Craft Cocktail: Sangria at Cafe Ena

Cafe Ena serves a traditional Spanish sangria // Photo by Daniel Murphy

Cafe Ena serves a traditional Spanish sangria // Photo by Daniel Murphy

Hector Ruiz // Photo by Daniel Murphy

Hector Ruiz // Photo by Daniel Murphy

“I bought El Meson 12 years ago, and that’s where it all started,” says Hector Ruiz, smiling at the bar of Cafe Ena in South Minneapolis. When he took over, El Meson had been serving boxed sangria. Ruiz figured he could do better.

He began tweaking a recipe that would become a staple at all four of his concurrent restaurants, which include Cafe Ena, Rincon 38, La Fresca, and La Ceiba Bistro. (El Meson closed in 2012.) At Cafe Ena, they serve about five gallons of sangria on a normal winter weekend. In the summer, it’s closer to 15.

“It’s traditional Spanish sangria,” Ruiz says. “We use really earthy wines—tempranillo and Rioja for reds, and verdejo for white.” Whichever wines you might use, make sure they’re bone dry and have lots of tannin and body. The drink will get much lighter and sweeter as you add the other ingredients. And remember, sangria is an art, not a science. You’ll have to adjust the quantities and zero in on the way you like it—the same way Ruiz has been for the last decade-plus.

“2015 was really great,” Ruiz says. “Now we’re opening a new [restaurant]. They say I’m a South Minneapolis guy, but we’re going to Northeast. Hopefully first week of March, opening restaurant number five.” I’ll give you one guess as to which drink will be most popular there on opening day.


Cafe Ena Sangria by Daniel Murphy21

Cafe Ena’s sangria // Photo by Daniel Murphy


  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 1 bottle white wine
  • ¼ cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • ⅓ cup sugar
  • Brandy (or dark rum, sherry, or reposado tequila)
  • Sparkling water
  • Fruit


Chop up whatever fruit you have lying around (Granny Smith apples and orange wedges are nice) and add them to a large pitcher with a splash of brandy (or rum, or whatever booze floats your boat).

Fruit in sangria // Photo by Daniel Murphy

Fruit in sangria // Photo by Daniel Murphy

Add the wine and juices. Slowly add the sugar, tasting until it reaches your desired sweetness, and then add sparkling water to your desired dilution.

Fill wine glasses with ice and fruit chunks, add sangria, and serve.

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John Garland About John Garland

John Garland is the Deputy Editor at the Growler Magazine. Find him on twitter (@johnpgarland) or in every coffee shop on West 7th Street.

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