When the heat gets tropical, so should the drinks.
On a recent trip to the mountains of Puerto Rico, I was inspired by a wonderfully cooling and exotic sangría I had up around and about El Yumque (Caribbean National Forest, the only tropical rainforest in the U.S. Forest Service system) at Noelia’s, recommended to us by Matthew at our hotel, Casa Cubuy EcoLodge — which is simple and wonderful and part of the rainforest.
Your balcony looks out on the mountain, with walks to several rivers and waterfalls right out the back door.
It was a wonderful night with a local couple and Noelia herself telling us tales of their region and showing up the island of Vieques in the distance, spotting palomas sabaneras (an indigenous and endangered bird) in the trees, coqui frogs in the kitchen keeping Noelia company, eating garlicky mofongo and seafood from the nearby coast (the little guy sucking on the bones of his delicious fried chicken).
There’s moonshine up in those mountains and we brought some of that home too, but I am not revealing my sources. Note that our moonshine is a potent cane rum, best mellowed with local flavors like coconut and passionfruit.
So when I got back to sea level, it was clearly time to enjoy some of that flavor and bring back the cool of the high hills. I used a couple of tablespoons of moonshine, but I offer worthy substitutions in the recipe.
Sangría Tropical (proportions are meant to be played around with; makes a pitcher)
1 750 ml bottle of dry red wine
3 Cups tropical fruit punch (look for 100% juice blend of grape/pineapple/passionfruit/guava/orange/mango or mix up what you can from frozen juice concentrates – which apparently undergo a lot less processing that juice not-from-concentrate – or try the international foods aisle of the supermarket and play with the tropical fruit nectars; just be warned that they have quite a bit of sugar)
1-2 Tbs cane rum (or whatever rum or brandy you’ve got; Grand Marnier or Cointreau are nice)
1 apple, cored and sliced into skinny chunks
1 orange, sliced in rounds then quarters
Other bits of fruit like grapes, peaches and strawberries as desired. The nice thing about apples and oranges is that they don’t get gross and mushy if you leave the sangría in the pitcher overnight or for a couple of days even.
In a large pitcher mix the fruit juice and punch. In a small bowl, soak the fruit in one tablesppon of the rum or brandy for a few minutes, then add fruit and brandy to the pitcher. Stir, taste and decide if you want to add the remaining rum. Serve over ice, garnishing the glass with orange slices.