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Sensual Summery Sangria with a Juicy Twist

Williams-Sonoma-Champagne-Fruit-Balsamic-Berries

Bursting with juicy flavor, a twist on Spanish Sangria and the Italian Bellini fills your glasses with sensuality from the farmers’ market using fresh seasonal produce. 

 

I’m driving through the winding road of Topanga Canyon toward the sparkling blue Pacific Ocean, swerving the rugged curves of the road with ease. Suddenly, the car in front of me slows, along with the other cars ahead, stalled in a little traffic on this morning drive. But it’s beautiful, I’m listening to flamenco guitar, and I have sangria on my mind.

The view is majestic through the canyon, as rays of morning light illuminate the foliage of trees and brush like a painting. Inhaling the faint scent of salt from the ocean, I take a moment to relax while visualizing the perfect twist on sangria. I want to get there early for the farmers’ market, on a quest to gather fresh produce for aphrodisiac cocktails. The long weekend is here and I can’t think of a better reason to open up a bottle of wine and start up the grill to cook with friends and family.

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Sangria is traditionally made with red wine like Rioja, steeped in its Spanish roots, only adding fresh fruit. It’s a festive party drink, chilled in the fridge, and easily poured to share. In the south of Spain, Sangria is called zurra, created with peaches and nectarines. Traditional Sangria is made with red wine, fruit juice, soda water, fruit and brandy. Once prepared it must chill overnight in the fridge to blend the flavors together. Rioja is the most authentic Spanish wine to use in this drink.

When we think of sangria, we may recall summer parties serving an iced wine poured from a pitcher, mulled with cut apples, oranges, lemons and limes, sometimes a splash of brandy, Cointreau, Triple Sec, and sugar. But I want something different other than Spain’s popular refreshing libation, something more descriptive of the California sun and sea. Of course, adding fresh juice makes it a West coast twist from Spain to our sunny backyards.

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Succulent freshly juiced peaches, herbs like basil, lemon verbena, hyssop, mint, a splash of balsamic and pomegranate spritzer. Drink recipes pour into my thoughts. White wine or champagne for a lighter version pairs well with the abundance of peaches and berries in the farmers’ market stalls. Especially champagne. It becomes a drink that Aphrodite might sip seductively. Bellinis and Botticelli’s Venus wander into my imagination, strewing edible flowers and basil leaves everywhere. Just as I saw the wide expanse of ultramarine blue ocean at the end of the road where Topanga Canyon meets the Pacific Coast Highway, my cell phone rang.

My friend Matthew Biancaniello called just as I was approaching the light. I’m still stuck in some traffic, albeit taking in the spectacular scenic drive, as he tells me he is leaving the farmers’ market. I’d miss him by minutes. I explained my passionate idea to make aphrodisiac sangria this weekend using fresh juice, champagne, and herbs. Matt suggested strawberry figs, watermelon, and other unconventional ways to mix up and create a cocktail spin on sangria. Whom better to ask than Matt, L.A.’s hottest mixologist known for crafting his magical creations using farm fresh organic produce. His talent for combining unusual flavors and textures with foraged herbs, fresh from the farmers’ market fruits, vegetables, homemade syrups, and seasonal ingredients is unrivaled by far.

I feel gratitude pour through my body like a glass of something delicious. My ideas for these drinks fizz with pleasure and I’m inspired. I wander the open air market with an eye out for those lusty strawberry figs. Then, golden raspberries call to me, among blue boxes full of blackberries and red raspberries. I’m seduced by the aromatic scents of basil and lemon verbena. My senses are heightened by the late August harvest. The vendor hands me flowering hyssop to apologize, as he’s sold out of the borage flowers I asked for. The blossoms are bright periwinkle, such violet blue. Gathering a handful of lemon verbena and basil, I inhale their fragrance, bury my nose into the green, and fill up my bag. The fig vendor hands me tastes of fresh strawberry figs. He tears figs in half with his hands and I eat each one, marveling at the flavor and texture. I take home everything I can fit into my basket.

Transcending the traditional sangria, when poured full of fresh fruit juice, it becomes something altogether marvelous. I prefer champagne rather than red or white wine, so I pop the bottle. Ice cubes clatter into the glass. I place a leaf of lemon verbena inside, a tiny strawberry.

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It tastes bright and fresh with juice, full of bubbly fizz, bountiful with blackberries, little wild strawberries, edible flowers, lemon verbena, figs. My cutting board scattered with mint, basil and lemon verbena leaves, my hands foraging among the golden raspberries, halving a fig with my knife, setting each ingredient into the bubbling champagne, gently pouring a touch of pear flavored balsamic into the glass. I’m having fun with this and want to eat the juicy fruits as much as I’m filling the glasses with them.

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A splash of balsamic makes the fruit flavors sing with a sensuous bouquet — Williams-Sonoma’s d’Anjou pear flavored balsamic is quite extraordinary in sangria.

It’s easy to create your own homemade cocktails, mocktails, Bellinis and fresh juice sangrias at home. I love my Vitamix blender, so this was pure pleasure to add my otherwise smoothie mixture to champagne and/or pomegranate spritzer for a juice-infused drink. Using a blender turns nutrient-rich fruits into whole food freshness. No waste as with a juicer and plenty of good-for-you fiber. You can find juicers and blenders online or in store to make your own fresh fruit blends. I prefer Williams-Sonoma’s Vitamix, but they also carry other brands and types of blenders and juicers.

