Chef's no-alcohol sangria is a festive, healthful choice

Posted: December 29, 2011

Like many people, I use the start of the new year to assess my life and zero in on the things I want to change. For 2012, I want to focus on being healthier, continue exercising, maintain a healthy weight, and spend more time with family and friends.

And there's no need to wait for Jan. 1 to get started. Granted, the onslaught of holiday parties - and the many cocktails they offer - can make that a challenge. But I believe you can make sensible choices and still enjoy a party.

That's why I came up with this recipe for no-alcohol sangria, based on the popular Spanish fruit-and-wine punch. It's darn delicious, and family and friends will knock you down to get second and third glasses. And at only 43 calories a glass - downsized from the average 170 calories for traditional recipes - there's nothing wrong with that.

My sangria's sweetness and fruity flavor start with two good-for-you teas - pomegranate and hibiscus.

I also add flavor with fruit - citrus, berries, and melon. Feel free to add your favorite fruits. That's the versatility of sangria; it tastes delicious with any combination of fruit. And if you want an even lower-calorie drink, don't eat the fruit, and the calories drop to 22 per serving, with just 5 grams of carbohydrates.

I've added aromatic bitters for a subtle flavor edge. There's a myth about bitters, that using them will make a drink, well, bitter. Not true. They're really just a seasoning for beverages. Bitters are made from an infusion of roots, barks, fruit peels, and herbs. If you can't drink even the tiniest amount of alcohol, buy no-alcohol bitters; they are a little difficult to find, but taste just as good.

There's so much healthy stuff in this recipe, I'm beginning to think that it's less a cocktail than a health drink. So fill your glass and enjoy!

A tip: If you have a home carbonation appliance for making seltzer water and the manufacturer says it can be used to carbonate liquids other than plain water (some appliances can do this, but others cannot), you can carbonate the sangria itself instead of making a concentrate and adding carbonated water to it.

To do this, prepare the tea as directed using 3 cups of water. After chilling, strain out the fruit; carbonate, then pour into glasses with ice and divide the fruit between the glasses.

    


New Year's Resolution Sangria

Makes 4 servings

1 cup water

3 bags pomegranate tea

3 bags hibiscus and rose-hip tea

6 packets stevia sweetener powder

1 tablespoon agave nectar

1 teaspoon aromatic bitters (such as Angostura)

11/2 cups fresh cut-up fruit (such as citrus, grapes, apples, berries, melon)

5 sprigs fresh mint

2 cups seltzer water

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 cup of water to a simmer. Remove from heat and add all 6 tea bags. Cover and let steep for 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags, pressing them to extract as much liquid as possible. Stir in the stevia, agave, and bitters. Add the fruit and 1 sprig of mint. Cover and chill 4 to 24 hours.

2. When you're ready to serve, fill 4 tumblers a third of the way with ice, then divide the chilled tea and fruit among the glasses. Add 1/2 cup of seltzer water and 1 mint sprig to each glass.

Per serving : 43 calories; no fat; no cholesterol; 10 grams carbohydrate; no protein; 1 gram fiber; 2 milligrams sodium.


Rocco DiSpirito is author of the "Now Eat This!" and "Now Eat This! Diet" cookbooks.

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