12 Drinks of Christmas: the Italian Winter Red Sangria

12 Drinks of Christmas: the Italian Winter Red Sangria

 12 Drinks of Christmas: the Italian Winter Red Sangria


For the fourth drink of Christmas my true love served to me … an Italian Winter Red Sangria. It’s our fourth of 12 drink ideas to make your holiday parties and quiet nights by the fire merry and bright.

Sangria is the ultimate summer pitcher drink. So cool and refreshing. Hardly a party goes by in the summer without us serving some sangria. We know that when the weather turns cold, we’re supposed to switch to mulled wine; but hot wine just doesn’t do the same thing for us. So, we started experimenting with winterizing Sangria instead. We cut down on the soda, and changed the spices, and swapped in liqueurs with flavors more identified with winter.

We think this winter sangria concept might just work.

Before we presented our ideas to the general public, we thought they could use some field testing. So, our friend Kariuki volunteered to try them out at a recent party. Here’s the report.

The Party Report: Kariuki


R&J: Tell us a bit about yourself.

My name is Kariuki Thande, and I work at MIT as a financial officer in the Department of Physics. Besides hanging with the family I spend a lot of time playing in recreational basketball leagues; and my love of post game Manhattans is a commonly known fact.

R&J: What was the inspiration for your party? Was there any theme? Who’d you invite? How was it?

It was a Thanksgiving dinner party, and initially we invited a close family friend and her kids; but then we thought to invite some of the people in our lives that we had not had a chance to see in a while. There were about 10 of us in total and no specific theme – just holiday decorations made by my wife and daughter.

The party was great. Lots of laughs and great food. Everyone enjoyed the Sangrias!  We usually have wine and an assortment of drinks, and this was only the second time I served a pre-made drink for a dinner party in our home.

R&J: How did you decide to serve a cocktail?

I have served pre-mixed cocktails once before at a birthday party for my 6 year old daughter and it was a hit then (for the parents) so I decided to give it a go this time around. Also, I am useless in front of a stove so this was my best chance of adding something of relevance to the dinner party.

R&J: What did you make? How did people like it?

I decided to make all 3 of your winter sangria suggestions, but could only make two out of the three after searching high and low for the final ingredient for the third. But two was sufficient for our group. By the way, where do you find [that last ingredient] in Boston?

I loved the sweet and spicy alternatives, and that added a taste testing element to the party, with the women favoring the spicy sangria and the men preferring the sweet.
R&J: You obviously could have just googled ‘Thanksgiving drinks’ or ‘winter pitcher drink.’  Why’d you ask us instead?

Having your input as a ‘professional cocktail mixologist’ was great and therefore a no-brainer in making a final decision about what to make. Of course, there is the added benefit of your knowledge of my specific tastes.

Overall the dinner party was a hit and the Sangria got rave reviews. Thanks!

R&J: Do you have another party in the works?

We do have a Christmas party at our family’s soon. We will definitely be mixing a some R&J cocktails there.

So, there you go.

It seems like we made a misstep with that hard to find ingredient (sorry, Kari!), but overall the winter sangria idea went over well. Over the course of the 12 drinks, we’ll share all three recipes with you, even the one Kari never got the chance to make. Use one, or all three. It seems like that tasting menu element was one of the things Kari’s party liked.

We’ll start with the one Kari called ‘the sweet.’



  • 1 bottle of cheap red wine, doesn’t matter the style
  • 1 cup Campari (what we suggested to Kariuki, to make it easier, ironically) or Gran Classico (what we used)–they both have their advantages.
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 1 to 2 cups seltzer
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 1 pear or apple (or both, why not?), sliced


  • mix the wine, liqueur, and sugar  in a pitcher ahead of time. Let it sit for a couple of hours, for the flavors to mix and the sugar to dissolve;
  • at the time of serving, add the seltzer, fruit slices, and some ice to the pitcher;
  • serve in ice-filled glasses.


Roberts & June