Thirsty Thursday

Forget Mimosas, elevate brunch with limoncello sangria

Aline Peres Martins | Staff Writer

Limoncello sangria, a wine-based drink, is a light and lemony alternative to the traditional brunch mimosa. It consists of sugar, water, limoncello, white wine, club soda and chopped fruit.

There is almost no better way to celebrate the first signs that winter might actually be over than with brunch. As the weather starts to warm up, downtown Syracuse establishments start bringing out tables, chairs and umbrellas, extending their dining areas beyond the indoors. People get the chance to remedy their vitamin D deficiencies over breakfast food at 1 p.m. The mimosas start flowing.

While there’s no denying that the mimosa is iconic, people seem to forget that there are other ways to elevate brunch to a whole new level. If you want to impress your friends the next time we get a perfect, 75-degree weather day, try your hand at sangria. The wine-based fruity drink is a way to make brunch feel less like a hangover recovery and more like a Mediterranean indulgence.

Limoncello sangria is the perfect foray into sangria territory for someone new to the drink. It brings together the citrus kick desired in a good brunch drink through the added citrus fruits and limoncello, but also is wine-based as sangria always is. It should be noted, though, that this is not a traditional sangria. To start, it is made with white wine, which, although now popular, is not the norm.

Sangria, born in Spain, is named after the Spanish word for blood — “sangre” — because of the drink’s signature red color. Since its creation in the middle ages, it has become extremely popular throughout the Iberian peninsula and in America as well. In Portugal and Spain, you can find a cup of sangria for about 50 cents at almost any local bar, and in the summertime it is the go-to drink.

It first appeared in the U.S. in New York City during the 1964 World’s Fair’s “Spanish World” area, according to Food & Wine. And since then, it has taken on many different forms, including white wine, red wine, and rose-based variations. Considering that sangria is a blending of different fruits, wines and spices, it lends itself well to innovation.

While traditionalists may look down on the limoncello sangria, this particular spin embodies the lax nature of the drink — although it looks fancy, sangria is essentially just a bunch of fruits roughly cut and mixed with wine and spirits. My family’s go-to recipe, which they brought to the U.S. with them from Portugal in the 80s, is just red wine, lemon-lime soda, triple sec, Sagres beer and vodka mixed with whatever is in the fruit bowl at the time. Usually, we try to get apples in there because it soaks up the wine nicely, but if not, that’s fine too.

So, this lemon-based, light-white wine sangria is really a fancier rendition to spruce up your brunch. It is a citrus-y, bubbly drink, with subtle fruit notes and a kick. The lemon cuts through the white wine, but not so much that it’s overpowering. It’s similar to a white-wine spritzer, with different fruits floating around — fitting for a brunch with friends and eggs Florentine or Benedict.


  • ½ cup granulated sugar (more or less to taste)
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 cup limoncello
  • 2 bottles of white wine (I recommend Gazela vinho verde)
  • 2 cups club soda
  • 2-3 cups chopped fruit (make sure to use some lemon and lime wedges)
  • Add all the ingredients to a glass pitcher, stir (with a wooden spoon, if you want to stick to tradition), and serve

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