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By Krista Simmons

It might seem a little strange that a food holiday celebrating a warm-weather drink would be celebrated on Dec. 20, but over in Spain, sangria is consumed year-round, and rightfully so. And after all, any excuse to sip on this Spanish punch is okay by us. It doesn't hurt that this batched drink also happens to be a wonderful cocktail to prepare for a holiday party.

“There really is no wrong setting for a cold glass of sangria,” said Sam Ory, who heads up the bar program at Bar Pintxo, a Spanish tapas restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif.

Sipping sangria is a very social activity. It's always prepared in a batch made to be shared, whether it's at a restaurants, picnics, barbecues or dinner parties. It’s also a great vehicle for customization. Sangria comes from the word “sangre,” meaning blood, but that doesn't mean you have to make it with red wine. White and sparkling versions are equally as popular — and delicious. You can also use sangria as a base for cocktails.

Over at Bar Pintxo, Ory makes drinks like the sangria margarita with tequila blanco and fresh lime juice as well as a sangria cosmo with white sangria, cranberry and vodka.

The most vital part of getting a little bit creative with your cocktail, of course, is blending compatible ingredients without forgetting that the foundation of the cocktail is the wine you start with. (Sound familiar? It should. This is also the basic element of a great mulled wine.)

“The most important characteristics of great sangria are quality ingredients and proper balance. You have to start with a good wine,” Ory told TODAY.com.

The best base for sangria, of course, is a wine from Spain, many of which are available at most markets in the U.S. In terms of red, go for something like a Rioja blend or straight-up tempranillo. For white, you can use a Spanish white like albarino, or you could also opt for sauvignon blanc or pinot grigio. And of course, for sparkling, cava is ideal.

Cava, a sparkling wine from Catalonia, is the base for the excellent sangria over at the Bazaar by José Andrés. They achieve a great balance by using both lime and orange, providing those puckery citrus flavors that counter the sweet fruits without overpowering the base of the sparkling wine.

What's more is that it's bubbly, and perfect for holiday revelry. Here's there recipe.

Sparkling sangria (The Bazaar by José Andrés)

  • 1 whole orange zest spiral
  • 1 whole lime wheel
  • 6 green grapes
  • 2 sprigs of verbena
  • 6 yellow raspberries
  • 1 sugar cane stick
  • 1 ½ oz Hennessey VSOP
  • 1 ½ oz Cointreau
  • 1 ½ oz Tanqueray
  • 3 oz simple syrup
  • ice
  • 1 bottle Avinyo cava sparkling wine

Place all of the ingredients in a carafe or pitcher and chill until you're ready to serve. When the guests arrive, open the cava and pour into the pitcher. Serve in stemless white wine glasses. Serves 4.

Krista Simmons is a Los Angeles-based multimedia journalist. Follow her on Twitter.

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