Perhaps you are familiar with the rain dance. According to legend, some Native American tribes would, when their cornfields were thirsty for water, don tribal masks and vestments and dance wildly. The hope was to invoke the presence responsible for rain and, for the price of a dance, buy a watery drink for the parched fields. Why would a similar dance fail in 2012? From this half-baked thinking follows my strong belief that we can chase the winter by swilling summer drinks and pitchers of sangria in March.
The winter elements of this sangria are cold-weather fruits (apple, pear), a few fingers of brandy (for inner warmth against the frost), a shade of vanilla, and a half-teaspoon of cinnamon. Here we use the shock of cinnamon to stand in for sugar or simple syrup. The absence of sugar makes this an unsexy sangria, and thus a perfect drink for 40- and 50-degree weather. In the same modest spirit, we can use a cheap bottle of wine; the brandy alters the drink’s personality, making the purchase of good wine a bad decision. (For this reason restaurants have a sky-high profit margin on sangria). The hint of warm weather, the brightness with which the sangria summons spring, comes from, what else, citrus.
Makes 4-6 drinks
1 bottle cheap Spanish red wine (I used Tempranillo)
¼ cup brandy
½ tsp ground cinnamon
A few drops of vanilla extract
1 cup club soda (refrigerated)
1) Core the apple and pear. Discard the cores. Chop the pear into small pieces. When for sangria I cut a pear into crescents, the fruit becomes strange after soaking in the wine, so chop those white wedges to bits. (Other fruits do better; check back in 3 months.) Chop the apple as you did the pear, but leaving a few slices large if you wish. Put the chopped fruit into a large pitcher.
2) Cut the lemon-third into wedges. Remove the seeds. Over the pitcher, squeeze each lemon wedge into submission, then toss the juiceless lemons onto the chopped fruit.
3) Pour the wine and brandy into the pitcher. Add cinnamon. Pour in a whisper of vanilla extract. Stir well. For the night, let the pitcher sleep in the back of your fridge.
4) The next afternoon or night, add the cold club soda, stir, and drink the pitcher with a friend or two.