Cheerwine Sangria

Cheerwine Sangria

While on tour we ate our weight at an excellent Spanish tapas joint in Durham, N.C. called Mateo. Truly amazing food and we washed it down with a couple of pitchers of Cheerwine Sangria, which is one of those ideas that’s so brilliant that it actually hurts me to not have thought of it. Of course, I respect them far too much to actually ask for the recipe, but that doesn’t keep me from trying to hack it from memory. I think this gets pretty darned close. Of course you can and should use fresh fruit as desired and as is available, but I wanted to start from a democratic baseline so I went with frozen fruit, which I always have on hand.

Cheerwine Sangria
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  1. 1 bottle of red wine (any Spanish blend will do but Rioja is especially appropriate)
  2. 4 ounces triple sec (or any orange liqueur)
  3. 2 ounces brandy
  4. 1 teaspoon cherry bitters
  5. 4 ounces frozen peaches, chopped
  6. 4 ounces frozen mango, chopped
  7. 8-10 basil leaves, roughly torn into large pieces
  8. 1 orange, halved then quartered
  9. 1 orange, halved and thinly sliced
  10. 2 (12 ounce) bottles/cans Cheerwine, chilled*
  1. Stir the first 7 ingredients together in a large pitcher and chill at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. When ready to serve, skim the basil off the surface with a spoon or small strainer.
  3. Divide the fruit from the pitcher into 8 large wine glasses and top with 4 ounces of the wine mixture, followed by 3 ounces of Cheerwine.
  4. Finish by squeezing an orange quarter into each of the glasses (I usually let the drinkers do this) and garnish with an orange slice.
  5. Drink and repeat (responsibly of course, which means hide all the car keys).
  1. * Cheerwine is a wild cherry-flavored cola out of Salisbury, N.C. It used to only be available in the South, but it's slowly spreading due to the interest in heritage soda pops. If you can't find it locally consider ordering online. Do not … I repeat, do not use cherry Coke.
Adapted from Inspired by Mateo’s in Durham, NC
Adapted from Inspired by Mateo’s in Durham, NC


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  1. 2

    Made this not long ago, and it’s exquisite. Not too sweet and super quenching. Made Cheerwine believers out of a lot of people!

  2. 3
    Carol D L,

    Trying the Cheerwine Sangris tonite..fresh peaches and mangoes, thank God we have Cheerwine, here in FL now a Pepsi product..can’t wait till evening..Love to watch you make food such fun..

  3. 4

    Great timing, Mr. Brown & fab kitchen genies! Gonna make a pitcher or two for housewarming party…was looking for a way to try some NC Cheerwine for the first time. Thanks ya’ll!

  4. 6

    So off topic question for Mr. Brown. This is going to sound slightly creepy but if you could respond it would settle a long running debate.
    6-7 years ago I took my daughter Amanda to see Phantom of the opera in Durham. During intermission we went to the lobby to get some drinks, my daughter excused herself to use the restroom but in her absence I swore I saw you. When my daughter returned I said guess who is here, Alton brown. She gave me this doubtful face, you had just went into the men’s restroom. I said to her “wait here, I’ll bird dog him and flush him out.”
    Well the restroom was packed with people so I gave up on the idea quickly and returned to her and said we will watch the doors he will come out. Once again she made a face at me and urged us to our seats, forever doubting me.
    For the record do you remember being in Durham Nov-Dec for phantom of the opera?

  5. 7
    Bunnie Chambers

    AB ….
    So glad to learn you are a Cheerwine fan as well! My parents have actually had to ship it to me when I lived in NW Arkansas and Central Illinois. It is still a tad difficult to find in Atlanta … Oddly enough.

    • 8

      I am in Central IL and of all places, Rural King carries Cheerwine! They now have a small section of new and old-fashioned sodas. Have never tried it personally, but now have an excuse to buy a few bottles.

  6. 9

    Alright northerners. Cheerwine is closer to a cherry Dr. Pepper flavor than anything else but it is not the same. If you want the real thing order it online.

  7. 10
    Cathy Powell

    Cheerwine is notoriously hard to open – especially the plastic bottles (glass bottles are old time cane sugar sweetened.) Open carefully over a sink and preferably well chilled or you will get a soda shower!

  8. 13
    Big Mike

    Can’t wait to try it. Here in Chicago we will have to substitute at least something for Cheerwine. Now a have a few do’s and don’ts. Thanks Alton and gang.

  9. 15
    M. BROWN

    We lived in NC in the late 80’s and came to love Cheerwine punch. Mix Cheerwine and pineapple juice, no alcohol, and it tastes like punch that has many more ingredients. Used it for my daughter’s wedding. We still make a batch or two when we visit the area. Nothing like it.

  10. 16

    Cheerwine is a dark cherry soda, so forget trying to substitute it with any cream sodas or colas and mist cherry soda will be too sweet as well. Closest I can think of is Dr. Brown’s Dark Cherry soda. It’s not super common, but it’s still easier to find in a lot of places than Cheerwine.

  11. 18

    Cheerwine was the one thing I brought with me when I moved out of north Carolina. Its sad that it’s so hard to find elsewhere. Having tried other drinks similar, there is nothing really that close to it. I would recommend finding some of it.

  12. 19
    Rae Lovvorn

    Faygo Red Pop would be close. I grew up in Michigan, but now live in the land of Cheerwine. This sounds like a stellar idea.

    • 21

      Rock N’ Rye would probably be an improvement, as it is the nectar of the gods.

      But, for real, I’m a Detroit Native that has moved to N.C.. Cheerwine is a cherry soda. Rock N’ Rye is a “vanilla cream soda with just a kick of something that may or not be cherry.” I bet it would work. Or, maybe even Red Pop.

  13. 23

    Mr. Brown…I’m a Yankee from the North (good old Detroit). Could one of our yummy Faygo sodas make a substitute in a pinch? A Humble Fan…thanks for all the great stories & food!

  14. 24

    This is a brilliant use of an otherwise disgustingly sweet soda you used to only be able to buy at bait shops, concession stands and drug stores. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks Alton!

    • 27

      I wouldn’t do that. Big Red is very different. Even though some have suggested Cherry Dr. Pepper, I think the two are still so dissimilar, that I wouldn’t gamble on it. Cheerwine is pretty unique. Not as harsh as Dr. Pepper. And not a typical cherry-flavored soda in the least. Try Cracker Barrel if you have one nearby; they usually stock it.

  15. 28

    I’ve only had Cheerwine once during a trip to North Carolina, seemed incredibly similar to a cherry doctor pepper. could that be substituted?

  16. 29
    Michael Maller

    Hey. I’m thrilled to know you liked our Cheerwine Sangria enough to create your own version. Have you tried your version with some basil? When testing the recipe we found it brought the drink to another level. Thanks so much for the shout-out. I’m so honored!
    Michael Maller – Beverage Director, Mateo

    • 35

      You can do whatever you like – it is your kitchen. Since the soda is added to the glass when serving instead of to the whole pitcher when mixing a batch, I think it is low risk to experiment with a different soda. If it is awful, then you only have to dump one serving down the drain. It will obviously not be exactly the same but that is the awesome part about making stuff at home in that you can customize and adjust a recipe to match your personal taste.

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