Frozen Sangria

Food Blog July 2013-1673Chances are, where you are, or were, or will be soon, it’s hot.  Or it was.  Or it’s going to be.  But past, present, future, when it’s hot out, and you still want dessert, you are probably going to have certain demands: it must be easy.  Mimimal measuring.  Simple directions. No fine chopping or dicing or mincing.  It must require short cooking time, if any.  No long baking times (sorry, bread pudding), no stewing or roasting or brûléeing.  It must be refreshing and delicious and maybe even a bit surprising, to pull you out of your mid-summer funk.  Not that I’m having one of those…

Food Blog July 2013-1628

Frozen sangria.  Does that make your sweat-beaded forehead wrinkle with interest?  It makes mine feel a little curious, a little intrigued, a little go-on-I’m-listening…

Sometimes feet get in the way of your photoshoots...

(Sometimes feet get in the way of photoshoots…)

Frozen sangria requires relatively little of you.  It wants flavor – some sugar, some spice, some whatever’s-your-favorite red wine.  It wants just a little simmering to infuse the liquid with cinnamon sticks, with cloves, with orange peel.  We’re playing a little game with ourselves here: imparting winter flavors into an icy treat.  Maybe the reminders of that holiday season half a year away will help us cool down just as much as the temperature of our dessert.

Food Blog July 2013-1626Finally, frozen sangria wants time.  Because we’re dealing with alcohol, freezing is going to take longer than if we were working with juice or water or even ice cream.  It will freeze – most wines are between 9 and 13% alcohol, and this relatively low percentage will still solidify, but it will take a little longer.  For satisfactory results, you’ll want to start this little project the day before.  I know; planning ahead is not always on your mind when you are struck with the yen for a frozen treat.  But this icy, deeply flavored bomb of spice, tipsy with wine, sparkling with citrus from freshly squeezed orange juice and freckled with mashed strawberries, is worth the extra wait.

Food Blog July 2013-1632Here, because I care about you, and I want you to know your options before you have to brave the melting temperatures to find your way back to the kitchen, I’m giving you two preparations (well, three, if you count the plain ol’ sangria itself).

Food Blog July 2013-1640First, let’s talk casual, fun, surprising: the popsicle.  Red wine, orange juice, tiny, tooth-freezing pockets of strawberry, frozen together in a shape that will pull you back to childhood even while the ingredients remain oh so adult.  Once they are poured and put up, you have a secret cache of popsicles ready for your next girls’ night, or barbeque, or just a late afternoon so oppressing that standing barefoot on the kitchen’s tile floor just doesn’t cut it anymore.

Food Blog July 2013-1655Food Blog July 2013-1648Our second preparation is a bit more elegant, a bit more dinner party, but still almost as easy: the granita.  Granitas are Italian desserts related to sorbets, except that they have a crystalline texture more like snow or shave ice.  Here, instead of spooning the sangria mixture into popsicle molds, it gets poured into a wide, shallow vessel, like a 9×13 baking dish, and again, moved to the freezer.  After a few hours, though, you pull it out and scrape through it with a fork.  This prevents the liquid from freezing into a solid mass.  After this initial freezing period, return once every few hours and scrape again, agitating the mixture into separated crystals (and strawberry chunks).  Several of these scraping sessions in, your liquid will be frozen and clustered in deep red flurries: a mound of feathery ice ready to be scooped and crunched after dinner or, if you prefer, perhaps even before.  That’s what your favorite patio table is for, right?

Note: these are great options for a stay-home dessert, but if you are traveling or feeding them to guests who will be traveling, be cautious about the serving size: unlike warm desserts, where you simmer off most of the alcohol, this is basically a frozen bottle of wine with some flavorings added in – the majority of the alcohol content is still there.

Food Blog July 2013-1673Frozen Sangria
Makes at least 12-16 servings, depending on the size of your popsicle molds or serving vessels
1 bottle (750ml) red wine of your choice
4 big strips of orange peel
3 cloves
2 sticks cinnamon
½ cup sugar
½ cup (4 oz.) freshly squeezed orange juice (for me this took 2 large oranges)
12 oz. strawberries, fresh or frozen and defrosted, chopped into small pieces or mashed with a potato masher


  • The day before you want to serve your frozen sangria, place cloves, cinnamon sticks, orange peel, sugar, and 1 cup of wine in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.  Keep at the barest of simmers until the liquid is reduced by half – you will end up with ½ cup of deeply flavored, spicy-sweet wine.  This will probably take 15-20 minutes, depending on how hot your burner is and the size of your pan.
  • Remove from heat, strain out spices, and allow the liquid to cool.
  • In a bowl, pitcher, or 9×13 inch glass baking dish (if you are making the granita), combine the rest of the bottle of wine, the reduced, spiced wine, and the orange juice.
  • Add the mashed or chopped strawberries and stir to combine.
  • At this point, you have three options.  If you want to serve this as a simple, pourable sangria, simply refrigerate until it is well chilled, then top up with sparkling water and serve in fun glasses.
  • If you want to make popsicles, spoon the liquid into popsicle molds until almost full (we want to account for expansion), being sure to get plenty of strawberry bits in each one.  Add sticks or holders and freeze overnight or until solid.  To unmold, dip each compartment into warm water for a few seconds, then carefully and gently pull the popsicle out.  Don’t rush them or they may break.  Just give them a few seconds to separate from the plastic.
  • If you are making granita, pour your liquid into a 9×13 inch glass baking dish and put it into the freezer for 3-4 hours.  If you are me, this step is complicated by trying to create room in my freezer for a 9×13 inch glass baking dish.  Just pack it in.  It will work out.  Or, as with last month’s spice rub post, use this as a mandate opportunity for reorganization.
  • After 3-4 hours things should be resolutely slushy.  Remove the whole dish from the freezer and drag the tines of a fork through the mixture, breaking up the solid chunks and redistributing them.  Return it to the freezer.  Repeat this procedure once every few hours until you have a feathery, crystalline heap of frozen wine.  It should look similar in texture to shave ice or a snow cone.  At this point, it is ready to serve or keep frozen for up to a week, with occasional re-fluffing.
  • I like to serve mine in big mounds in a fancy martini glass, but wine glasses, cups, bowls, or little jam jars will work too.  And if you want to recreate the snow cone experience, rolled cones of thick paper would likely do just fine.