Sangria. In a French monastery. With Chinese-Canadians.

Sangria — a wonderful Spanish trick (among others) for making bad to decent wine palatable, and even, really damn good. Take fruit, soak overnight in rum/brandy/your-favourite-hard-liquor, add copious amounts of red wine, serve on a balcony/patio in summer. Made poorly, you’ve got a weird fruit juice-y thing that’s still quite drinkable, made well, you’ve got a potent delicious substance that’ll keep you going back for more, even though you know how quickly it’ll knock you off your feet, because you know how much alcohol is in that innocent-looking pitcher. Recipes and a story, after the jump!

My favorite sangria recipe:

Classic Spanish Sangria — from Lisa on Allrecipes.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 lemon
  • 1 lime
  • 1 orange
  • 1 1/2 cups rum
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle dry red wine
  • 1 cup orange juice

Directions:

  1. Have the fruit, rum, wine, and orange juice well chilled. Slice the lemon, lime and orange into thin rounds and place in a large glass pitcher. Pour in the rum and sugar. Chill in refrigerator for 2 hours to develop the flavors.
  2. When ready to serve, crush the fruit lightly with a wooden spoon and stir in the wine and orange juice. Adjust sweetness to taste.

My personal notes:
– Use probably about 1/2-1/4 of the rum asked for… trust me, it still packs quite a punch
– Top off with seltzer water or Sprite to get a fresh fizzy feel
– Step 3: watch people at your party hook up

The first time I tried sangria was one of the first times I drank alcohol period. Being that, I can’t say much about the quality of the sangria (though, coming out of a mass-produced 1L bottle, it probably couldn’t have been that good), but the circumstances was what really made it memorable. It’s a bit of a story, but I assure you, it ends with sangria. And happiness.

That particular day was probably the single longest day of my life. It started around 4-5AM, and with all the time-zone hopping, I’m not sure what time it ended up finishing up at, but let’s just say, I was trying to get from southern California to the French Riviera, and somehow, because I’m 1) crazy and 2) cheap, it ended up taking me through 2 car rides, 1 train ride, 2 buses, 2 subways, 3 planes, 5 airports in 4 different countries, and a brisk walk through London. I still have the excel spreadsheet I made for that particular day just to keep things straight (see below).

But yet, I wasn’t tired at all throughout the trip — instead I was probably annoyingly excited. It was my first time to Europe, I had just finished college and I was going to go backpacking through all of Italy with my best friend. How more awesome could it get?! The insanity of youth — I’ve gotten to the point where I would rather pay extra to fly direct than go through the hassle, but back then, all I thought when being confronted with the idea of having a few hours to run from Heathrow to Gatwick was “hey cool, I’ve never been to London!”

Anyways, I met up with my traveling partner at London Gatwick, got to our hostel, the Villa Saint Exupery, in Nice with no problems. We checked in — and found ourselves in a room entirely consisting of Asians. In a hostel where we were collectively the only Asians. Anyways, funny coincidence, and we hit it off, joking about the situation, talking.

My first time backpacking, my first time in a hostel. Couldn’t have been a better hostel to be in. It was set on top of a hill in the middle of suburban Nice and used to be an old monastery. The chapel had been converted into the lounge/bar area, complete with cheap alcohol, hordes of excited 20-somethings, and beautiful stained glass windows. Gothic churches do make wonderful nightlife backdrops (as one certain club that keeps closing and re-opening in New York can attest to).

We moved to the chapel, found a copy of Apples to Apples, and made it into a drinking game. Now, if you’ve ever played Apples to Apples, you know that you really shouldn’t be taking a swig for whenever your card doesn’t get picked. But that’s how we played it, and that’s how we went through 5+ bottles of 1L sangrias at 5 euros a pop for the 5 of us over the course of that night.

I fell asleep instantly that night, after being fueled by pure excitement for the last 36 hours (and sangria for the last 3). The next day we hopped on a bus to Monaco and gawked at all the Lamborghinis. Ahh, good times!

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