Cocktails & Spirits

How To Make Authentic Sangria: Havana Hideout's Ginger Benoit Reveals the Secret Ingredient

Sangria: a party drink designed to get you, your friends, and family really drunk — really cheaply.

A traditional Spanish fruit punch made with fruits and wine, sangria's roots date back to coastal Spain where — centuries ago — both the ingredients were available in abundance. A time-honored concoction, it's a drink best enjoyed outdoors and served "family-style" for friends and kin alike.

Drink connoisseurs will tell you a true sangria, like any good invention, was first concocted to solve a problem: It helped to make bitter, young wines more palatable. To do so, fruit and juices were mixed with wine — sometimes for days — in order to mellow the taste and create a potent summer cocktail.

In other words, if it takes two minutes to muddle bar fruit with house wine and some soda water, you're not really drinking sangria. According to Palm Beach County's foremost sangria-making expert Ginger Benoit, general manager of Lake Worth's Havana Hideout, the secret to making a truly authentic sangria is patience. 

"Making a really amazing sangria is actually very easy," says Benoit, who has been serving her sangrias at Havana Hideout for the past eight years. "All you need is some cheap ass wine, some really ripe fruit, and a lot of patience. Those three things will make the best sangria you've ever tasted."

Most establishments that make their own sangria will offer both red and white versions, though some will offer even more creative variations. Havana Hideout has become well known for its seasonally rotating list of sangrias that include everything from mango and pineapple jalapeño, to more funky takes like prickly pear, lemongrass, and ginger. 

Benoit's Peach Sangria is particularly popular. The recipe is easy to double, can be made with any fruit of your choice, and can even be made the "cheat" way if you're in a rush and short on time. This version highlights the prolific summer produce — peaches — to make a flavorful and budget-friendly drink.

If you're in a rush, Benoit suggests using a cup or two of flavored syrups like Monin, which can work to get all that fruity flavor infused into the wine faster. Unlike many, this sangria only takes five minutes to stir together (but still 18 to 24 hours to sit before serving). Just add white wine, peaches, and a touch of sugar and you've got a party-ready drink anyone can appreciate.

Havana Hideout's Peach Sangria
Serves 6

  • 1 1.5-liter box of white boxed wine (any brand)
  • 1-2 pounds of ripe or overripe peaches
  • 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar or brandy

Directions: Unlike many recipes, which specify using a tart wine, Benoit prefers using boxed wine. It's cheap and easy to mix, which helps to balance the sugar from all the fruit. 
  1. Begin by hand-crushing overripe peaches (skin and pits included) into a large plastic bucket container or beverage dispenser. The key to any good sangria is using overripe fruit, which will ferment faster with the wine and provide more fruit flavor to your drink.
  2. Add entire box of wine. 
  3. Add powdered sugar or brandy only if you are planning to serve sangria within 12 hours. The sugar and brandy help to ferment the fruit and wine faster. 
  4. Stir ingredients together.
  5. Leave the sangria to sit at room temperature 18 to 24 hours, away from direct light or heat. 
  6. Serve over ice and garnish with fruit of your choice.
"And get creative. You can make any flavor sangria you want with ripe fruit," adds Benoit. "Some of the best sangria recipes we've had at Havana Hideout were made using overripe fruit we purchased from the local ethnic markets, including a prickly pear, lemongrass, and ginger one we served a few months ago. Believe it or not, a brown pineapple makes an amazing pineapple sangria. Add some jalapeño, and you've got a spicy and flavorful sangria. Just open up your mind, the possibilities are endless."

If you're not into whipping up your own cocktails, or just can't wait 12 to 24 hours, head over to Havana Hideout or any of the locations on our list of the 12 Best Sangrias in Broward and Palm Beach Counties.

Nicole Danna is a food writer covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.
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Nicole Danna is a Palm Beach County-based reporter who began covering the South Florida food scene for New Times in 2011. She also loves drinking beer and writing about the area's growing craft beer community.
Contact: Nicole Danna