Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Boozy Passage to Port Sangria

(photo credit: arstechnica.com)
I'm not really a huge fan of Sangria.  I feel like I'm drinking Arbor Mist.  Plus, I don't really care for pulp in my orange juice, and- as a child- I really hated when some nutrition-pushing jerk would cram bits of fruit into the Jell-O, sneaking it in as if we wouldn't notice its sinister wholesomeness amongst the glorious translucent goo.

THE FREAKIN' JELL-O IS CLEAR!  We can see those bits of canned pear.  And they're ruining our lime-flavored horse hoof pudding (we didn't know what gelatin actually was at the time.  I'm glad the marketeers saw "horse hoof pudding" around the corner, and chose "Jell-O" instead).

So, when someone decides to take some cheap (or past-its-prime) wine, load it up with sugar and bits of fruit, I'm not buying.  If I'm going to drink booze that's in its geriatric state, odds are that it's a can of Natural Light I found under my car seat with a "born on" date reminiscent of when Chumbawamba was all the rage.  Because that can locks in the freshness.  And Natural Light is the "beer with the taste for food" (I feel like I've written that quote on this blog before).

Maybe that's why I was surprised at my reaction to an email from a PR firm wanting to send me Port for the purpose of making "Ciderhouse Sangria".  First of all, I'm notorious for never writing about sample wines here (and certainly don't hold your breath for any crappy reviews).  Secondly, many PR emails get treated with the same attention as those promising untold wealth from Nigerian princes, or miracle drugs that will give me 36-hour "stimulation" (as if to insinuate that Middle School- the age of awkward erections- was a pleasant time).

But this concept of mixing cider (good) with whiskey (great) with Port (spectacular) lulled me into a waking dream of warming elixir, bubbling in my gullet, keeping Old Man Winter's sobering, icy hand at bay.  "Yes, please send me the sample," I unconsciously typed, forgetting my usual caveat that this sample "will almost certainly not be reviewed, and, if so, reviewed beyond any reasonable time frame."

A few days later, a sample bottle of Sandeman Porto from the Thomas Collective appeared at my doorstep.  Port, a fortified, generally sweet wine from Portugal (always from Portugal) comes in many different styles.  This sample was a basic Ruby Port, meaning it comes from moderate-quality grapes, with the juice having significant skin-contact during fermentation to extract color and flavor, which- following fermentation- is aged for about 3-5 years in large, neutral cask before bottling.  Ruby Port is a fitting product for a Sangria preparation, as I would want to drink anything of higher quality by itself.  Not that it's bad; it's just the most-modest of Ports.

As it turned out, the resulting punch ended up tasting a bit too much of Bourbon whiskey for me (I had a falling-out with Bourbon in college, and its sweetness is more than I can bear).  Granted, the recipe called for Rye whiskey, which I did not have on hand.  However, if you do like the taste of Bourbon, or Rye, this recipe makes a very simple, rather original, warming, and potent cocktail that is certainly befitting of the flavors of Autumn:

Sandeman Ciderhouse Sangria 
1 bottle of Sandeman Founders Reserve Porto (or any 750 ml bottle of Ruby Port) 
24 oz apple cider (non-alcoholic)   
3 oz rye whiskey (or Bourbon)  
1.5 oz maple syrup 
2 Granny Smith apples 
2 pears 

Directions: Dice apples and pears and set aside. Mix all remaining ingredients together in pitcher. Add in apples and pears. Let sit for at least 8-12 hours (or overnight).

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