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A few months back, I was enjoying lunch with a co-worker at the Cira Center in Philadelphia, when my idol walked through the door of JG Domestic. An avid Jose Garces fan (this is probably an understatement, but I’m trying to play it cool in case JG himself ever miraculously finds himself at PTTP), I’ve been working my way through his restaurants since I began receiving paychecks in the fall of 2008. Most women in Philadelphia troll the streets hoping for a glimpse of Chase Utley or Ryan Howard (okay, fine, I’m guilty of that too)—but me…I get giddy at the sight at a different type of Philadelphia idol: Jose Garces, Stephen Starr, Marc Vetri. In my mind, I coolly got up from my table, shook his hand, and told him how much I appreciate his food. When my coworker broke me out of my daze to ask if I was choking, I realized that was not exactly how it happened. But that’s how I choose to tell this story.

While there are many things that frustrate me about the city of Philadelphia–the wage tax, the disappointment that surrounds the Eagles, the fact that they’ve banned drinking coffee on the PATCO line but evidently not urinating on it–the Philadelphia restaurant scene has always been source of excitement and inspiration for me. And at the center of that resides Jose Garces. I’ve found myself in a pattern when it comes to exploring his repertoire of restaurants. Go to Amada. Try a new one. Go back to Amada. Try a new one. Go back to Amada… Don’t get me wrong. They’re all fabulous. It’s embarrassing to eat with me at any Garces restaurant, as I gush over every bite and bounce anxiously in my seat as I await the next tapas treat. But Amada. Mmmm Amada. I was enamored by it from my first visit a few winters back, and I know why. The Tinto Sangria. At Amada, the sangrias change with the seasons, and on this wintery night I found myself sipping the most delicious little blend of apple, orange, cinnamon, and lightly spiced wine. It was slightly dry, slightly sweet, slightly spicy and entirely perfect. For every holiday since, I’ve made my own little version of this festively wonderful concoction to share with family and friends. And this Christmas, I’ve decided to share it further.

The secret to my version of this Sangria is a cinnamon simple syrup. Cinnamon doesn’t dissolve, so getting the flavor of the cinnamon without the floating specks of cinnamon is tricky. Jar a version of this simple syrup and package it with a nice, dry Spanish red wine. Print out the labels I’ve designed, and you’ve got yourself a wonderful gift to share with family and friends. And trust me, if you ever find yourself in Philadelphia on a winter night, duck into Amada for the best Sangria you’ll ever have—and by all means, if you find yourself in the presence of greatness, try to play it cool. Happy Holidays!

The Ingredients

Yields 1 pitcher of Sangria
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
5-6 cinnamon sticks
1 bottle of dry red wine
1 sliced red apple
1 sliced orange
1 sliced lemon

The Directions

  1. To prepare the simple syrup, slowly bring water, sugar, and cinnamon sticks to a very gentle boil in a sauce pan. Once the mixture reaches a gentle boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer gently for 15-20 minutes to continue to infuse the cinnamon flavor. Remove from heat and let cool. Once cool, package the syrup and cinnamon sticks in a jar. I put the syrup in the refrigerator if I’ve made it far in advance, though it should be okay for a day or two not refrigerated.
  2. Slice apple, orange, and lemon. Add wine and syrup. I let the sangria sit for a few hours or overnight before serving to really infuse the flavors in the wine.

Making this as a gift? Download the free printable labels here: HOLIDAY SANGRIA LABELS.