If you’re a big fan of boozy cocktails, this Tropical Sangria recipe is going to wow you. Equatorial fruits swim in a punch of complementary liqueurs and a dry white wine to create a libation with a punch.
I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before- I probably have because I’m really proud of it- but, among my friends, I hold legendary status for my cocktails. Every time we hosted a party, the cocktails were a highlight. My tropical sangria is no exception. I’ve gone through tons of recipe development to ensure you aren’t let down when you sip. That said, this sangria is very unassuming. You sip it, thinking it’s too fruity to be potent. The next day you’re waking up with a mint sprig in your hair, your pants on your head, and a new puppy. So, as with all of my boozy concoctions, please indulge responsibly.
What is Sangria?
There is no “set in stone” recipe for authentic Iberian (namely Spain and Portugal, where the drink is said to have originated) sangria. As with many recipes, each country, town, village, and family have their own version. Simply put, sangria is a wine drink that has bits of chopped fruits stirred into it. Some recipes, like this one, add spirits or liqueurs to the drink, while others only include wine. Red, dry wine is the popular way to begin sangria, though white wines are also used. White wines create a lighter sangria, which is why it’s commonly served during the summer.
Fun fact: sangría means “bleeding” in Spanish. When handed a glass of red sangria, you can see what inspired its name. Have no worries, though. This version is a little less “Dracula.”
What is a Tropical Sangria?
A tropical sangria varies from the original red recipe in that the base of the drink is dry white wine. This version includes pineapple, mango, and kiwis instead of fruits like apples, pears, or berries. You can add your favorite berries or fruits, but these stay true to the tropical vibe of my sangria. In addition to the white wine, though, I amp up the ABV by mixing in a variety of spirits and liqueurs, like rum and triple sec (as well as a bunch more).
This is a whole island mood, so let’s get started.
How do I make simple syrup?
Simple syrup is just equal parts sugar and water that’s brought to a boil to dissolve the sugar, then cooled. You use simple syrup to sweeten cocktails, like this sangria, because it doesn’t make your drink gritty.
In a small saucepot, stir the sugar and water together. Bring this mixture up to a simmer over medium heat, occasionally stirring, until the sugar dissolves. This will only take 1-2 minutes. Once the sugar dissolves, turn the stove off and remove the pot to a cool surface. Allow the simple syrup to cool in the pot, or pour it into a bottle and, once cool, store it in the fridge for up to one week.
This simple syrup is easily doubled, so if you make cocktails on the weekend as we do, it’s a good idea to make a big batch.
Do I have to use the simple syrup in my Tropical Sangria?
If you prefer a tart, not-so-sweet sangria, you can omit the simple syrup altogether. Between the fruit juices and the liqueurs in this recipe, you’ll still taste some sweetness.
After the simple syrup cools completely, pour it into a large glass pitcher. You’re going to mix everything in the same pitcher you plan to serve from, so make sure the pitcher is a pretty decent size. If you don’t have a glass pitcher, plastic will work, too.
What are the liquids in this Tropical Sangria?
The spirits you need for this recipe are your favorite dry white wine, white rum, Licor 43, peach schnapps, Cointreau, Passoã, guava nectar, fresh lime juice, and Moscato. The Moscato is a float, which means you will top the finished sangria with it. It also means you can omit it if you prefer to. You can also replace Moscato with more white wine for a crisper flavor in the finished sangria.
If you don’t have, don’t like, don’t care to buy any of the liqueurs mentioned above, you can replace them with my suggestions below. Also, don’t feel like you have to go out and buy big bottles of these liquors. If your liquor sells mini bottles of these, you can grab them instead. A mini bottle holds 1/4 cup of booze, which is exactly how much of each you’ll use, except for the rum. And, of course, the wine.
One of the first liqueurs in this tropical sangria is peach schnapps. Admittedly, it’s the least tropical fruit flavor in this drink, but show me some grace.
This is a sweet, 30 proof liqueur made from fruit syrup mixed with grain spirits. While I don’t have the exact recipe for what goes into peach schnapps, I’m banking that the “grain spirit” is Everclear. You can get drunk on peach schnapps, but no one in their right mind would want to. Instead, use it as a mixer for other cocktails that can benefit from a sweet-tart flavor. In fact, I’ve replaced the orange curaçao in these Mai Tais with peach schnapps plenty of times.
Add the peach schnapps to the pitcher with the simple syrup.
If you don’t feel like buying peach schnapps, you can replace it with apricot liqueur, grapefruit liqueur, or a pear liqueur instead.
