Sangria is one of the more forgiving drink recipes. You can play around with a lot of different variations in terms of wine varieties, fruits, and other additions, but for this I thought we’d keep it as close to classic as possible.
By volume, red wine makes up the largest proportion of this drink, so what you select is important. It’s best to stick to a fruity but intense wine that does not have a ton of tannins. When chilled, tannins can give off an overly astringent element. I went with a cheap-but-good bottle of Rioja, which is made from the tempranillo grape. Find something fruity that’s under 15 bucks and you should be fine.
Betraying the drink’s Spanish origins, I chose Cognac, a French grape brandy, along with Grand Marnier, a Cognac-based orange liqueur. You’re free to use a Spanish or American brandy, but I like the roundness that Cognac provides.
Diced fruit is probably the key defining feature of any sangria recipe, and orange and apples are great choices because they are so ubiquitous. A jar of Luxardo cherries is an absolute must-have for any pantry. Their classical use is as a garnish for cocktails like the Manhattan, but they also can be used as ingredients, like in this sangria. The cherries come in a rich, flavorful syrup that adds a wonderful depth and complexity to sangria.
A final note: This is not a drink you can rush. The time spent in the fridge is essential to the drink’s balance, as you need to give the fruit time to infuse. You can buy yourself some time with a smaller dice on the fruit, but there’s really no shortcut here. —John deBary
Test Kitchen Notes
We love this sangria for its simplicity, plus the added, carefully considered elements that make this recipe so special. Using a Cognac adds fermented grapes in a new way to the sangria: this spirit isn't made from a grain, but grapes that are aged for at least 2 years before bottling, producing a roundness that perfectly complements any chilled red wine. It also adds another note of flavor to pair with whatever seasonal fruit you're adding.
Combine everything except for the sparkling water in a large pitcher. Cover and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and preferably, at least 6 hours. To serve, add sparkling water and 3 cups of ice.