by Emily R. See

For many, sangría conjures up painful memories of “trash can” punch made with cheap wine and a few sad-looking apples, and usually an even more painful hangover. The traditional summer refreshment in Spain, sangría became popular in America after it was featured in the 1964 World’s Fair, giving people a new excuse to buy jug wine. So it isn’t too surprising that in the sweeping Spanish culinary trend (tapas), sangría has been left to languish as frat party fare.

Although most joints in Santa Barbara still serve up a pretty traditional concoction (red wine, brandy, and fruit juice), the rest of the country seems to be experiencing a surge in exotic sangrías, made with everything from sake and cucumbers to iced tea to hot peppers to Irish whiskey.

There are likely as many sangría recipes as there are people in Spain, but we like this one for its cool crispness. Feel free to get creative. If you have beautiful strawberries on hand, use them in place of the plums. If you’re a red wine die-hard, substitute your favorite rioja and add a splash of soda for carbonation. There really is only one rule: Use only the best ingredients possible. (So put down that jug of Carlo Rossi.)

Sparkling White Sangría

Serves 4

4 T. white cranberry juice 2 T. brandy 2 tsp. sugar 3-4 ripe plums, thinly sliced 750 mL prosecco*, chilled 8 mint leaves

Mix first three ingredients in a large bowl until sugar dissolves. Add plums, cover, and refrigerate at least one hour or up to eight hours. (The longer the fruit mixture sits, the more the flavors will incorporate.) Divide between four large glasses, and top with prosecco. Garnish with mint, and serve immediately.

* Prosecco is a sparkling Italian wine that tends to be less expensive than champagne, and crisper than Spanish cavas. For this sangría we use Zardetto prosecco ($12 at liquor stores), but Zonin prosecco ($6 at Trader Joe’s) would work nicely as well.

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