There’s just something about bubbles that scream celebration. We clink glasses of sparkling wine at weddings, at the beginning of a new year, or more frequently nowadays at nail salons, because nothing says celebration like a new shade of “Sugar Daddy” on your toes.
Nonetheless, I love a good sparkling beverage. And when I was dreaming up a Spanish-inspired dinner party, I knew sangria had to be on the menu. I chose Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine, to add a little fizz. Most Cava is made in Catalonia, which is in the northeast corner of Spain near Barcelona. You know how Champagne is made only in France and Prosecco is only made in Italy? Same here—Cava is unique to Spain, and it’s the country’s most famous sparkling wine.
When I studied in Spain for a semester in college, I honestly only had sangria a handful of times. As a college student on a budget, I opted for the more readily accessible “tinto de verano”. Tinto, as it’s known colloquially, is a mixture of red wine and orange Fanta. It sounds low brow, but my untrained taste buds didn’t know any better. And to be honest, my slightly more mature taste buds still think it’s a pretty refreshing summertime beverage.
We’d head to the liquor store to buy a couple of boxes of 1€ red wine and some Fanta, and make our way to one of the streets to participate in a bottelón. Bottelón, which translates to big bottle, is a popular tradition on the streets of Spain, where people gather to drink on the streets and sidewalk before heading into the club. When I say “people”, I really just mean a bunch of college students trying to save money on alcoholic beverages.
On the rare occasion that I had sangria, it never really impressed me all that much. It tasted like wine and fruit, which is exactly what it is. Several years later when I was living in Cleveland, Ohio, I stumbled across a sparkling sangria and was hooked.
So here’s my Spanish (and Cleveland) inspired sangria recipe: a mixture of your favorite fruit, sugar, orange zest, fresh squeezed orange juice, white grape juice, and Cava.
Most sangria recipes will call for brandy and sometimes Grand Marnier for orange flavor, which creates an incredibly potent beverage once you add wine. I nixed the hard liquor in favor of juice, making this cocktail a little more easy drinking. I do love the idea of orange flavor in sangria though, so I added the zest of one orange to the pitcher, along with the juice from the orange. Since the Cava is a white sparkling wine, I also added white grape juice (the purple/red variety would have turned it pink, which may not be a bad thing!). Pineapple juice would be a good alternative if you can’t find white grape.
As for the fruit, I’d recommend cleaning out your crisper drawer to see what you find. Orange and lemon slices give it some nice additional acidity, and berries add a pop of color. I always have apples in the fridge courtesy of my apple loving husband so I sliced one of those, too. You could freeze some grapes to act as ice cubes, or in the summer, white peaches or nectarines would be delicious once infused with the Cava. You’ll get to enjoy the fruit as soon as you reach the bottom of the glass, so choose what you like!
Once you’ve chosen your fruit, you add sugar, stir, and let it sit in the refrigerator. After the sugar sits with the fruit for a while, it forms a sweet glaze over the fruit and the fruit gets a little soft—this is exactly what we want! It’ll sweeten the sangria and the fruit will be extra delicious. I also add the juice with the fruit and sugar to get everything chilled before adding the Cava. Keep the Cava in the fridge while you’re waiting, too!
When it comes time to serve, pop the cork and stir in the Cava. Waiting until serving time ensures that the Cava retains its bubbles. I chose a dry variety so mine wasn’t overly sweet, but you can adjust the variety of Cava or the sugar to taste.
The sangria is super refreshing on its own, but I love serving it just before dinner to whet everyone’s appetites before the big meal. Since it’s not too sweet, it’ll transfer perfectly into dinner. Check out this Seafood Paella and this Raw Zucchini Salad to round out the meal, or check out the whole Spanish-inspired dinner party here!
Yield 6–8 servings
A super refreshing white sangria with Cava, a Spanish sparkling wine.
- Fruit of your choice: lemon slices, orange slices, berries, grapes, sliced peaches or nectarines, sliced apples, etc.
- ⅓ cup sugar
- 2 (750ml) bottles cava (Spanish sparkling wine)
- 1 cup white grape juice
- Zest and juice of one orange
- For garnish: fresh mint
- Place the fruit in a large pitcher. Sprinkle the sugar over the top and stir gently to coat the fruit with the sugar. Add the orange zest and juice and the white grape juice. Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator, or up to overnight.
- When it’s time to serve, add the cava and stir to combine. Transfer to glasses and garnish with fresh mint.
Tip: If you can't find white grape juice, pineapple juice is a good substitute. I chose Cava since it's from Spain, but another medium-sweet sparkling wine would be good here, too.