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Here are three drink recipes abundant in farm fresh produce made absolutely indulgent with juice, champagne, herbs, balsamic and fizzy spritzer. Use them for your own backyard party or an afternoon in the garden. Williams-Sonoma-dAnjou-Pear-Balsamic

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Aphrodite’s Garden Bellini

This sparkling sangria-inspired Bellini uses champagne and fresh peach juice, enhanced with the fragrant blend of orange blossom water and tangerine. I enjoyed using Williams-Sonoma’s Bellini Mix for a twist on the Venetian classic. Williams-Sonoma offers delicious cocktail and Bellini mixes, and they pair perfectly in combination with fresh juice. Coconut water lends a refreshing flavor to the peach blend.

Makes 4 glasses

Ingredients:

3 peaches, sliced

1 cup ice 1/2 cup Bellini mix (Tangerine and Orange Blossom)

1/2 cup coconut water, fresh or bottled

4 cups champagne, or as needed

1 tablespoon d’Anjou pear flavored balsamic vinegar (to taste)

 

garnishes

wild strawberries

figs, halved

raspberries

blackberries

peaches, sliced

edible flowers

lemon verbena

mint

basil

hyssop

ice for glasses, as needed

 

Directions:

1.) In a blender, place ice, fresh peaches, Bellini mix, and coconut water. Blend.

2.) In a glass, place ample amounts of  figs, blackberries, strawberries.

3.) Pour champagne halfway into glass.

4.) Strain the peach juice into a measuring cup.

5.) Pour blended and strained peach juice mixture into each glass of champagne.

6.) Dash of balsamic per glass as desired.

7.) Garnish with more halved figs, strawberries, blackberries, if you like, as well as the finishing touches of edible flowers and herbs such as lemon verbena, basil and mint, as desired and serve.

 

Williams-Sonoma-Bellini-Glass

Aphrodite’s Kiss Bellini 

Here’s another version of a sangria inspired Bellini recipe. Keeping this drink simple with the frothy fresh peach blend is just as intoxicating without the alcohol, as the scent of orange blossom mingled with peaches is truly a sensual pleasure. Coconut water, fresh peaches, over ice, garnished delicately with a few raspberries and/or strawberry. The froth is luxurious. If you want to add champagne and Aperol, it makes a lovely cocktail. Leave unadorned and non-alcoholic for the naked juice version that can only be suggestive of Aphrodite on the half shell, wearing nothing but sea foam and flowers.

 Makes 2 glasses

Ingredients:

3 peaches, sliced

1 cup ice

1/2 cup Bellini mix (Tangerine and Orange Blossom)

3 tablespoons or just a splash of orange blossom water (can be found in most Mediterranean/Middle Eastern supermarkets)

1/2 cup coconut water, fresh or bottled

two sprigs of fresh mint, leaves

4 cups champagne, or as needed, perhaps you’d like to share the bottle

 

Directions:

1.) In a blender, place ice, fresh peaches, Bellini mix, mint, orange blossom and coconut water. Blend.

2.) In a glass, place ample amounts of ice cubes.

3.) Pour the peach juice Bellini mixture over ice.

4.) Garnish with raspberries, strawberries, blackberries, edible flowers, and other fruits and herbs as desired.

Serve and enjoy.

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Pomegranate Peach Sangria

Here’s a refreshing sangria using juicy ripe peach juice, ice, coconut, orange blossom water that pairs beautifully with pomegranate spritzer, just add strawberries and raspberries as edible garnish. It’s a simple way to please your palate and you won’t miss the champagne or wine with this bountiful glass of goodness. Of course, if you add champagne or a sexy Spanish Rioja red wine, no one will blame you.

Makes 2 glasses

Ingredients:

1/4 cup coconut water

1 cup pomegranate spritzer

1 cup fresh peach juice, strained (recipe follows)

2 tablespoons balsamic (recommend Williams-Sonoma’s d’Anjou pear flavored balsamic)

1 (750-ml) bottle Champagne, Prosecco or Rioja red wine (optional if you want a non-alcoholic mocktail version)

garnish

raspberries

strawberries

blackberries

figs

edible flowers

hyssop

mint

Directions:

1.) In a glass, fill with ice cubes.

2.) Strain the peach juice mixture.

3.) Pour half the glass with peach juice mixture.

4.) Pour fresh coconut water in.

5.) Pour in pomegranate spritzer to just about the rim of glass, leaving room for fruits and garnishes.

6.) Dash of balsamic per glass, as desired.

7.) Garnish generously with figs, strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, basil, hyssop, mint and edible flowers.

8.) Serve and enjoy.

Peach Juice Mixture

3 large peaches, sliced

1 cup of ice

1 cup of coconut water, fresh or bottled

1/2 cup Bellini mix (Tangerine and Orange Blossom)

— or —

2 fresh tangerines, peeled and segmented

1/2 cup orange blossom water

Directions:

1.) Place the sliced peaches, ice, coconut water and Bellini mixture or freshly segmented tangerines and orange blossom water into a blender. Blend well.

2.) Strain through a fine sieve into a large measuring cup or pitcher.

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