Suzi's Blog



I was making sangria this weekend and I had two assets: time and a great Cab.

Time was important because like many of you I am often tempted to “throw sangria together” at the last moment — or perhaps the last hour. I do give it time to chill, but not really the time to mellow and let all the flavors rise to the occasion and max the mix. I had four hours on Saturday.

And, for that wine, I had a bottle of Don Melchor, the superior Cabernet Sauvignon from Concha Y Toro in Chile. This wine is a sophisticated delight on its own, with fine cheese, or the intensity of a steak streaked with black and juicy red in the center.

Use that quality wine in a sangria? Yes. Definitely. Hell, yes. You are not in college anymore, you know. You’ve got 40 years left? Goodness, you have less than 16,000 nights of imbibing left. Don’t waste one precious opportunity. Sangria can be as wonderfully exciting and marvelous as any wine beverage if …

If you use time and use your ingredients to their full advantage. I had my Cab. I had a perfectly ripe mango. And I had a pint of peaking strawberries. One sangria technique, the quick one, is to cut up the fruit, dump it into the wine, perhaps add some sugar, and top it off with a quantity of something strong: say a cup of brandy. That’s the wrong way to go. You want to cut the fruit and let it macerate with some sugar and an appropriately selective liqueur. You do that for some time to extract juice, and therefore flavor, from the fruit.

That is the trick I employed here: use a different liqueur for each fruit. Literally, match the liqueur to the fruit. For the tropical mango, what better thing than Cachaca from Brazil. For the strawberries, Fragoli strawberry liqueur for the berries. The result? A densely, intensely flavorful sangria. Full of fruit notes that swirl in your mouth in great complexity. Berry then mango then back to berry. The flavors dash about, never competing, but surely reinforcing. And beneath it all is the base flavor of that lovely Chilean Cab.

Sophisticated Sangria

Yield: 6 large portions


  • 1 pint of strawberries, husked and halved
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of Fragoli strawberry liqueur
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • ½ cup of Cachaca
  • 1 bottle of Don Melchor


Place the strawberry halves in a small bowl and sprinkle with sugar. Top with the Fragoli, and stir to mix.

In a second bowl, place the mango slices. Sprinkle with sugar, top with the Cachaca and stir to mix. Cover both bowls and refrigerate for two hours.
Open the Don Melchor and pour into a pitcher. Empty the two fruit bowls into the pitcher and stir to mix. Refrigerate for two more hours.

Serve in chilled glasses adorned with strawberry halves or slice of lemon or lime.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

Photo Credits: Canon T2i, 18-55mm lens at F/6, 1/60th second at ISO 3200 [no flash]


Brian’s Watermelon Elderflower Martini, The Better Version

This has happened to you before. You are sitting at a little desk. An authority figure leans over and says, “You can do better.” Now comes the flood of emotions: anger, resentment, embarrassment, and, yes, an acknowledgement that I could have done better.

I first blogged this beverage a couple of weeks ago and I loved it. I gave it to Suzen and she said, “This is great. But,” now came the verdict, “you can do better.”

The authority figure retreats, giving you no idea of what “better” means. You are left huddling before that little desk wondering where to go. Clueless. Dumped on. Head spinning.

Well, I thought about it, and I knew two things had to change. First, my sweet tooth be damned, but the lemon juice had to be replaced by lime.  Then there was the vodka. True vodka is tasteless. It is there for one reason: as a liquid conveyor belt to transfer alcohol into you system. And transfer with a kick. I still wanted the kick, but I wanted flavor, too, something to complement the watermelon juice.

Rum would not do. Too common and too distinctive. [Sorry, Bicardi]. No, what I needed was the “secret rum” — cachaca from Brazil. Same sugar cane origins, but  totally distinctive and subtle flavor profile.

I adjusted the recipe, I made a test glass, and a I found Suzen. “This, this one is fabulous!” she said. I waited for the “but” phrase to come. It did not. Nothing gets better than this.

Besides the cachaca, the secret here is watermelon juice. Proportionately, this drink is high on watermelon juice and low in alcoholic components. Suzen and I are planning a summer party for our friends and this drink is on the menu for many reasons: it is different, it is delicious, it is easy to make, most of it can be made ahead of time, and it can be enjoyed without getting tipsy. It’s the ideal party drink.

To get the watermelon juice, I used our new Vitamix blenders. The Vitamix is shockingly fast at doing this. I took one of those smallish spring watermelons, about 5 pounds, and cut it in half. Using only one half, I cut off the exterior green and white to get to the core red fruit, which weighed in by then at just over 2 pounds. I cut that fruit into large chunks put them in the Vitamix, then turned the machine on at an intermediate speed. CAWUMP. It took about three seconds and that fruit was completely converted to juice.

Actually, a thick juice. The great thing about the Vitamix is the ability to liquefy yet have some body by retaining all the fruit, and thus all the nutrients. A blender can’t do this. I’ve tried. Once you’ve converted to Vitamix, there is no going back. That hint of body in the juice gives you a cocktail that has weight on your tongue and mouth. It’s a great feel to complement a great taste.


Brian’s Watermelon Elderberry Martini, The Better Version

Yield: 2 bountiful cocktails


  • 3 ounces cachaca
  • 1 ounce of St. Germain Elderflower liquor
  • Juice of two limes
  • 2 ounces of simple sugar syrup
  • 6 ounces of watermelon juice [definitely homemade with body]


Put all the ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake for a solid 30 seconds. No cheating. 30 seconds is more than 10 or 12 and yes it does make a difference and you don’t have to go to a $400 bartending class to learn this important lesson.

Pour into the glass of your choice. The glass may be rimmed with sugar. You may want crushed ice inside. Or, because the drink is so juice heavy and you want to avoid diluting it, just go ice-less.

Source: Brian O’Rourke