There is something about fall that just begs for a good pitcher cocktail to serve to a crowd. Holiday gatherings, pumpkin carving parties, Friendsgiving dinners—all are wonderful occasions to whip out a beautiful pitcher full of a festive drink. Our latest crowd-pleasing autumnal sip is this incredibly easy to make Apple Cider Sangria!
This red wine sangria is seasoned with traditional fall spices and sweetened with rich brown sugar and tart apple cider. And it takes less than five minutes to whip up an entire pitcher. Let’s make some sangria!
What is sangria?
Sangria is a wine-based cocktail that originated in Spain. Traditionally, it uses red wine over rosé or white wine, and includes fresh citrus and other fruits.
We’ve posted our adaptations of a traditional sangria before—a rosé version and a white wine variation, both focused on fall produce. Apparently, we consider autumn to be sangria season over here! Today, we are moving closer to sangria’s roots with a red wine-based cocktail recipe.
What is the best red wine for sangria?
Thanks to its Spanish origins, a full-bodied Spanish red wine is a natural choice for sangria. However, you can use any dry red wine that you enjoy the flavor of. We do recommend making sure to choose a dry wine—a sweet or even semi-dry wine will make for a very sweet sangria in the end. You want to still be able to enjoy the tartness of the wine and apple in this dish!
We tested this recipe multiple times with Cabernet Sauvignon with wonderful results! A Merlot, Shiraz, or Malbec would all work well, too.
What is in this apple cider sangria recipe?
To make this sangria, you’ll need:
- Fruit: This cocktail calls for orange, pear, and apple slices.
- Wine: Choose a full-bodied red for sangria—you’ll need a full 750 mL bottle
- Apple Cider: It can’t be an apple cider sangria without the cider! You’ll want unsweetened apple cider, not apple juice.
- Spices: To play up the autumnal vibes, we included some warm fall spices. You’ll need cinnamon sticks, star anise pods, and whole cloves.
- Brown Sugar: A little sweetener will bring everything together.
We opt to use whole spices here to keep the sangria from getting a gritty texture, as it would with ground spices.
How is apple cider different than apple juice?
Typically, it all comes down to how much the apples were processed. Apple cider is made of freshly pressed apples, with minimal filtering and no added sugar or preservatives. It tastes just like biting into a fresh apple. Apple juice, on the other hand, is filtered and often sweetened. It usually contains preservatives to make it shelf-stable as well. Apple juice is typically sweeter and lighter in color than apple cider, and has a less pronounced apple flavor.
How to make cider sangria
You ready for this? Here’s how easy it is to make apple cider sangria:
- Slice the fruit into thin slices.
- Mix together the fruit and brown sugar in the bottom of a large pitcher for at least an hour. You may be tempted to skip this step, but macerating, or soaking, the fruit this way will make the fruit release its juices. Without this soaking step, you won’t be able to taste the fruit much!
- Add in the whole spices.
- Pour in the apple cider.
- Pour in the wine.
- Stir well to combine, and then refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.
Don’t skip refrigerating the sangria for at least an hour before serving, to give the flavors time to meld. The difference in flavor is huge!
How should I serve this apple cider sangria?
You can serve this sangria at room temperature or chilled—although we don’t recommend serving it over ice to avoid watering it down. Ladle out the wine into wine glasses or low-ball glasses. Garnish with fresh fruit slices and a cinnamon stick.
Can I double this recipe?
This sangria recipe as written will be a plenty big batch to serve 4-6 people, but if you’re making this for a big Thanksgiving dinner party or other fall gathering, you can absolutely scale this recipe up as much as you’d like. Just make sure your pitcher is large enough!
If you are really making it for a crowd, this sangria recipe (and all sangrias) work wonderfully in a drink dispenser jar with a spout. This is how we serve sangria at Thanksgiving dinner each year! Triple this recipe to fill up a one gallon drink dispenser.
Is apple cider sangria best served cold?
Traditionally, sangria is served cold. If you’re looking for a fall cocktail that is better suited for a chilly day, try our bourbon-spiked apple cider instead!
What other alcohol is good with apple cider?
Apple cider is one of our favorite fall cocktail mixers! Here are some of our favorite cocktail creations with apple cider:
- Apple Cider Mimosa. Just two ingredients stand between you and this fall mimosa.
- Apple Cider Hot Toddy. Warm up after an afternoon at the pumpkin patch with this bourbon-based hot toddy.
- Bourbon Spiked Apple Cider. Classic apple pie spices bring a comforting warmth to this spiked cider, complete with brown sugar rim.
- Autumn Apple Rosé Sangria. This fall sangria calls for rosé wine and brandy, as opposed to the red wine we use in this one.
- Pumpkin Spice Sangria. Looking for a white wine sangria for fall? This one’s your answer—it uses a dry or semi-dry white wine (like Sauvignon Blanc) and spiced rum for the alcohol, and pumpkin pie syrup for even more fall flavor.
- Apple Whiskey Moscow Mule. Ginger beer fans will love this autumnal twist on a classic Moscow Mule.