If you were around in the 70s, you may remember the Sangria craze. Fruit, red wine, spritzer . . . you know, every Mexican joint served it – usually in a pitcher with a bunch of fruit in the bottom. Well, that craze faded until recently – or at least it did for me.
One night my pal Fred and I met for drinks and starters at R Gang in San Diego – where Chef Rich (yes, he was on Top Chef) serves up his Basil Sangria. Rich’s concoction was a blend of Red Wines, Brandy, and juices with oranges, apples, pears, basil, and cinnamon, served on the rocks. Perfect. But alas, R Gang has since closed so I’ve been on the hunt.
One of my non-writing goals of late is to taste test Sangrias at as many San Diego (and other) eateries as possible – rating them as I go. And because I’m a total wuss as an alcohol drinker, it’s going to take me quite some time!
So far, here’s how they rank:
R Gang – the addition of the basil, cinnamon and brandy makes this one leagues above everyone else.
La Pinata in Old Town – no brandy or spices, but a nice blend of wine and fruit – according to the menu this blend comes from Spain.
Casa de Pico, Grossmont Center. Like La Pinata but bigger.
Cafe 21: Grapefruit, apple lime – just the right blend of tang and sweet.
El Maguey, San Juan Capistrano. Served in an ultra heavy, frosted beer mug, tangy and just the right amount of fruity sweetness.
Lazy Dog, Mission Valley. Here, I tried the Sangria Sampler: All are Housemade Sangrias: White Peach, Black-Currant Rose & Pomegranate Red. The Peach was too sweet for me, the Pomegranate a bit too sweet, the Black Currant Rose was perfect.
Islands: Alas, too damned sweet. I sent it back and asked the bartender to add some spritzer and a few limes just to cut back on the sweetness. When it came back, much better, but far from the top of the list.
Cafe 21: White wine strawberry basil. Too light. In fact it almost tasted like water.
Claim Jumper: This will teach me to do a tasting at a chain restaurant. I ordered the one with white wine, tasty fruit and a “hint of vanilla”. All I could taste was vanilla. Ugh.
Next, I want to go to Cafe Sevilla in downtown San Diego. I’ve been told their eight different Sangria blends are the best in town. Looking forward to the visit – although it’ll take several visits to try them all.
What’s your test taste favorite? Pizza, enchiladas, Manhattans???