Thursday, June 23, 2011 at 1:10 p.m.
t's a steamy summer evening, and with an exhausting week at its end, you're positively yearning for a drink, right? And preferably something cool and refreshing.
While an ice-cold brewski or chilled cocktail will do, why not try a glass of the quintessential summer drink: sangria.
Even if you don't have a drop of Spanish sangre in your veins, it won't much matter. A visit to any of these sangria-specialty establishments will have you singing "La Vida Loca" in no time.
A traditional Spanish fruit punch with wine, sangria's roots took hold in coastal Spain centuries ago, when the ingredients -- and the wine -- were available in abundance. A time-honored drink that is meant to be enjoyed outdoors served "family-style" for friends and kin alike, many drink connoisseurs will tell you sangria, like any good invention, was first concocted to solve a problem: It helped to make bitter, young wines more palatable.
That means the secret to making a truly authentic sangria is patience (at least 24 hours to marinate the ingredients). If it takes two minutes to muddle bar fruit and mix it with soda and house wine, it's not sangria!
Most places that make their own sangria will offer both red and white, if not more variated versions, like at Havana Hideout, where you can find up to four concoctions at any one time. And while some mixologists, such as Krystal Kinney at the Blind Monk, add a sweetener like triple sec and orange juice, most rely on the natural sugar of the fruit to do the job.
For the final hit: a dash of club soda or a sparkling wine just before serving, which is how you'll get it at Old Key Lime House. The resulting suffusion is refreshingly easy on the palate, which explains why you'll find it so difficult to keep track of exactly how many times you've returned for a refill.
As the mercury rises, head to these top five restaurants for a taste of some truly "pitcher-perfect" sangria:
Caliente's sangria is made daily and served from pitchers in coolers beneath the bar. Here, it's strong and sweet. And while it serves only red, it's a good choice if you're looking for a good deal. Happy hour is the best time to go, when two-for-one drinks mean you can share with a friend.
Old Key Lime House is an old favorite for sangria. And here, a word of advice. If there is one thing all should know about a wine cocktail, it's this: Red or white, sangria is an easy-to-down drink that will literally knock you out.
And -- like any good punch -- this one goes straight to your head. Key Lime serves its sangria only by the pitcher ($20), and with the addition of sparkling cava as a finisher, you'll be seeing double by the end of a few glasses. Be careful, and don't say we didn't warn you!
Along with infused rums and liquors, Cabana has some pretty damned good sangria. It's made in-house daily but isn't as sweet as most house-made sangrias. That also means it's authentic enough to be considered among the best in Palm Beach County.
You'll get the best bang for your buck with a pitcher ($20), because it's guaranteed you won't be able to stop after just one glass.
Sommelier Krystal Kinney isn't just a genius when it comes to picking boutique wines and sniffing out the perfect glass of vino. She's also got a few amazing sangria recipes up her sleeve.
That makes this wine bar the number-two pick on this list thanks -- in part -- to the bouquet of flavor without the use of liquor, and the use of plenty of ripe fruit. Kinney also uses a unique blend of wines for her red sangria and a good helping of sparkling Mocscato D'Asti upon serving to her peach-infused white-wine version, available now.
For $6 to $8 per glass, it's a deal when served in a goblet-like crystal glass.
There is quite possibly no better place in South Florida to find sangria than Havana Hideout, the near-hidden drinking spot off the main downtown strip of bars and restaurants in Lake Worth.
The recipes are a well-guarded secret, and no wonder. There are so many flavors to choose from that you might just have to ask for a flavor-tasting flight (plus, it's complimentary).
The place used to serve pitchers at a time, but no longer. Now you can take a 12-ounce sipper, or double-down with a 20-ounce glass for $6.75 during happy hour ($10 regular price).
THE MUST-HAVE MIX: Watermelon and red wine. You can mix and match any of Havana's four flavors, which is a seasonal, rotating list that includes triple-berry basil, strawberry, mango, and now watermelon.
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