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Food & Drink

Toronto bars are giving sangria—the ultimate summer sipper—a glow-up

Featuring wine selections, bar recommendations and refreshing twists on the classic patio cocktail

By Kate Dingwall| Photography by Ashley van der Laan
Toronto bars are giving sangria—the ultimate summer sipper—a glow-up

Sangria doesn’t require a lot of skill or special ingredients: wine, juice, spirits, fruit. It’s basically a clean-out-the-fridge drink. But, this summer, the city’s bartenders have conjured up some sangria-like concoctions that raise the cocktail to new heights.

For her Shiso 75, Cocktail Bar manager Juliana Wolkowski takes a standard French 75—gin and bubbles—and adds elderflower, shiso and a splash of Sauvignon Blanc. It’s fizzy and floral, with just a hint of grassiness. Bar Raval conjures up something called a Kalimotxo A-Go-Go, a mix of red wine, a toasted coconut amaro blend and house-made white cola. Don’t knock it till you try it: the cola quenches, and the wine balances out the sugary soda.

Bar Habana's Sangre de Vida, their signature sangria cocktail
Bar Habana’s Sangre de Vida

And then there’s the Sangre de Vida cocktail at the recently opened Bar Habana, a Cuban speakeasy tucked behind La Cubana on Ossington. Bar manager Joshua Evangelista was inspired by the Ten Years’ War, Cuba’s fight for independence from Spain. A garnish of cherry pierced by a tiny sword symbolizes the sacrifices; the Spanish wine, the blood. Made with rye vodka, orgeat, clear sour syrup, cherry liqueur and a dry red wine, it’s essentially a vanilla-vodka highball with a red wine float. “Give it a stir to mix the ingredients and bring the drink to life,” says general manager Aldrin Cortez. It’s your student-era sangria, all grown up.


Three Ontario-made bottles for your sangria starter kit


Toronto bars are giving sangria—the ultimate summer sipper—a glow-up

Rosehall Run’s Rosé of Pinot This lively Pinot Noir rosé is already a poolside-sipping juice in its own right. But pair the Prince Edward County bottle with white vermouth, soda, swirls of cucumber and sprigs of mint to level up the refreshment. $24. rosehallrun.com

Toronto bars are giving sangria—the ultimate summer sipper—a glow-up

Traynor Vineyard’s Gamay Noir To parlay this juicy, acid-driven red into a daytime drink, fill a glass with ice and add equal parts wine and lemon soda to make a Tinto de Verano. A few curls of lemon peel wouldn’t hurt. $20. traynorvineyard.com

Toronto bars are giving sangria—the ultimate summer sipper—a glow-up

Paradise Grapevine’s Party Favour The name of this Toronto-made orange blend says it all. Start with lots of ice, then add orange liqueur and a splash of Barbet’s Wild Card, a blood orange sparkling water with a kick of calamansi and jalapeno. $28. shop.paradisegrapevine.com

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More places to satiate the sangria-starved


Eataly: La Bicicletta—a legendary Italian aperitivo named after bike-riding barflies—combines Campari, soda water and orange bitters with a float of Tiberio Cerasuolo d’Abruzzo.

Casa Paco: Bar manager Tommy Conrad’s Vin Suave is a zero-proof sipper made with seasonal fermented fruits, vegetables and herbs for a wine-like sip.

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