Every Christmas Eve my cousins and I make a batch of sangria and act like we invented drinking.
The tradition, currently in its fourth year, began as something of an unexpected rite of passage. After years of watching our parents sip wine, mix cocktails and crack open cold ones at every family party and holiday, my cousins and I — now all in our 20s and 30s — realized we had suddenly become the adults.
Yes, in times of holiday overflow we would all still be resigned to the kids’ table in the kitchen while our parents maintained dining room status, but by the time we headed off to Christmas Eve mass already a few glasses of sangria deep (as god intended), it became clear that the torch of getting absolutely loaded on holidays had been passed — a grave honor we accepted as our solemn duty.
Over the years we’ve varied our Christmas sangria recipe, sometimes toeing the (definitely not-so-) fine line between sangria and jungle juice when, one batch down, we’ve taken to pouring whatever spare bottles of wine and spirits we can get our hands on over leftover macerated fruit and calling it “sangria.”
Fortunately, the holiday pop-up Nog Shop at Quality Meats has mastered the art of the winter sangria, and they’ve agreed to let us pass along the recipe in case you, too, are at risk of turning your holiday sangria into holiday jungle juice.
As it turns out, the key to crafting the perfect holiday sangria actually lies in another iconic winter beverage. Unlike most traditional summery sangrias, the Après Ski Sangria at Quality Meats starts as a hot mulled wine.
“My thought with this cocktail was to bring all the flavors of a spiced mulled wine into a more refreshing cocktail that guests could drink before a meal” (or church) “without destroying their palate,” Bryan Schneider, Quality Branded’s bar director, tells InsideHook.
This sangria starts on the stove with a spiced syrup of cinnamon, allspice, cloves, star anise and orange peel. Then comes the wine, heated just shy of boiling. “I want to retain the alcohol of the wine and not cook the wine down, so it still retains that freshness,” Schneider explains. “As soon as it reaches simmer, we’ll cut the heat and just let the spices macerate into the wine for a little while.”
Once cooled, Scheider’s holiday sangria again subverts summery tradition by forgoing brandy or triple sec in favor of adding aquavit. The savory Sandinavian spirit often finds its way into German Glühwein, says Schneider, bringing another layer of warm, mulled wine inspired flavor to a cool, yet unmistakably wintery beverage.
“That was the idea,” he says, “to bring those warm winter spice flavors into a sangria.”
Chilled and served with an orange peel, mint and cinnamon stick garnish, the result is a best of both worlds winter drink that brings the heady spices of hot holiday hooch into a refreshingly sessionable winter sangria you can drink from Christmas Eve straight through Christmas day.
Après Ski Sangria
In a pot add:
½ cup sugar
½ cup water
1 tablespoon whole allspice berries
1 teaspoon whole cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise pods
Peel from ½ an orange
Stir on medium heat
Bring to a simmer, and simmer for five minutes
Add one bottle of red wine of your choice (some may prefer a drier red wine given that sugar is added), bring back up to a simmer and cut heat (careful not to boil the wine)
Let cool, then strain out spices
½ cup Aquavit
¼ cup Lemon juice
Chill in the fridge overnight.
Serve over ice in a wine glass
Garnish: Orange slice, mint, cinnamon stick
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