Robert and I recently traveled to Santa Fe for a family wedding. On the day of the big event, just as we were getting ready to head out the door, we were overcome by a serious storm. I’m talking hail the size of grapes and the fiercest rain I’ve ever seen. Leaving the house was out of the question, especially since we were wearing our finest wedding duds. What to do when you’re all dressed up and stranded indoors during a rainstorm? Make sangrita, of course!
Sangrita, which means “little blood” in Spanish, is a traditional accompaniment for tequila. With origins dating back to the 1920’s, this non-alcoholic beverage is meant to highlight the flavor of the tequila and alleviate some of the burn from the alcohol. It is traditionally served with blanco tequila but may also be served with reposado. Although some may call it a chaser, it is really meant to be sipped alternately with the tequila, complementing the tequila’s flavor and cleansing the palate between sips. The original version, hailing from the state of Jalisco, was made using Seville oranges and pomegranate juice, with powdered chilies added for heat. Lime juice and savory ingredients such as salt or white onion are sometimes added. Somewhere along the way, people started adding tomato juice to their sangrita, most likely in attempt to mimic the red color of the traditional versions. This modern style is extremely popular in America and many parts of Mexico these days—so much so, that many people insist this version is, in fact, the real sangrita. Whether you prefer authentic recipes or creative new approaches, it seems there is a sangrita out there for everyone.
We first learned about sangrita from Robert’s mom and her husband Mario. They sampled it during a trip to Mexico and started making their own version after returning home. Based on their rough description and a few recipes found online, we decided to give it a try. Our first attempts were less than spectacular. Now, trapped by the sudden rainstorm, we had an opportunity to watch the master at work! For his sangrita, Mario juiced 2 oranges, 1 grapefruit, 2 lemons and a handful of limes. To this, he added the tiniest amount of minced garlic and ginger and a few pinches of red chile powder. He then blended everything to get the chile powder to mix in uniformly. We took a moment to relax and admire the power of the sudden storm while sipping our sangrita and tequila. It was a nice treat. Citrus and chile are always a perfect match for tequila. The garlic and ginger provided the right amount of savory while keeping the sangrita from being too salsa-y. Mario’s sangrita is not complicated or fancy, but it was the perfect pick me up for an otherwise dreary afternoon.
Robert and I decided to give mixing up our own sangrita another try this weekend. We opted for a simplified version of Mario’s sangrita, using only freshly-squeezed lime and orange juice rather than the full citrus spectrum (I don’t have a fancy automatic citrus juicer like Mario does, and my spindly arms can only do so much with a hand-held juicer). We then added powdered red chile and a touch of garlic and ginger as a nod to Mario’s recipe. For an authentic touch, we added a splash of pomegranate juice. It definitely gave the sangrita that deep red color that the name implies. We blended it up and served it alongside Aha Toro reposado. It was delicious! It really highlighted the tequila’s sweet flavor.
Sangrita is one of those things just encourages experimentation. I wouldn’t mind trying a version made with cucumber or jicama. Or, you could use blood oranges for their red color. Robert and I even pondered the possibility of experimenting with beets. They would certainly fill the red requirement, and I’d be curious how their earthy flavor would pair with tequila. If you enjoy sipping tequila and are looking for a new way of serving it this summer, give sangrita a try. It’s a fun way to drink tequila with friends, whether you’re relaxing out in the sunshine or suddenly stuck in a rainstorm.