by Paullette Gaudet

national-sangria-day_blogMaking the 20th of December National Sangria Day might not seem like the most intuitive choice, but in some respects we can't believe it didn't come sooner: this week of December is rife with holiday parties featuring huge crystal punchbowls, and Sangria makes for a great holiday punch, perfect as a make-ahead since marination is a big part of the final product's success. Introduced to the USA at New York City's 1964 World's Fair, Sangria's basic components are wine, fruit, orange juice, sugar, liquor and ice. These ingredients are always up for interpretation, but Winter provides an excellent opportunity to creatively bring Harvest and Yuletide flavors to a traditionally warm-weather drink.

The wine part of the basic Sangria equation, even in Winter, should still be a quality bold, dry Spanish red like Garnacha, Tempranillo or Rioja, but also consider trying the bubbly surprise of a white Sangria made with Cava or Prosecco, its effervescence pointing to the coming New Year celebrations. As for the type of fruit used in Winter Sangria, think seasonal: sliced Blood Oranges or pears, diced Honeycrisp or Granny Smith apples, fresh cranberries or even figs. For the liquid citrus component, in place of orange juice pour apple cider, cranberry, or pomegranate juice. Using a sweetener with your recipe? Swap agave syrup or brown sugar for plain white, and don't be afraid of adding a cinnamon stick for kick if the spirit moves you. The traditional liquor additions for Sangria are brandy or rum, both of which are great December flavors, but cognac is also a nice choice this time of year. Even Sangria's humble ingredient of ice can be wintrified: frozen cubes of apple, cranberry or pomegranate juice will keep your Sangria both cold and undiluted.

Remember that Sangria, whether prepared in Summer or Winter, is an always-forgiving and constantly-evolving drink that encourages and rewards innovation. Celebrate National Sangria Day this holiday season with a Winter concoction all your own!