A cardboard box sits on top of a beat-up Ikea coffee table in a freshman common room. Franzia — ambrosia of the gods to some, slightly more elegant than a 30-rack of keystone light to others. This box of “the world’s most famous wine,” paired with a slim selection of Polly-O string cheese, enables Yalies to proclaim themselves both ironic and moderately classy. But while $11.99 can get you five liters of medium-bodied red wine straight from the American heartland of Cutler, California, it will leave you with the aftertaste of “cheap, bitter bullshit,” in the words of one Yale sophomore.
But what can we expect from college? Gatorade coolers filled with grain alcohol and tampico, yes; bottles of Merlot and Rioja in granite ice-chests, no. Even a one-liter bottle of 2007 [yellow tail] shiraz manages to scream “pretentious douche-bag,” despite its dry, bitter Australian taste.
At Barcelona Wine Bar, charismatic, crewcutted bartender Joe asserts that late-night college loungers ordering port by the glass seem too young to have a developed palate for wine. Awkwardly swirling and sniffing their glasses, preppy undergrads struggle to ascertain whether thick legs of residue remind them of a full-bodied red wine that will beautifully complement their steak or a full-bodied brunette that gracefully exited their cramped twin-XL bed after a long night of penis-to-the-thigh grinds at Toad’s.
Luckily, hidden inside that same recyclable box of tooth-staining Franzia lies the middle ground between Natty Light’s carbonated piss-in-a-can and Sauvignon Blanc’s ode to the stuck-up prick from Greenwich, Connecticut. For Franzia red is the main ingredient in a refreshing Sangria, perfect for a community-building pre-game or large plastic punch bowl in a strobe-lit common room.
Joe found wine in his late twenties, after coming to terms with the fact that shotgunning beers ill-fits a man with slowly but surely thinning hair. “It’s all about goals,” says Joe, multi-tasking behind Barcelona’s smooth, white granite bar.
If that Friday night objective involves getting a little tipsy over a Sabbath offering of schnitzel and crispy ramen salad, go for the bottle; or if you’re trying to get drunk while maintaining some self-respect, grab a plastic bucket, some Franzia, triple-sec, brandy, rum, tequila, Sprite, sugar and dining hall fruit, and you’ll have yourself $49 of glory.
With some mild encouragement from Joe, I set off on a sangria-making adventure with several Yalies and one wide-eyed Cantab.
First came the all-important trip to Broadway Liquor, where “luscious booties and eager-to-please salespeople” stare inquisitively as they receive payment for five different types of alcohol. The mustachioed man behind the counter asks: “Why all of this alcohol?” While the obvious response may be a quick flash of a patchily haired chest and the proclamation “I’m a man!” this meek little Cubs fan replies, “We’re making sangria.” A grin, followed by a nod of approval, recognizes that yes, this drink may be sweet and a little bit fruity, but it should not be viewed as a girlie drink.
While Harvard sophomore Carolina Franch noted that the fruit at the top of a glass of sangria gives it a “fun and playful touch,” Texas-raised Yale Skeet and Trap shooter Ryan Carlisle ’11 remarked that for male drinkers the fruit can be “classy” and, if time permits, “eaten after finishing a tall glass.” Cutting up kosher kitchen apples with a dull butter knife, Carlisle’s dedication to what many girls view as a mere garnish proves much deeper: “The fruit cutting is truly the hardest part of sangria making. The rest is just pouring alcohol into a bucket.”
The bottom line is you can’t pre-game with a nice bottle of wine, and you can’t cozy up with an ice-cold can of the “Always Smooth” Keystone Light or a solo cup filled with Everclear-fueled jungle juice. So take an extra five minutes of preparation and produce delightful sangria that fits just as neatly on that beat-up Ikea coffee table as it does in a fine glass carafe. And hold on for the boxed wine revolution.