The Tasting Panel magazine

May 2016

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40  /  the tasting panel  /  may 2016 A LONE STAR LIFE I n days long ago, when I was a younger, cruder man at college, we made a punch of wines, spirits and fruit juices along with slices of fresh- cut fruit. There was no real recipe; we kind of just knew how to put it all together. No matter how it came out, we used it as the house drink for hot summer days. It was called the Hairy Buffalo—I've no idea why, but I remember we made it in the bath- tub—and I think back to it fondly as my starter sangria. On a recent swing through Austin, I noticed how the city has not only taken quite a liking to the refreshing boozy drink, it's embraced a secret ingredient (that will no longer remain a secret) for a new generation of sangria enthusiasts. With its South Austin, old-home feeling, OPA! is coffee-shop by day and a "working man's wine bar" by night. "It's one of our most popular drinks all the time. We sometimes make it twice a day," says General Manager Laura Imhoff of the three-gallon batches of house sangria. "I think it has something to do with our flavors. Simple, not too sweet. And we add cinnamon—which I think is the magic touch." Indeed, this red sangria of Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, fruits and juices covers all the bases, but hits unexpected complexity by checking that additional box. Melissa Aney, Bartender and Assistant Manager at OPA!, agrees that the dash of spice adds an immediate warmth for customers in much the same way as the splash of Sprite before serving adds brightness. "I think the cinnamon really surprises them. It definitely seals the deal when I give out tastes." Of course, every spot I visited had its own special recipe, which never seemed to be written down (some things haven't changed with the Hairy Buffalo generation), but I tasted sangrias with peach and jalapeño, with Jack Daniel's and St-Germain, frozen and over ice. I think one of them contained bacon. But all the ones that proved the most quaffable without being twee had a dusting of cinnamon. In East Austin, Takoba's General Manager Peter Ponce says, "Austin is a year-round sangria city. We wanted something that you could drink in the summer and still be tasty in the winter." Takoba's white sangria is made every other day in six-gallon batches with Chablis, orange and apple juices, pears, Granny Smith apples and cinnamon simple syrup. Though it's served with a splash of Champagne, Ponce believes it's the spice that distinguishes the sangria. "The cinnamon gives that wintry, refreshing feel to it. It's not overpower- ing, but it's there. It makes the whole thing approachable to a lot of people." Ponce says the white sangria goes really well with the restaurant's interior and Mexico cuisine, but he's noticed increasing demand for it during Happy Hours and brunches—tradi- tionally Margarita time. "We sell 400 Margaritas on the rocks, and maybe another 400 frozen a week. But this is Austin—every restaurant is supposed to be selling that many Margaritas," says Ponce. "I think it's quite significant that we sell more than 250 sangrias a week, and I'll bet we sell more than that this summer." Melissa Aney, Bartender and Assistant Manager at OPA!, believes that the dash of cinnamon added to their sangria creates an immedi- ate warmth to the drink. White or Red: Sangria Takes Hold in Austin (PLUS, A LITTLE SPICE IS RATHER NICE) by Anthony Head / photos by Kirk Weddle Located in Austin, OPA! serves up red sangria to its customers. Takoba in East Austin sold more than 250 sangrias a week last summer and expects that number to be higher this summer. C M Y CM MY CY CMY K

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