Creating Experiences – The Wild Rose Sangria

I had the pleasure of serving on a fundraising event committee recently for the Susquehanna Waldorf School.  My wife teaches there and three of my children attend. One of the tasks I volunteered for was to help acquire beverages for this family, alumni, and supporters event and I was tasked specifically with providing a \”house cocktail\”.  The theme of the event had something to do with wildflowers and sowing seeds so I felt particularly inspired.

I\’ve never been called a \”mixologist\” but I seem to have taken on that role one Sunday afternoon as I distributed a collection of ingredients and started testing combinations and quantities of each.

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I was provided with bourbon and rosé wine so that was my base. I did a bit of recipe research and found a few rosé/bourbon sangria recipes as a starting point and went from there.  At its core, sangria is wine and fruit juice and sometimes a hard liquor for some kick.  If you are interested in reading more about the history of sangria, Here\’s a lovely article on that.  What I wanted to do is create something that had a wild, perennial and locally sourced element to it because I had a captive audience… and because I think these three elements are important in regenerative efforts.

I was trying to create an intimate sensory experience of wild landscapes.

This forces a conversation between nature and the isolated human.  Like a starry-eyed matchmaker, I let them meet and hope that something beautiful blossoms! Although many of the Waldorf school crowd has a great relationship with nature, we have to meet nature time and time again and in different ways to strengthen that relationship.

These are the wild ingredients I played with:

  • Local Honey
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Elderberries
  • Yarrow
  • Mountain Mint
  • Homemade Bitters

It didn\’t take me long to remove the bitters and mint from the mix.  The bitters had some ginger and other ingredients that weren\’t local and weren\’t really wild and in such large quantities, I wasn\’t sure I had enough. I felt I needed to choose between the mint and some of the other flavors and wanted to simplify the recipe.

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From the dried Yarrow flowers which were harvested from my Garden last year, I made a tea. Yarrow is a very beneficial plant to grow and have in your garden. It accumulates nutrients from the soil and can be made into compost. It has a lovely flowery aroma fresh or in tea and has medicinal properties which include improving circulation and digestion! Not bad for a dinner party!  The amount we ended up using was just enough to provide an earthy and flowery tone to the drink.

\"IMG_2001\"The Elderberries, also from my garden, were reduced into a juice. (Note: I am selling elderberry cuttings on Etsy if interested!) The elderberries were my berry component and also have medicinal properties.  The Wellness Mama has a great recipe for elderberry syrup to be used during cold and flu season. I love her blog and don\’t see any reason to reinvent the wheel so go there if you want to make some of that!

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Having none in my pantry, I put out the request for Staghorn Sumac and Alyson Earl from the Horn Farm Center for Agricultural Education came through.  She brought me several \”horns\” that had been harvested from the center.  Sumac is an amazing wild forest understory and edge perennial which I intend to write more about in the near future after I experience it a little more deeply.

We always keep lots of local honey around.  Ridiculous amounts, actually 🙂 and Lancaster County really has quite a steady supply of that.  We\’re lucky.  So I didn\’t go as far as collecting this myself from my own bees but the sentiment is there!

I started combining my chosen ingredients with the base and iterated on the recipe. Too sweet, too earthy, to much juice, too much booze.

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The Sangria was a hit!  People were certainly talking about it. In some cases, these people were very familiar with wild edibles and for others, a completely new experience having those flavors in their drink.

Here\’s that recipe!

  • One bottle of  rosé wine
  • 1 cup of bourbon
  • 2 cups of sparkling mineral water
  • 1 cup sumac lemonade
  • 1/2 cup of elderberry juice
  • 1/2 cup of strong yarrow tea
  • 1/2 cup of local raw honey

Experiment with local flavors and just do what you can. I could have made wine with wild grapes but that wasn\’t feasible for me at the time.  I just want to encourage everyone to be wild and be regenerative but don\’t let perfection be the enemy of progress.  If you want to read more about wild beverages and wild fermentation, I highly recommend Pascal Baudaur\’s book, Wild Fermentation!  You can also listen to this INSPIRING podcast by Scott Mann of the Permaculture Podcast.

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