Drink of the week: Cava Sangria
Where you can find it: Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba.
The damage: $7.50 per glass or $15.50 for a half-pitcher that's perfect for sharing.
Why here? I recently attended an outdoor wedding in Michigan that was exactly my kind of affair: The couple had a pre-vows cocktail hour, when guests got to dig into a punch bowl brimming with peach sangria. The way the fresh peaches floated on top of the icy liquid, it was as if everything I love about summer had manifested itself in drink form. A day later and back in Chicago, I still couldn't get the fruity drink off my mind, so my friends and I headed to Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba for a pitcher of the stuff and some $3 tapas.
How it went down: I've been to Ba-Ba-Reeba a handful of times, and while it's not my favorite tapas restaurant in the city, its always-reliable sangria and discounted tapas everyday from 4-6 p.m. make it a worthwhile stop. The $3 tapas are only available in the bar area, so we bellied up to the warm-wood bar, climbing on top of stools that look like chairs you'd find in a schoolroom circa 1953. Before cracking open the tapas menu, we scanned the sangria options, which included the standard white or red, as well as peach, black raspberry and passion fruit flavors and one made with cava. We went with the last one; adding sparkling wine to an already refreshing drink seemed to make so much sense.
We peered past a set of hanging cured pig legs to watch the bartender make the sangria. He poured a few spoonfuls of sugar into the bottom of the clear pitcher, poured a hefty amount of Chambord (black raspberry liqueur) on top of it, and then added a shot of the Spanish citrus-tinged liqueur Licor 43 before topping it all off with cava and a handful of green apple and lemon slices. The Chambord sunk to the bottom, so the first glass tasted mostly of cava, a crisp, dry sparkling wine that seemed all the more refreshing on ice. Once we did get a hefty hit of raspberry from the Chambord, the dryness of the wine worked well to tame its sweetness, while the citrus from the Licor 43 added an additional layer of flavor.
Would I want to become a regular? We settled on a few tapas and started to snack on the complimentary bread that we dipped into plates of olive oil. It was a good thing we had the bread, too. When the tapas arrived, they took the 'small' in 'small plates' to a whole different level. Half a tomato rested atop a tiny pile of tuna and only a few goat-cheese crumbles crowned the roasted eggplant. We did get enough olives to make dirty martinis for the entire restaurant, though, and to be fair, we got what we paid for. Besides, we weren’t really there for the food anyway; relaxing with a pitcher of sangria as we watched family after family pile in for the dinner rush provided endless entertainment until it was time to head back outside and soak in more of the summer.
Dana Kavan scours the city for drink deals so good you'll offer to buy a round and creative libations that outshine your average on-the-rocks concoctions. Want to give Dana tips on where to rack up a bar tab? Share your finds before her next night out.