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

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

Bar Habana manager Joshua Evangelista

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.

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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

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.

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.

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.

Related: Toronto bars are going cuckoo for coconut

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.