Sangria is a concoction made by combining red wine with a fruit and fruit juices, brandy, soda water and spices, including cinnamon sticks. Once the flavors have had a chance to blend, it is traditionally served with ice cubes and fresh fruit garnishes. Spiced wine dates back to ancient times in Europe, when water was often contaminated. Wine and wine punches were much safer to drink because their alcohol content killed most bacteria. As a result, wine was consumed daily by everyone, from children to their grandparents.
Historians have traced wine as far back as 6000 B.C. When the Roman Empire swept throughout Europe in 200 B.C., it introduced grapes and wine-making customs to the rest of the continent. Spain quickly became home to vineyards and wine production, and a shipping trade evolved to supply popular Spanish varietals to the Romans. Early on, people in Spain began calling any red wine "sangria"-- derived from the Latin term for blood.
The European Continent
In Europe during the Middle Ages, wine was called grog or hippocras, and it was common to add spices to red wine. During the 1700s and 1800s, the English were fond of Claret Cup, a wine punch made with red wine, brandy and spices. If a Claret Cup sounds familiar, it could be because it was the drink of choice for Jane Austen's heroines.
Sangria, as we know it today, hails from Spain. Historians speculate that adding cut fruit to wine probably first happened in southern Spain's Andalusia. The region offers an excellent climate for citrus fruits, but not for red grapes. The theory is locals added cut fruit to inferior wine and let it steep for a few days. Because the wine was improved, Spaniards started to add spices, sugar, brandy and cinnamon. Sangria was popularized in the United States at the 1964 World's Fair in New York.