'Outlaw' sangria legalized in Virginia

That old evil sangria will become legal in Virginia on Tuesday, July 1.

Sangria? Evil? An illegal drink?

True. Since the 1930s, the wine- and spirit-based punch has been illegal under state regulations forbidding the mixing of wine with distilled spirits. The law was changed, thanks to state Delegate Adam Ebbin (D-49th District).

The Alexandria Gazette Packet, which inadvertently kicked off the campaign, reports:

"The time was 5:20 p.m. on a gusty December afternoon in 2006 when Special Agent Katherine Matikonis walked into La Tasca Restaurant on King Street in Old Town. She sat down and ordered sangria, a cocktail that was illegal at the time — forbidden under 1930s regulations encouraging temperance.

"Matikonis charged the restaurant with multiple code violations, initiating a widespread confrontation between regulators and restaurateurs that would culminate in a statewide legislative effort earlier this year. Fortunately for La Tasca and every other restaurant that wants to serve the traditional Spanish drink, the sangria legalization effort of 2008 was a success."

Richard Jarrouj, manager of the Piola Pizzeria in Arlington, told the newspaper. "This whole thing has been just totally absurd."

His restaurant had to take sangria off the menu earlier this year after getting a cease-and-desist letter from state regulators. "Our customers thought it was totally ridiculous when we told them ... ."

After being asked by the newspaper for his reaction to the ban, Ebbin met with several restaurant operators then crafted language that became House Bill 1269. It was passed by the General Assembly with little opposition.

As the Web site WineIntro.com explains it:

"Sangria recipes are the inspiration for many red wine punch styles. Sangria was created in Spain and made popular in the U.S. at the 1964 World's Fair. It normally has red wine, brandy, and fruit. However, it can be made in just about any style you can imagine. Sangria is based on the traditional red wine punch popular across Europe for hundreds of years. ... Sangria can be made in any number of styles, from spicy to mild to rich to bubbly. You can make sangria with red wine, white wine, and even sparkling wine. ..."

Go here for the particualrs of various sangria recipes, ranging from the simple to the complex.

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