I don’t like to think of myself as a superstitious person, but there are a couple of times of year that I really get over-excited. One of them is Hallowe’en, because it’s really fun to think there’s one spot on the calendar that is particularly vulnerable to creepiness and horror — and since I’m the kind of guy who consistently misinterprets the nite lite in our bathroom as a malevolent spirit from beyond, you can see how I’d be keen on that.
Another is Groundhog Day, because by the time you get around to February, winter in our neck of the woods has become a particularly depressing grind. I don’t know if I necessarily believe in Seasonal Affective Disorder (for one thing it sounds like an illness named specifically to form a clever acronym, in so doing invoking all the gravity of comic book names like S.H.I.E.LD. and H.Y.D.R.A.), but I will admit that by the middle of the month I will look up at a gray, cloudless sky and become entirely and in all ways consumed with bowel-quivering rage. I therefore will irrationally pin my hopes on the groundhog’s prediction for the spring, as though it is the only way I might ever feel warmth again; just as often, I am bitterly, cruelly disappointed by the capricious snap judgements of a dirt-eating rat-mammal.
“THE SUN HAS GONE OUT,” I will not shout into the sky, not shaking my fist in impotent fury. I will not do those things because the emotional intensity required for them will have been stripped away from me by four and a half months of winter, and I need all the strength I have to trudge to the train stop every morning. One stray fist-shaking, and I may find myself curled up in a ball on the ground, crying just hard enough to keep me from slipping into a coma.
Doesn’t Canada sound like fun?
Of course it isn’t, which is why a mass exodus takes place from our country every November, and doesn’t end until sometime the following April. What with our holiday last weekend, Tina and I were originally looking at some form of minor getaway to see if we could remember what it was like to enjoy life, and join the rest of Canada in fleeing from the bleak horror of our climate, even for just a few days. Of course, we just bought a house last summer and are still investing in fun upgrades like “cutting down rotten trees” and “hey is that water pouring out of the attic what do you figure that’s about”, so our travel budget ended up slightly constrained.
Tina, never one to be limited by the bounds of mere finances, stepped up to the challenge. Behold the inaugural beverage of our Jamaican Cuisine Week:
Serves 4-6, or 1-2 if you plan on having a happy tropical evening together
- 1 bottle of white wine (Pinot optimally; Chardonnay if you prefer something a little more acidic)
- 1.5 cups of Malibu
- 1/2 cup of frozen Limeade
- 2 cupes of pineapple juice
- 1 can (355 mL) of regular (if you want the full-on sweetness) or diet (for the fizz) Sprite or 7-Up
- 1 Starfruit
- Chopped mango, lime, pineapple or your tropical fruit of choice
A few quick notes about the ingredients, in case any of them strike you as particularly heavy-duty. This is a drink that is all about the tropical flavors, but the key is to balance them all against each other. If vegetables are a choir, then fruit are a schoolyard full of bullies, crap-kicking each other until only the strongest flavor remains — and we have a lot of fruit going on in here. The key is to keep them in reasonable proportion to each other, so that they can get on with the important task of covering up just how much alcohol you’re drinking.
Sangrias are always a matter of fun, mad-science-style mixing, but as you blend all of these together, try to keep in mind their respective weights. Your white wine will be surprisingly persistent at the base (and a Chardonnay even moreso), and it won’t take a whole lot of Malibu to bring that coconut flavor right up front and center. It never hurts to sample before you serve, and if you find you’re getting a heavily boozy hit from the flavor, use the Sprite and pineapple juice to offset it. The limeade is here for a bit of sharp citrus flavor and instant cooling, so don’t feel compelled to go nuts with it.
(Incidentally, frozen limeade is a godsend for anyone who fancies themselves a kitchen bartender, so don’t feel too badly about keeping some around in your freezer. It’s a darned sight less expensive than picking up mixers from the grocery store, and considerably more versatile. In my mind, it’s the path to the best quick and filthy-dirty Long Island Iced Teas you can make.)
This is technically a sangria blanca, since traditional sangrias start with red wine — the word “sangria” itself refers to the blood-red color of the drink. But since it feels like a hundred years since we’ve seen anything bright and green, I have absolutely no problem starting with a white wine and adding our own color.
There are actually two directions you can take, at this point.
The Patient Path:
Chop up your fruits, whatever you’ve opted to go with, and soak them in your liquor for at least a couple of hours — overnight is even better. This allows the fruit to time to corner the Malibu in the bathroom, flush the Malibu’s head in the toilet a few times, pull the Malibu’s underwear up over its head, and start imposing its flavor. This takes a lot of the edge out of both, and results in an altogether smoother drinking experience.
The Get On With It Path:
Chop up your fruits, and add them into your large punch bowl or handy-dandy spigot-equipped punch drum. To the fruit, add the Malibu; to that mixture, add the white wine. Allow them to all soak together for the few minutes it will take you to get the rest of the steps done. If they’re going to blend, they’ve got whatever time you can afford to give them — but don’t fret, because the result will still be plenty good, and the mixture will only mellow while you work your way through the first round.
Slice up your can’t-get-prettier-than-this Starfruit garnishes, get your limeade out of the freezer, and dig out a can of Diet Sprite (I really do recommend the less-sweet kind here, because the last thing you want is to put all this together and then only taste the soft drink). Scoop out the Limeade into the fruit, wine and Malibu mixture and give a good hearty stir to blend them.
Last, and always last, add the sparkling soft drink. Add it too early, and you’ll end up mechanically stirring all the bubbles right out of the drink.
Add your Starfruit to garnish, and marvel at just how wonderful a sangria can really be.
What’s that you say? Never heard of Starfruit? Or you’ve seen them at the grocery store and observed that they are three bucks apiece, so why wouldn’t you just use a lemon wedge instead?
To that I say, imagine a fruit that is firm like a kiwi, crisp like an apple and tart like a lemon. Then, imagine that fruit contracted itself into a shape that — no matter how far along you slice it — always looked appealingly like a star. That’s a product that’s working to help you, the home bartender. That’s the Starfruit.
Isn’t that worth three bucks a pop?
Oh, you know it is. It’s the perfect happy, hope-giving and smile-inspiring complement to a sweet and flavorful sangria.
Hints of coconut, sweetness of pineapple and tartness of line, twists of white wine and rum, hits of booze-soaked fruit — it all comes together in a glass that helps remind you that warmer days are on the way. It’s hard to go wrong with a whole bucketful of cocktails like the Coconut Sangria, and best of all it’s never just a single serving… there’s always the rest of the jug to keep your spirits up.