Our Search for the Best Sangria
Someone has to do it...
Our obsession began with a single lunch after a round of golf. The lovely Belgian couple we were paired with that day ordered rose sangria at our club’s restaurant. We thought we may have just found the best sangria in the world.
I must admit I thought sangria was purely a Spanish thing. That it was served in Portuguese restaurants solely because of our proximity to Spain. But in doing research for this post, yes I actually do research, I learned that Spain and Portugal are the only two countries in the E.U. that may label such commercial products sangria. You see sangria is defined as an
Aromatised wine-based drink
—which is obtained from wine,
—which is aromatised with the addition of natural citrus-fruit extracts or essences, with or without the juice of such fruit,
—to which spices may have been added,
—to which carbon dioxide may have been added,
—which has not been coloured,
—which have an actual alcoholic strength by volume of not less than 4,5 % vol., and less than 12 % vol., and
—which may contain solid particles of citrus-fruit pulp or peel and its colour must come exclusively from the raw materials used.
‘Sangría’ or ‘Sangria’ may be used as a sales denomination only when the product is produced in Spain or Portugal. When the product is produced in other Member States, ‘Sangría’ or ‘Sangria’ may only be used to supplement the sales denomination ‘aromatised wine-based drink’, provided that it is accompanied by the words: ‘produced in …’, followed by the name of the Member State of production or of a more restricted region. — REGULATION (EU) No 251/2014
Taken from the word for blood, sangue, sangria traditionally was likely red (tinto). But in the summer, we prefer the white (branco). And since a 1-litre pitcher will only set you back €10-18, we wanted to confirm that the one served at Óitavos Dunes was in fact the best.
To do a fair comparison we needed to go back for another taste test and to learn how “our baseline” was prepared. Our server explained that after muddling the citrus fruit and a cinnamon stick they added just a bit of vodka, Cointreau, Sprite, and of course the wine. Óitavos offers three options white, red, or a sparkling rose. Frankly, I was surprised by the addition of vodka … perhaps the buzz was affecting our judgment. Our readers deserve an impartial review! Better wait at least one day before we commence taste testing.
Actually, a few days later, we started our search at The Albatroz, a five-star boutique hotel in centro (Cascais) overlooking the sea. We have a relative coming in from out of town that enjoys upscale hotels. Based upon the photos and reviews their €300/night rooms looked fantastic, but what about the bar?
It was a glorious, sunny afternoon. We were the only people on the patio bar as it was 15:30, just after lunch … too early for Portuguese happy hour. We watched six twenty-somethings on the small beach below trying to keep a volleyball up in the air. Perhaps they had had a pitcher or two at lunch because, despite the absence of a net and standing in a fairly tight circle, they seemed incapable of more than two hits before the ball fell onto the sand. But I digress…
We ordered a pitcher of sangria branco which set us back €18. It included a cinnamon stick and meddled citrus fruit. As there was no fuzz, and it was not very sweet we assume they didn’t add Sprite. It was good, but certainly not as good as our Óitavos baseline so we didn’t ask for the recipe. Our search must continue.
An Alley in Santos
I am not exaggerating when I say we have done a lot of research in preparation for this post. We even enlisted our friends Becky and DJ as research assistants when we visited a tapas restaurant for lunch in Coimbra. Maybe that is why the clerk at the chocolate bar said we were so friendly.
However, recently while exploring the Santos neighborhood in Lisbon we may have actually found the best sangria in the world. We found it at a small restaurant, A Obra (The Work), with seven tables propped in the alleyway outside their door. We stopped there because of their many vegetarian (and vegan) options. I ordered a cabbage dish. Though I doubt you will find my description appetizing, wilted cabbage in a rich pesto sauce with cashews, I can assure you it was quite good. Denise ordered chicken thigh over barley and a pitcher of white sangria. The sangria was excellent and at only €10 for a 1.5L pitcher … a real bargain.
We asked our server, one of the owners, to explain how it was made. She explained they muddle apples, oranges, and peeled lemons. They peel the lemons to remove the bitterness. They add mint leaves and a cinnamon stick if one is handy. They then combine wine, Sprite, and Cointreau.
If I were a more serious food/restaurant blogger I might reference the sweetness backed up by fruity, ripe flavors or the absence of a complex oaky vanilla undertone. But I am not. I will just say it was really good … the best so far!
Update 5 August: The search continues. Check out my Facebook page for latest update.