Passoã (Passion Fruit Liqueur)
Passoã has a fairly low Alcohol by Volume (ABV) percentage at 20%. So, if you ever need a cocktail that’s lighter on the buzz, combine this with ginger beer. Passoã is made with real passion fruit and grain alcohol and is the main ingredient in the Porn Star Martini. That’s totally a UK thing, but it’s a pretty good cocktail, nonetheless. You can replace the passion fruit juice used in this Passion Fruit Mojito with Passoã to buff it up a little bit. And, just as an aside: passoã is not Portuguese for passion fruit. I think it’s a made-up word. Passion fruit is maracujá or parcha.
Anywho, add the passoã to the pitcher.
If you don’t have/want passoã, you can replace it with the same amount of passion fruit juice, pomegranate liqueur, or Chambord (black raspberry liqueur).
Licor 43 (Citrus Liqueur)
I smile every time I see Licor 43 because I have a dear friend who’s obsessed with it. Every time I’m stumped on what to get her for her birthday, I know a bottle of “43” will solve my dilemma. Licor 43 has a citrusy-vanilla flavor and mixes so well with milk. Of course, it is also amazing on the rocks.
If you don’t have Licor 43, you can replace it with more peach schnapps or more of the Cointreau (below). Add the Licor 43 to the pitcher with the others.
Rum is not a traditional ingredient in tropical sangria. It is, however, a traditional ingredient in the tropics, especially in Puerto Rico. So, why not?
Add white rum, not anything darker. Darker rums have caramel or molasses undertones that will get in the way of the bright fruitiness of the other ingredients. If you don’t have rum, use tequila blanco (they serve that in the tropics, too) or vodka. Vodka isn’t tropical, but it works.
Cointreau (Triple Sec)
Next is Cointreau (or triple sec). This adds more citrus flavor to the sangria. You can replace it with more Licor 43, Grand Marnier, or your favorite brand of triple sec. Orange curaçao works here too.
Add this to the pitcher.
Guava is a very common fruit in the tropics. It’s sweet and sour, and its nectar is on the thicker side, similar to pear juice. If you don’t have guava nectar (or can’t find it), use passion fruit juice, soursop (guanabana), mango nectar, or more pineapple juice.
Add the guava nectar to the pitcher.
Another very tropical flavor, pineapple juice, tastes tart and bright. If you have an issue with using it, replace it with more guava nectar or orange juice.
Add it to the rest of the ingredients in the pitcher.
Lime juice adds a tartness that balances out the rest of the sweeter tastes in this tropical sangria. As a result, be sure to use fresh lime juice in this recipe.
Add the juice of one large lime to the rest of the ingredients.
What kind of wine goes into a Tropical Sangria?
Always use a dry white wine like sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio, or a dry Reisling. You don’t want to make this tropical sangria overly sweet by using a sweet white.
Add the wine to the pitcher.
How far ahead can I make the Tropical Sangria?
Give your mixture a stir with your cocktail stirrer or a long-handled spoon. Chill the mixture for 1 hour to allow all of those individual components to morph into some fantastic beast of a flavor.
You can mix these all together up to a week before and keep the sangria base stored in the fridge in a covered container.
What Tropical fruits go best in this drink?
You can add your favorite tropical (or non-tropical) fruits to this sangria. Some of my favorites are:
- pineapple chunks
- mango chunks
- sliced kiwis
- Asian pears
- carambola (starfruit)
I want to warn you that, for this recipe, I shot dragon fruit and Mexican guava. Unfortunately for me, the only Mexican guavas I can find are puny, little, seed-riddled ones that are downright grainy. They did not translate well in this recipe. If you can’t find pink guava, just omit them. Same with dragon fruit (pitaya). They look amazing, especially when used as a garnish, but they offer nothing in the way of flavor. Save the money and use something else.
Here are some non-tropical fruits you can add in place of (or instead of) those listed above:
- apple chunks
- sliced strawberries
- pear chunks
- peach chunks
How far ahead should I add the fruits?
Once you’ve settled on 3 or 4 different types of fruit, add them to the pitcher with the wine.
It’s best to add the fruit 1-2 hours ahead (or up to 8 hours) of when you plan to serve the tropical sangria. Not only does this allow the fruits a chance to impart their flavor into the sangria, but it also gives them time to absorb some of the alcohol. Why does that matter? Because no one ever said no to a boozy fruit salad, that’s why.
How can I lighten up this Tropical Sangria?
