While some days that have two national food holidays don’t really go together (like Pumpkin Day and Mince Meat Pie Day, uh, no thanks…), I think today’s pair would make a lovely dinner accompaniment! To go along with National Fried Shrimp Day, you can wash all that delicious shrimp down with a glass of sangria for National Sangria Day! Known as a festive party drink, sangria is a Spanish wine punch that adds fresh fruit and simple syrup to a red or white wine to make it sweeter–and more fun! Red wine sangrias are more typical than white, and the fruits usually differ based on the wine and the season: red wine sangrias can hold up to bolder fruit flavors like berries, oranges and other citrus fruits, while white wine sangrias tend to be lighter and served in the summer with melons and grapes. The nature of the preparation means that sangria is best ordered by the pitcher–or even the bowl–so it’s perfect for a group of friends over tapas or a festive drink during a party. Although sangria has become popular all over the world, especially in the West Indies, and it’s made throughout the year, in Spain and Portugal where it originated the punch is only enjoyed during the holiday season. So, it’s the perfect punch to serve at your Christmas party!
One of the most celebrated sangrias in New York City comes from a Cuban legacy restaurant, Victor’s Cafe. Originally opened on the Upper West Side in 1963, Victor’s serves some of the best Cuban food in the city, with a fantastic atmosphere that can change nightly from a smoky piano bar to a full-throttle Latin nightclub. The original location on the Upper West Side was sold, but the original Victor–Victor del Corral–opened a new location on West 52nd Street that caters both to his original Cuban expat clientele and Broadway fans looking for a pre-show dinner. The place is still a family-run restaurant and still fantastic after all these years. Their sangria, both red and white versions, is impressive to critics and patrons alike, and is sweetened with orange and apple slices. Since they always keep the sangria flowing here, you can order it by the glass, or treat your whole table to a pitcher–I’m sure no one will be complaining! Try a glass of red, then a glass of white, and order up a batch of your favorite, along with some delicious Cuban dishes like ropa vieja and filete mignon criollo.
236 W 52nd St (between Broadway & 8th Ave)
“I have fond memories of that steamy and colorful spot in its heyday, before yuppification washed over the neighborhood, when exuberant Latin couples packed the place late at night sharing pitchers of fruity sangria and excavating earthenware crocks overloaded with arroz con pollo. Mr. del Corral sold the cafe five years ago, although it retains his name, and he now concentrates on his second, larger establishment opened seven years ago in the Broadway theater district, called Victor’s Cafe 52.”–The New York Times
“The sangria service was impressive – our waiter managed to balance his tray of four stemmed glasses, tilting the pitcher into each one, without spilling, or toppling the whole thing. It made me a bit nervous just watching him – I certainly couldn’t manage such a feat of coordination. The sangria, much like everything else we had tried, was on the sweet side, with slices of orange and more than a hint of apple flavor.”–Me Like Eat
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“The Vaca Frita was amazing and so were all of the other dishes that my family ordered, not to mention that the sangria was possibly the best sangria I think I’ve ever had. The ambiance was great and every one in the restaurant truly looked like they were enjoying themselves and the food. I would go back for the food alone, but the great customer service we received yesterday will keep me coming back for sure. They made me feel like family and not just another customer.”–Carlos J.
“We started off with the Sangria since my girlfriend loves that drink and this is a Cuban restaurant. BEST SANGRIA WE EVER HAD. We ordered then lobster empanada and savored every morsel. Both of our meals were delicious! Our waiters were VERY attentive the entire night. We never had to pour our own sangria, the waiters made sure our glasses were topped at all times. When my girlfriend took a restroom break and left her napkin on the seat, the waiter came by and folded her napkin and set it back on the table. I noticed that when the waiters weren’t serving, they were observing all the tables to see who needed what. Other restaurants need to take notes.”–Mike P.
Daring to try something different this National Sangria Day? Try a variation of sangria that comes from the West Indies. Miss Lily’s down on Houston Street serves up Jamaican cuisine and other Caribbean delights, with a great party-like atmosphere that draws a fine line between restaurant and nightclub. Alongside their food menu of jerk chicken and roti, they serve both hot- and cold-brewed Jamaican coffee from Blue Mountain and homemade ginger hibiscus tea. While it’s strange that a restaurant that keeps teetering on the edge of nightclub doesn’t have a full liquor license, you never notice with the beer and wine selection they serve. You can be a tourist and order a bottle of Red Stripe, but the best thing to get are their pitchers of Dutty Wine–or, Jamaican sangria. Their sangria comes in both red and white, and uses fruit purees to sweeten the punch. It’s tough to peg down a specific recipe for their Dutty Wine–each bartender at Miss Lily’s makes it a little bit different. That just means you have to visit on more than one occasion and keep ordering the sangria!
132 W Houston St (between Sullivan St & Mac Dougal St)
“This jumping Jamaican spot offers red and white sangrias, or as they call it, Dutty Wine, for brunch and dinner. Although no two bartenders make the exact same recipe, they are all likely to make use of fruit purees. On a recent Saturday, the red sangria had a dash of raspberry and the white was laced with a tropical note of passionfruit. Both are served over ice and garnished with citrus and apples.”–CBS New York
“When you think of Miss. Lily’s you probably don’t think of sangria, but this Jamaican diner puts their own twist on the Spanish classic. Miss Lily’s makes both red and white sangria, and depending on which bartender makes it, the drink tastes different every time.”–Guest of a Guest
“First off, the vibe is so chill you almost forget you’re in New York. The staff is extremely laid back and contagiously friendly. Every inch of the place is covered in authentic Caribbean decor. You cant help but feel relaxed and at ease as you shimmy into the 70’s-style booth, settled within the dimly lit dining room. The menu reflects the authenticity of the ambiance, you can expect to feast on dishes like jerk chicken and cod fritters. The must have are the festivals, a Jamaican specialty bread which is my favorite ting on the menu. Drink wise – go for the white sangria or a classic Dark & Stormy.”–Downtown Diaries
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“Being the sucker for adult bevvies consisting of red (or white as well here at Lily’s!) wine infused with fresh-pealed citrus, and soda water that I am… boy was I excited to touch my lips to Miss Lily’s sweet, Godly nectar on a humid evening in the city just a handful of days ago. I was fairly parched and carrying around a pretty notable humidity ooze, so it was just what the doctor ordered. Er, make that just what the nurse ordered. We all know they do most of the work…”–Ruggy J.
“The host found seats for us at the bar, the DJ was spinning sweet, sweet music and the bartender saw to our every need. Durty wine (white and red) and jerk chicken to die for. Seriously, folks, have you had the jerk chicken? I actually picked up the bones to make sure I’d eaten everything… After dinner we were comped a lovely chocolatey, ice-creamy, caramel corn dessert. We will be back!”–Debby R.
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!