A Fall Sangria Recipe Inspired By a Happy Hour Favorite

Photo Credit: Oksana Mizina/Shutterstock


Today is National Happy Hour Day, so I’d like to raise a glass and toast my favorite fall sangria. I first tasted this red wine sangria years ago in Washington, D.C., and I’ve used the restaurant’s method ever since. This fall sangria is perfect for a holiday dinner, friendsgiving, or just for a cozy evening curled up on the couch with a holiday movie. Loaded with oranges, cinnamon, and a few secret ingredients, it’s been a favorite in our household for many years.

Cheers to Memorable Happy Hours

I spent a few months working in Washington, D.C., when I was in grad school, and my roommates and I had a favorite happy hour spot in the Navy Yard district that we’d go to every week. Their sangria was our go-to choice because it was delicious, flavorful, and (let’s be honest) the pitchers were half-off. On a grad student budget, it was absolutely perfect.

My roommates and I would meet up after work, order a round with some wings, and chat about our days. We had been total strangers when we were randomly assigned shared housing. We came from universities all over the country and had different academic backgrounds, but we had a great time getting to know each other over these pitchers. One day during our happy hour, I watched the restaurant’s bartender make the sangria at the bar and was totally amazed by the nontraditional ingredients they included. It seemed a little unconventional, but the flavors totally worked!

The Secret Ingredients

While traditional sangria recipes call for fruit, wine, and sometimes brandy, this one is a bit different. This recipe has both orange and grape soda for a little extra flavor. The soda emphasizes the grapes from the wine and adds sweetness from the orange. I wish I could take credit for inventing this one — the restaurant we’d frequent for happy hour made it up. It’s sweet, bubbly, perfectly spiced, and so refreshing.

I use tart fall apples and oranges in this recipe. Adding cinnamon and studding the apples with cloves gives this sangria an extra hint of autumn flavor. I like to chill it so for a refreshing cocktail to enjoy when guests first arrive or during appetizers. It brings some major “mulled wine” vibes to the table but without all the work of keeping the wine warm on the stove. It’s simple to make, fairly inexpensive, and a definite crowd-pleasing drink that guests can self-serve.

This fall sangria is a great option for your next gathering or holiday meal with guests. I serve it when we have company, and it always receives rave reviews. For me, it’s more than just an entertaining recipe — it transports me back to the many happy hours I enjoyed during my time in Washington, D.C. So, cheers to good friends, great times, and a glass of delicious sangria.

Fall Sangria Recipe

Prep time: 5 minutes


  • 1 750 ml bottle red wine (I like Pinot Noir or Burgundy)
  • 2 oranges, sliced, with peels left on
  • 2 apples, cut into large slices
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 12-ounce can grape soda
  • 1 12-ounce can orange soda


  1. In a large pitcher or glass dispenser, pour in the wine. 
  2. Slice the oranges and apples. Measure out 1 teaspoon of cloves, and press the cloves into the apple peels so that they are secured in the apples. Add the orange and apple slices to the wine.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well to combine. Chill and serve over ice.

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