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Monks Know Best

With Cinco de Mayo quickly approaching, thoughts turn to an evening of tacos, tamales, margaritas, and beer. However, my drink of choice for such festivities, as you can likely guess, is sangria. Simply a wine punch, it can be thrown together in a matter of minutes and enjoyed immediately.

Before I went to Spain my impression of sangria was cheap red wine mixed with too much fruit juice and sugar. Then my travel companions and I spent an evening in the Monserrat Monastery in the cliffs above Barcelona where the monks have their recipe down. We had an amazing meal, the details of which are fuzzy, but the entire experience will always be with me. However, and quite surprisingly, the memory of the sangria we ordered is quite clear.

Our server wheeled over a cart with a bottle of red wine, a small bottle of clear liquor, a bowl full of oranges and a glass pitcher. He sliced the oranges on the edge of our table and dumped those into the pitcher. A bit of the clear liquid was added and then he muddled the fruit and liquor, added the whole bottle of wine, a handful of ice cubes, and soda water. The sangria was done and ours to enjoy.

A few vaguely religious experiences were had that night as we sat out in the piazza a bit buzzed and so high up in the mountains we looked out into nothing. The next day we made our own attempt to duplicate the luscious sangria. We came close, but there seems to be something special in having a holy man make it for you.

My adapted recipe:
two whole oranges sliced
1/2 - 3/4 cup triple sec
one bottle of wine, red or white
soda water to taste (a cup or so)

Put the sliced oranges in a pitcher, pour in the triple sec and muddle to get as much juice as you can out of the fruit. If using white wine I often add a lemon, and with red a teaspoon or so of cinnamon to give it a little kick. Pour in your wine. (Don't choose a wine you wouldn't drink by itself. It doesn't need to be a pricey bottle, but make sure it's pleasant on its own. Spanish and Portuguese reds as well as crisp, citrusy, dry whites work really well.) Lastly, add just a cup or so of soda water to give it a bit of fizz. Serve in generous glasses and enjoy!

Vineyards Genevieve Robertson can be reached at [email protected]