The Happiest Hours: Like an old (old) friend, Sangaree

According to Stephanie Schorow, author of Drinking Bostoncolonists believed that drinking some form of liquor was safer than drinking water—and if you are at all familiar with the state of urban planning in those days, you surely can’t blame them. Colonial Bostonians  drank cider, punch, grog, Madeira, sherry toddy, claret, brandy, “Jonava” or gin, spiced mead, home-brewed beer, ale, and sangaree.


Sangaree is not simply Colonial Era Sangria, though it is a sweet, chilled beverage often made of wine and/or other alcoholic liquor and grated nutmeg. It was popular from the 1700s until Prohibition, when Volstead and his gang drained the spirits from our nation. In How to Mix Drinks by Jerry Thomas, originally published in 1862, there are six versions of the cocktail using port wine, sherry, brandy, gin, ale, and porter. Modern bartenders have reinvented this lost libation with recipes that use just about any ingredient you can imagine (think: peach brandy, bourbon, whiskey, gin, and check out the recipe for Jim Meehan’s Noveau Sangaree, which calls for Beaujolais Nouveau, Plymouth Sloe Gin, and an apple slice.) We’re especially intrigued by Ted Haigh’s Apple Ginger Sangaree, published in Imbibe Magazine, which calls for Applejack and ginger wine, delivering those warm autumnal flavors we can’t get enough of. (That, and a spiced wine seems perfect during these crazy in-between warm and cold, quick to sundown days.)

Apple Ginger Sangaree
Recipe by Ted Haigh, Imbibe Magazine

1/4 tsp. sugar (or dash of simple syrup)
2 oz. apple brandy (or applejack or Calvados)
1 1/2 oz. ginger wine
Lemon wedge
Cracked ice

Fill a double rocks glass with cracked ice. Combine ingredients in the glass, squeeze and drop in a lemon wedge. Stir and garnish with freshly grated nutmeg.

If you don’t feel up to attempting your own Sangaree, we recommend you try the drink at either Backbar in Somerville or Drink in Fort Point—where bartenders are guaranteed to respond to such a request with hushed appreciation as opposed to dumbfounded consternation… “Um, you mean, sangria, right?”

 For more about the history of Boston’s nightclubs and classic drinks like Sangaree, pick up a copy of Drinking Boston: A History of the City and Its Spirits, by Stephanie Schorow. To help you explore the Hub’s best bars (both historic and contemporary) download our free smartphone app. Cheers!

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