Blood Relations

"That was the weirdest party I've ever been to, man," says Gustavo Angeles, guitarist for Cascabel, the Afro-Cuban Latin jazz combo that showed up around midnight at Holga's on a recent Saturday lugging guitars, amps and congas. The small parking lot in front of the downtown artist commune was filled with people in costumes, dancing. It was the kind of party you might imagine if the Gipsy Kings lived in Phoenix. And fueling the madness was a large, bottomless bowl of sangria.

"Sangria is like a fun love spell," says JoAnn Luna, party host and local artist. "I make it with love," she says with a giggle. Like other sangria fanatics, Luna makes her batch early in the day or even the night before and uses only fresh ingredients. She mixes various juices, such as apple, pulpless orange, grapefruit, lemon or grape and adds a little bit of Sprite (or soda water) for the fizzle. Watermelon, cantaloupe, apples and tangerines are cut and tossed in. "The secret is how much," Luna says. "Then I add red wine and brandy, but I also use sangria wine, which is sweeter and it's cheap, too."

The Spanish drink, which gets its name from its blood-red tint (sangre is Spanish for blood), has long been popular in the U.S., but it seems to be showing up more and more at Latino parties, especially among the young and hip.

"Everybody was smashed. My bass player left with two cute girls," says Angeles. "I told him he was my hero for the week." The musician says he's seeing sangria at more house parties these days. "Almost everywhere I go. Everybody loves it. It is very representative of our culture. I mean, it's from Spain but we have that Latin background. People like the fruit and the red wine."

The next day, the spellbinding drink was casting its magic on a very different kind of gathering.

"I usually make sangria when I have people come over," says Gabby Cardenas, a local radio station employee from Mexico City, who was hosting an afternoon barbecue that had none of the arty cachet of the masquerade the night before. "I went to Spain last year and that's when I got into it. Everybody there drinks it all the time." On the sound system in Cardenas' backyard, Mexican rancheras blasted and everyone sang along at the top of their lungs. The singers objected noisily when a guest tried to interrupt the Mexican country music with some hip-hop.

"Ricardo is sooo Chicano," Cardenas complained, referring to the frustrated DJ.

Recent arrival or third generation aesthete: At least everyone seems to agree that hot weather calls for a cool red wine concoction.

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Dan Cortez