For a perfect summertime post-round libation, you can’t beat a muy fría sangria
When the wine wagon gently stopped, my head was atilt, as far back as the neck can manage these days. I was staring at the flowers atop a towering saguaro cactus, wearing the same dumbfounded expression that paints my face whenever my wife addresses me with a sentence that begins, “Why did you…”
“Are you okay?” said the woman driving the Wine Wagon. “Top of the world,” said I. “Just admiring those blooms.” As I turned to face the sympathetic inquirer, I noted her beer cart was named “Wine Wagon,” much the same way WWII airmen named their craft. I was entertained by this beyond any rational explanation. Did I mention this was on the golf course at Mountain Shadows, at the base of Camelback Mountain, in Paradise Valley, Arizona? It was.
I was out for a morning stroll, marveling at the multitudes of newborn quail dashing across my path, scampering behind what I must assume were their parents or legal guardians. In any event, the idea that the buggy had been christened “Wine Wagon” was telling, I thought. I cannot reasonably ask you to follow the logic of why my next thought was, indeed, my next thought, for I scarcely know myself. Now for the big reveal — my next thought was of a question posed to me by Caveman, my oldest and dearest friend. We’ve known each other since the first day of first grade, when the Catholic school convention of seating students in alphabetical order begat a lifetime of laughs.
For 12 years we sat next to each other, and a quest to find two lads more different and yet more the same would yield no fruit. As youngsters, we played many rounds together with his father, Bud, and Bud’s printing-plant coworkers. Here’s a true story: After completing a morning 18 at some public course near Philly, Bud and his boys — and, here’s another true story: one of Bud’s pals was actually named Eddie Booze — were having a few pops in the lounge next to the pro shop, when a stranger burst through the door and shouted, “There are two maniacs out on the practice range hitting full shots at each other from about 50 yards apart — and they ain’t trying to miss!” All but Bud raced to the door for a look — even Eddie Booze. When the bartender asked why he wasn’t curious, Bud said in his gravelly voice, “I don’t need to look. I know it’s my idiot son and his idiot friend.”
Now, here is where I was: A few weeks before what might have sounded like my hallucinogenic experience in the desert, Caveman asked me if someone offered me $1 million tax-free dollars with the one and only caveat that I must leave the U.S. and never, under any circumstances, return, would I take the money and run? And if so, where would I go? Caveman said he’d snap up the dough in a heartbeat and depart for Spain. Actually, he said España, recalling fondly the naps and wine from a stopover when he was an airman on the aircraft carrier U.S.S. America.
As the Wine Wagon pulled away, I pictured Caveman sitting in the shade of an olive tree in España, pouring himself generous goblets of sangria and wearing a button-up shirt, perhaps with flowers or monkeys on it. This was truly a fantasy, as I don’t know if olive trees grow tall enough to sit under, and I believe the only time I ever witnessed Caveman wearing a shirt with buttons was when I served as best man at his wedding.
Toward the end of this year, Caveman’s daughter will wed, and I will once again have the rare opportunity to see him in a button-up shirt. Until then, when I loll about, and the sun is warm, I shall occasionally mix up a pitcher of sangria and drink to the idea of him perhaps one day sitting on his pile of money in Spain and toasting me back here in the States. Salud!
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Sangria recipes are limitness, but here’s a quick, easy, Caveman-approved approach.
Start with a glass pitcher, because sangria is as much about the visual splendor as the taste. Here are the basics:
1/3 cup quality brandy
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
750ml bottle Spanish Rioja
1 Cinnamon stick
Thinly slice the orange and lemon. Dice up a peach and an apple. Dice, as in squares. Put the fruit in the pitcher, add brandy, sugar and orange juice. Use whatever is handy, preferably a wooden spoon, and mash up the fruit a bit. Pour in a full bottle of young Rioja, drop in a cinnamon stick, stir it all up Let it sit in the fridge for three hours or so. When you’re ready to drink, slice up some more fruit to garnish to taste, and pour over ice in whatever glass strikes your fancy.