Add Bourbon To Your Sangria For An Elevated Party Punch

One of the best things about sangria is its versatility. Because sangria is typically made from wine, some variety of spirit, and fruit, possibilities abound. For example, you can make sangria from rosé, red, white, or sparkling wine, and the options for spirits are just as plentiful. During my stint in the wine business, I created dozens of unique sangria recipes featuring unusual spirits, and while brandy — flavored or straight — is a classic choice, bourbon may just well be the ingredient you need to create a truly distinctive and delicious take on sangria.

Bourbon could seem like an odd choice for sangria; the spirit is undeniably assertive, frequently with a fairly high alcohol content, and coveted collectible bottles can be incredibly expensive. The good news is that you don't have to reach for a Blanton's or a 23-year-old Pappy Van Winkle to make your sangria. As a fan of stellar bourbon that normal people can afford, I have good news: your perfect sangria bourbon doesn't have to cost a fortune. Some of my favorite mid-tier brands like Bulleit or Maker's Mark are perfect to kick up the booziness of your sangria and deliver the distinctive, oaky spice your party punch has been missing. Because bourbon is so flavorful, assembling the perfect bourbon-laced sangria requires a deft touch.

What flavors play well with bourbon?

When you're assembling ingredients for bourbon sangria, it's helpful to think about the flavors of classic bourbon cocktails as a guide. Whiskey sours, for example, combine bourbon, lemon juice, and simple syrup, so we know citrus flavors work well. A mint julep brings together bourbon, simple syrup, and fresh mint, and a bourbon mule brings ginger spice into the mix. Once you've compiled your list of flavors that play well with bourbon, you're ready to start your sangria.

The best bourbon sangrias lean heavily on citrus fruits, particularly orange and lemon. Additional flavors can be added depending on the seasonal twist you're looking for. Winter sangrias that start with red wine, oranges, and lemons can benefit from the addition of spicy ginger beer and warmth from bourbon with a high rye content, like Bulleit. Summery bourbon sangria can include the lift of fresh mint, fresh oranges, and lemons, all blended with a bright, crisp white wine and a bourbon with a high wheat content, like Maker's Mark. Rosé and sparkling wine sangrias are better suited for spirits and cordials other than bourbon, as the spicy kick of bourbon can overwhelm these more delicate wines. 

If you're accustomed to making sangria with cordials like Grand Marnier, you may find that your bourbon sangria benefits from a little added sweetness, which can come from honey, simple syrup, sparkling lemonade, or even a citrus-flavored soda like Sprite. Balanced, memorable, and complex, bourbon sangria's time has arrived.