Citrus Sangria: Homemade Happiness

If happiness becomes scarce, create some yourself.

Winter is not the favorite season of many.  The absence of sun depletes your energy and the frigid cold punches you down.  The scarcity of colors, the grey ashes, and the naked trees suggest loneliness and graceless aging.  The worst is when the bone-aching cold hasn’t invited the beautiful white snow yet.

A seasonal,  deleterious swine flu is lurking in schools, and the mounting rumors about near death experiences are dreadfully disturbing.  A 30-minute watching of the national and the world news is a serious introduction to depression.

In a reflexive attempt to dodge the winter blues,  my brain voluntarily travels back to my sunny years in Guatemala.

Guatemala was my first diplomatic station as a junior foreign service officer. If I dedicate a whole blog to my Guatemalan years, it would probably not suffice. I would rather focus on one angle here – how Guatemalans, against all odds embrace the joie de vivre .

In a land notorious for a staggering crime rate, entrenched racial discrimination,  seemingly omnipotent drug cartels, and an extremely tempestuous, volcanic nature, still many Guatemalans remain hopeful.

In the capital,  away from the luxurious mansions and affluent gated communities that coset the top .5%, thousands of toiled Guatemalans are enjoying the simple pleasures of life.  On a Sunday morning, I used to watch three generations of the same family lining the pedestrian street Avenida de Las Americas and sharing homemade tamales and an icy, refreshing horchata (a rice milk beverage) and probably enjoying an Asado (BBQ) of an inexpensive meat cut, with beautiful glistening charrs,  accompanied with a special, vibrant sauce whose secret ingredients only the family’s matriarch knows.

I mingled with a few local Guatemalan families of different ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds, many of them became part of my extended family rather than causal friends.  I keep marveling at how they enjoy every moment and survive day to day challenges. Their smile is as eternal as their spring.

I recall an insightful conversation with a bright Guatemalan friend who has managed to propel her father’s business to new heights.  What is the secret behind the Guatemalans’ smile? I asked her. She proudly grimed and answered, “gratitude, good food, and social network are all we need to keep going.  We are grateful for every minute we are alive because we know, for sure, that life is not given”. she added, “We survived a devastating civil war that lasted 36 years. We lost many loved ones, and we are still losing others in daily day crimes.  We always find a good excuse to celebrate, get together, and enjoy good food and drinks! Life should not be perfect to be happy.”

This conversation popped up while I was whipping up this easy fix Citrus sangria.  I impromptu invited friends over for a shakshuka brunch and a refreshing drink.  I am not cocktail savvy. Yet, sangria doesn’t call for esoteric knowledge. I had few citrus fruits in the fridge, spoonful of Grand Marnier, and some frozen red fruits bags stacked in the fridge, and the rest was pretty easy to handle. Voila, a positive attitude summons spring and defy a bitter cold winter.

The photo, posted here, of this colorful sangria is the image I keep from my years in Guatemala.  Gratitude, a colorful drink, and good company are all we need to keep going.

Citrus Sangria

Serves 2 to 4 people


  • 1/2 large naval orange, sliced
  • 1/2 grapefruit, sliced
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate
  • Frozen strawberry
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier or Cointreau
  • 2 tablespoons honey or (more if you want it sweeter)
  • 1 bottle sparkling white wine like Prosecco.


  1. Add all the ingredients, except the sparkling wine, to a large pitcher and keep it in the fridge.
  2. Add the sparkling wine half an hour before serving. Garnish with fresh basil or mint leaves.

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Former diplomat | Travel & Food Writer | Stauch advocate of Culinary Diplomacy. Find more here:

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