) As the classic calls for shaking, this one does to; just don’t shake up the wine…
2) Pour into a chilled margarita cocktail glass.
3) Top with the Sparkling wine.
4) Garnish with a lime twist and candied Lemon peel.
This cocktail is a little lighter than the original recipe to make it a faster sipper. This version of the drink can be a little richer in flavour, if you pick a good quality of sparkling wine, but equally lesser so for the same reason…
Fervent Shaker Top Tips: For a really grand version of this drink try using Champagne instead of just any old sparkling wine. Also try using Grapefruit juice as well as Sour mix. If you prefer a still drink, replace the sparkling ingredient with grapefruit juice. You can equally substitute the win for grapefruit soda if you do like your drink carbonated…
*Sour mix is a mixture of lemon juice, lime juice and sugar syrup. See my Jericho Breeze post for the recipe…
Hopefully you like this slightly different take on a great cocktail. And of course another cocktail you can drink whilst watching a film, look at you all sophisticated and that…
Enjoy the drink, and should you want to find the original in its original place try my book of the moment: 365 cocktails, written by Brian Lucas.