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Sangria Series : Alie’s Bitches Brew

Ed. Note: Sangria is, by most accounts, a universal crowd-pleaser and almost always a bunch of fun. My personal favorite is the $9 jug of Carlos Rossi and don’t you dare judge me for it. In all seriousness, what’s most interesting about sangria is that everyone has a different recipe and that recipe is usually indicative of his or her preferences and personality. Usually, there’s a story behind the sangria someone made and in this series I set out to uncover those stories.

Over the past three months, maybe more, I’ve chatted with some interesting people about their recipes and now, right before we say goodbye to summer, I’m sharing their stories. This week we head to New York to meet an out-the-box bartender with a very practical sangria recipe. Enjoy!

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“I’m the queen of making cocktails,” Alecia Light, better known as Alie, said when I walked into Milano’s, the divey lower east side bar where she works.

Light’s been a bartender for 16 years and, of course, she knows a thing or two about making cocktails.  She has the type of personality and look that you’d never find in the sunny and perfectly symmetrical streets of L.A. but it makes her perfect for New York. And I love New York.

During a recent trip to NYC the sign outside of Milano’s that read ‘$10 Sangria’ drew me in, but her actual recipe is what made me stay. Light’s sangria doesn’t taste like any other I’ve ever had. For instance, there’s a tropical flavor – think mai tai – accompanied with warm hints of cinnamon – which reminded me of mulled wine which, I’m sort of obsessed with.  

As unique as the whole taste experience was, this particular sangria was actually born out of a practical need: a great-tasting sangria that lasts longer.

“I mix all the hard liquor together in one bottle,” said Light, who makes her sangria entirely without fruit juice. “If you add fruit juice and sugar to it, it’ll spoil sooner.”

In the absence of fruit, the flavor of this recipe comes from six different alcohols used in her base mixture, including two types of rum, brandy, schnapps, triple sec, blackberry liqueur, and, of course wine – but only at the end.

The rum, specifically coconut rum, is what makes Light’s sangria so surprisingly tropical without using any fruit.

“No one else really does the coconut, but I added it because it reminded me of summer,” she said. “I thought it was a little different. I was going for something that wasn’t like anything anyone else served.”

As for the cinnamon I’d thought I tasted, it’s actually cloves. “The cloves are my secret weapon,” said Light, who ironically stopped drinking a few years ago and relies on her sense of smell when making cocktails.

The mixture can be saved and refrigerated for a few weeks.  To serve, just pour your glass halfway with the liquor mixture, fill the rest with red wine, top it off with ginger ale and stir.

Check out the full recipe below:

Ingredients:

  • 1-liter bottle with a seal, empty
  • 2 cups of coconut rum
  • 1 cup spiced rum
  • 1 cup blackberry brandy
  • ½ cup peach schnapps
  • ½ cup triple sec
  • 1 cup chambord or fromboise
  • 1 bottle of cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, or merlot
  • 1 can of ginger ale
  • Fruit of your choice for garnish
  • 2 tablespoons of whole cloves (optional)
  • ½ a cup of additional flavored rum – your choice (optional)

Directions:

  • Fill the empty 1-liter bottle with the liquors and cloves but do NOT add the wine yet.
  • Let sit overnight or longer (the longer the better)
  • Fill a glass with ice and pour the alcohol mixture halfway
  • Fill the rest of the glass with wine to taste
  • Top with ginger ale and fruit of your choice.

Follow Alie on Instagram here and follow Milano’s here.

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