Sangria: A party in a pitcher

By Terry Sweeney
Sangria and I have a past.  And not one I speak about too often, because, well … I better explain.
I was 18 and a freshman in college, far away from parental supervision and could now make my own adult decisions about how to conduct myself to make the best first impression.  I’m sure you remember what freshman year is like. You’re well, fresh! Nobody knows anything about you. The fact that in your past you were cruelly teased about your hideous retainer or your embarrassing acne or that some jerk had figured out that “Sweeney” rhymed with “weenie” is information that your new college peers are not privy to. A clean slate is yours at last.
Now, since I was a Spanish major, it made perfect sense I would join the college’s Spanish Club. I signed up and anxiously awaited the first meeting so I could show off my Spanish and wow them with my wit and my new contact lenses. No more “four eyes” for me! OK, so I can be vain and shallow. Hey, they don’t know that. I’m new! I’m fresh!
It turns out the first club meeting is a party with trays of tiny Spanish tapas and big, big pitchers of a delicious fruit punch called “Sangria.” Those tapas were very salty (you can already sense I’m desperately fishing for an excuse for what’s to come, can’t you?!)
Anyway, I threw back glass after glass of this fermented fruit bomb not realizing there was alcohol in it. It was  Spanish Club, for God’s sake. We were a bunch of nerds speaking high school Spanish to each other on a Saturday night while the rest of the campus was rocking and rolling at cool keggers we would never be invited to.
It never occurred to me that these dorky duds would even think of serving booze. Not realizing, of course, they were doing an authentic, genuine Spanish sangria.
As the night progressed, the more I drank, the better my Spanish got (or so I thought) and jumping up on a table to dance an impromptu “Flamenco” really impressed my fellow club members.
Certainly they must have found memorable my yelling “Adios, amigos” in the doorway and quite possibly mooning them all before exiting (I can’t really remember).  So much for making a good first impression!
After a wobbly trip back to my dorm, I realized I didn’t feel so good. Down the hall I lurched, ending up in the nice, big, white, clean bathroom we all shared on the dorm floor.  That’s when I uncontrollably painted the place purple like a human spray gun. My pained moans and groans were enough to wake my entire floor and get me a ready audience that was both grossed out and highly amused by my sorry one man show, performed on all fours.
The next day, and the day after that, I was too sick to even leave my room. When I finally did, I was sure it would be to shameful snickers and snarky remarks. But instead, guys I passed in the halls high-fived me saying, “Congratulations, Sweeney, first one to barf freshman year! Way to go!!”
Somehow my Spanish Club fiasco had instead given me infamous college dorm cred. Their first impression: “Sweeney’s cool.” Thanks, Sangria.
Since then, especially after spending a year living in Spain, I have learned two things. Number one, to always treat Senorita Sangria with the respect she deserves. No ungentlemanly gulping, chugging or swilling and, most importantly, to be sure to take her to dinner whenever we are out together. The other thing I learned is simply how to make great Sangria.
Here are two recipes, one traditional for red wine and the other a sparkly peach Sangria made with white wine.

Traditional Sangria
• 1/2 cup brandy
• 1/4 cup lemon juice
• 1/3 cup frozen lemonade concentrate
• 1/3 cup orange juice
• 1 750 ml. bottle dry red Spanish wine Merlot or Rioja
• 1/2 cup triple sec
• 1 lemon sliced into rounds
• 1 orange sliced into rounds
• 1 lime sliced into rounds
• And if you’d like it to sparkle, add a cup of Sprite.
Chill for 24 hours in the fridge which allows flavors to really meld into each other.

Sparkling Peach Sangria
• 1 bottle dry white wine (preferably unoaked)
• 1/3 cup sugar
• 1/2 cup triple sec
• 2/3 peach flavored brandy
• Four medium fresh peaches peeled and sliced
• Two medium nectarines
• Two cups of Spanish sparkling Cava
• Optional:1 orange sliced into rounds
Chill for 24 hours.

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