LIANE HANSEN, host:
In these hot summer months, soda pop might satisfy some people's thirst, but others might want something a bit stronger as they stand around the barbecue in the back yard or bake at the beach. To get a lesson in the art of mythology, last week we stopped by Espuma restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, to chat with Jay Caputo, the owner, chef and bar manager. We pulled up a bar stool and over the sound of the air conditioner, we asked him to share his recipe for white sangria.
Mr. JAY CAPUTO (Owner, Espuma): So we're going to start with our wine.
(Soundbite of wine being opened)
Mr. CAPUTO: The most important thing with sangria is to start with a dry wine. It's got to be fermented completely dry. Anything like white Zinfandel is not going to work too well because it's already so sweet and fruity that when you start adding sweet and fruity items to it, it ends up being overpowering.
(Soundbite of wine being poured into pitcher)
HANSEN: Now you're going to use the full bottle of wine here.
Mr. CAPUTO: We're going to use a full bottle of wine.
HANSEN: But it only fills about a little over half of the pitcher.
Mr. CAPUTO: Well, you've got to add some ice to it.
(Soundbite of ice being added to pitcher)
Mr. CAPUTO: And then we're going to add some fresh orange.
(Soundbite of oranges being cut up)
HANSEN: And you're just quartering it.
Mr. CAPUTO: Well, we quarter it and then we squeeze it and throw the whole thing right into the pitcher. We're going to add some fresh lime.
HANSEN: And again, you're quartering it.
(Soundbite of lime being cut up)
Mr. CAPUTO: Same thing, squeeze it, throw the whole thing in there. Then we'll take some peppercorn.
HANSEN: Now what is--what will that do?
Mr. CAPUTO: Well, peppercorn is not--we're not going to have enough so you taste black pepper, but it's going to give you just an underlying background note of spice that makes it interesting on your palate. So we're going to add about 15 or 20.
HANSEN: You're putting them in whole.
Mr. CAPUTO: That's right.
HANSEN: You don't crush them or anything.
Mr. CAPUTO: No. Then we're going to add some cinnamon with three different sticks, but they're all different sizes. The important thing is to not overdo it. So we're going to go with a small stick; we'll just crack that...
(Soundbite of cinnamon stick being broken up)
Mr. CAPUTO: ...and add that in. And we have some fresh mint and we just pick it and tear the herbs. When you start chopping herbs, your knife breaks the cells and then they start to turn brown faster. So if you just tear them, they tear along the natural cell lines and then they won't discolor as quickly. Eventually, they will discolor.
HANSEN: But for presentation, you...
Mr. CAPUTO: Exactly.
HANSEN: ...don't want brown herbs in there.
Mr. CAPUTO: Yeah. No one wants brown herbs. So we're taking the lemon verbena as well.
Mr. CAPUTO: And then we have here a fresh vanilla bean and we're going to take this bean and put it in whole. If I were to cut it in half, scrape the seeds, the flavor would come out real fast. Potentially, you could end up overpowering your drink with vanilla. And then we're going to mix it up.
(Soundbite of stirring)
HANSEN: Now suppose you didn't have access to a vanilla bean or lemon verbena was not something that...
Mr. CAPUTO: Right.
HANSEN: ...you could find. Are there substitutions?
Mr. CAPUTO: For vanilla beans, I would say just leave it out. If you use vanilla extract, it's a totally different flavor. For lemon verbena, you know, if you can get your hands on a bay leaf, fresh bay leaf--you could use a dry bay leaf. Sometimes if you want to activate the flavor of a dried herb really fast, take some warm water and pour it over the dried herb. It's going to start to release the flavor from the dried herb a lot faster. I know it's going to sound unusual, but we're going to add a little pinch of salt. What salt does is it harmonizes things. It brings everything together.
(Soundbite of stirring)
Mr. CAPUTO: You really want it to macerate for a couple hours because the flavors then have a chance to come together. The best thing to do is let it sit at room temperature or in the sun, even. If you're going to leave it in the refrigerator, the best thing to do is to leave it overnight.
Should we try the drink?
HANSEN: Oh, it hasn't really sat out in the sun for 10 hours or...
Mr. CAPUTO: It hasn't sat out in the sun, but through the wonders of modern technology, we have a nice pitcher that we made earlier. We can try that.
(Soundbite of drink being poured into glass)
Mr. CAPUTO: In the traditional manner, we top it off with a little fresh soda water.
(Soundbite of soda water being added to drink)
Mr. CAPUTO: Gives it a little effervescence. The trick is not to add the soda too early. If you add the soda to the pitcher, you're going to lose the bubbles and you'll have to add more.
HANSEN: Hmm, this is so refreshing on a hot, humid day, you know?
Mr. CAPUTO: Absolutely.
HANSEN: What's the origin of sangria?
Mr. CAPUTO: Well, it started hundreds of years ago in Spain and they would end up with a batch of wine that was either going bad or it didn't taste good to begin with and rather than discarding the wine, they would add citrus and top it off with a little bit of brandy and that way they could still consume the drink, they could still get a little tipsy from it but it tasted good.
HANSEN: It proves the old adage, necessity is the mother of invention.
Mr. CAPUTO: Absolutely. When life feeds you lemons, you've got to make lemonade.
HANSEN: Or sangria.
Mr. CAPUTO: Or sangria.
HANSEN: Jay Caputo is the owner, chef and bar manager of Espuma restaurant in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. For more information on pitcher drinks and our visit to Espuma, visit our Web site, npr.org.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.