Sangrita is a shape-shifter—it changes depending upon where you order it, who’s making it and how you like it.
But one thing it’s not: Sangría. While both derive from the Spanish word for “blood” (this reflects color, not content), one is a wine punch and the other a non-alcoholic concoction usually found running in a close pack with tequila.
Sangrita is typically served in its own glass next to a shot of tequila, like a deconstructed Bloody Maria. Sip tequila. Sip Sangrita. Repeat until done. Sangrita actually started out as a small course or a palate cleanser during Mexican meals, but along the way, a significant discovery was made: Sangrita goes fabulously with straight tequila. Today, the two are as tight as gin and tonic.
American drinkers who are familiar with Sangrita probably think of it as a tart and spicy tomato juice. But evidence suggests that tomato juice is a later (and optional) ingredient. Famed Mexican food anthropologist Diana Kennedy’s Sangrita is simply fresh orange juice with grenadine and chile powder; many authentic recipes still omit the tomato juice. (Noted Portland, Ore., barman Jeffrey Morgenthaler has an excellent formula involving the juices of orange, lime and pomegranate mixed with a little chile.)
One theory posits that the tomato juice got involved because that’s how American tourists in Mexico enjoyed it. So, OK, call me an American tourist, but I prefer my Sangrita pimped out with tomato juice.
Tomato adds a measure of umami and brings an intriguing complexity to the acidity of the citrus and pomegranate. And Sangrita and tequila complement each other endlessly, like good friends who don’t compete but always point out the other’s best attributes. Alternating sips makes every encounter with the agave spirit seem bright and fresh, as if you’re getting that first taste over and over again. It’s a bloody miracle.
Contributed by Wayne Curtis
- 6 oz Tomato juice
- 3 oz Orange juice
- 1 oz Lime juice
- .5 oz Grenadine made with real pomegranate juice
- .5 tsp Tabasco Sauce
- .5 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1 pinch Salt
- 1 pinch Freshly ground black pepper
- Glass: Shot
Add all the ingredients to a small pitcher and stir. Refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. (Note: Use only real pomegranate grenadine. Better to omit the ingredient than use an artificially flavored version.)
Wayne Curtis writes about drinks for The Atlantic and is the author of And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails. He is also host of the site Slowcocktails.com.