During the breezy summer months, at bistros along Uruguay’s nearly 250 miles of coastline patrons indulge in chilled pitchers of refreshing clericó. The country is known for Tannat, but its beloved white wine sangria is a summertime staple. The fruity wine spritz is enjoyed at weddings, holiday parties or just to commemorate a picture-perfect day by the sea.
“Clericó was born in the Río de la Plata region when it was controlled by the British colonialists who drank claret cups,” says Guillermo Cardozo, an Uruguayan bartender and consultant. Claret cups were made with claret wine, sugar, apple juice, lemon and sparkling water. Spanish speakers took to calling the drink clericó, eventually substituting red claret with inexpensive dry white wine, a dash of sweet liquor and an abundance of fresh fruits.
“I use native herbs and Albariño wine to prepare clericó,” says Cardozo. He adds a unique touch with green apple slices, lemon wheels, cucumber, pineapple and rosemary. Sometimes, Cardozo uses sparkling wine paired with strong aromatics like clove and vanilla with caramel.
For a traditional clericó, select fruits like strawberries, apples, pears, oranges, kiwis, mangoes, pineapples and peaches. The more succulent the fruit, the more alcohol it absorbs.
“To extract the flavor, macerate by muddling the fruits with the sugar and a little liquor inside a pitcher,” says Cardozo.
Clericó is more flavorful when the fruit has time to infuse with the wine, so resist the urge to serve it immediately.
“Add ice to glasses before pouring, rather than putting ice in the pitcher,” says Cardozo. He also advises to not eat the fruit until the pitcher is empty to allow it to thoroughly marinate.
Though it can be made many different ways, clericó remains a traditional summer beverage in Uruguay that many grow up enjoying. Here’s how to make it at home.
- ½ pound in-season fruits, like green apple, lemon and cucumber
- 3 ounces triple sec
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- 1 bottle dry white wine
- ½ cup lemon-lime soda
Wash and cut all fruit into similar-sized cubes. Place fruit in 2-liter glass pitcher. Add sugar and triple sec. Stir with long wooden spoon until sugar dissolves. Mash fruit with spoon, and pour in wine and lemon-lime soda. Stir for at least 1 minute.
Refrigerate at least 2 hours, or ideally overnight. Serve chilled in white wine glass over ice. Use spoon to place small amount of wine-soaked fruit in each glass.