As is, the sangria is a little thick. If you want to thin yours out, you can float Moscato on top of the ingredients in the pitcher or serve it on the side so your guests can add it to their glasses as they see fit.
You can also add another bottle (or half a bottle) of white wine if you think it needs thinning. I prefer to add the Moscato because it’s effervescent. I like bubbles.
Ice is another option. Since it’s damn near a cocktail, it would be like serving it on the rocks.
Store the tropical sangria in the fridge until you’re ready to serve it.
What’s the best glass to serve Sangria in?
Sangria should be served in a red wine goblet. You want a wide mouth and bowl since both give the alcohol a chance to breathe. You also want a glass with a stem, so the body heat from your hand doesn’t warm the sangria as you drink it.
A wide-mouth glass also gives you (or your guests) room to spear the fruits once you’ve emptied the glass. The fruits must be eaten. Tis’ the rule.
How do I garnish this drink?
While my tropical sangria garnish may look intricate, it’s only triangles of dragon fruit, mango, and pineapple speared on a cocktail skewer. I threaded two sprigs of mint through the top of the skewer, and that’s that.
You don’t even have to garnish the sangria since the drink is pretty enough on its own. If you want to keep it super simple, cut a slice of pineapple in half, nick it a bit towards the upper 1/3 of the half, and hang it on the rim of the glasses.
What are some foods that pair well with this Tropical Sangria?
If you’re looking for recipes to serve with this tropical sangria, here are a few I’ve served with it in the past:
Of course, this Tropical Sangria does just fine on its own. Be sure to drink responsibly. It sneaks up on you.
Don’t forget to share this sangria with your friends and pin it to your drinks board for upcoming parties!
- Large glass pitcher
- cocktail stirrer
For the Simple Syrup (optional)
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters) cold water
- 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
For the Tropical Sangria
- 1 bottle (750 milliliters) white wine (sauvignon blanc, resiling, or pinot grigio)
- 1 cup (237 milliliters) guava nectar
- 3/4 cup (178 milliliters) pineapple juice
- 1/2 cup (118 milliliters) white rum
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters Cointreau (or triple sec)
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters) Licor 43
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters) passion fruit liqueur (Passoã)
- 1/4 cup (59 milliliters) peach schnapps
- 1 1/2 tablespoon lime juice (from one large lime)
- 1 bottle (750 milliliters) moscato to float, optional
Tropical Fruit Add-Ins
- 1 large mango peeled and diced
- 1/2 pineapple peeled, cored, and diced
- 2 kiwi fruits peeled and diced
- 1 large pink guava peeled and diced
- 1 pint berries raspberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc
- 2 cups papaya diced
Prepare the Simple Syrup (optional)
- In a small saucepot, stir together the sugar and water. Bring this mixture up to a simmer over medium heat, occasionally stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Once the mixture comes to a simmer, allow it to cook for another minute. The sugar should be completely dissolved. Remove the pot from the stove and allow the simple syrup to cool completely before using.
- The simple syrup can be poured into a jar and stored, covered in the fridge for up to 1 week.
Prepare the Tropical Sangria
- In a large pitcher, add the white wine, guava nectar, pineapple juice, white rum, Cointreau, Licor 43, passion fruit liqueur, peach schnapps, lime juice, and anywhere from half to all of the simple syrup.
- Add the prepared fruits to the pitcher of sangria. And stir to incorporate them into the drink.Chill the sangria for 1-2 hours to allow the flavors of the fruit to infuse into the sangria*.
- Before serving, float the Moscato over the sangria in the pitcher. Alternatively, you can serve the chilled Moscato on the side and allow your guests to add it as desired.
- Pour the Tropical Sangria into red wine goblets and garnish with your choice of fruits. A skewer is recommended to allow your guests an easier way to eat the fruits. Serve the sangria within 2 days of adding the fruits.
Swaps and Subs for:
- Sauvignon Blanc: dry riesling, chardonnay or pinot grigio
- Guava nectar: mango nectar, passion fruit juice, or pineapple juice
- Pineapple juice: orange juice, passion fruit juice, or lemonade
- White rum: tequila blanco, vodka, or gin
- Cointreau: Grand Marnier, triple sec, orange curaçao
- Licor 43: peach schnapps or Cointreau
- Passoã: passion fruit juice, pomegranate liqueur, or Chambord
- Peach Schnapps: apricot liqueur, grapefruit liqueur, or pear liqueur
- Moscato: prosecco, champagne, rosé, or more dry white wine
Non-Tropical Fruit Suggestions:
- apple chunks
- sliced strawberries
- pear chunks
- peach chunks