Harvest Moon: Raleigh’s STIR Creates A New Take on Sangria

Strained seasonal fruit and extra-special ice inform STIR’s twist on sangria.
by Jenn Rice | photography by Forrest Mason

Sangria is the ultimate party trick: pour a bottle of red wine in a pitcher, toss in some fruit, bubbly water and sugar, and welcome a most refreshing libation. The red-hued wine punch is best sipped alongside friends at sunset, preferably on an outdoor patio.

And STIR’s Strawberry Moon sangria is a refined, sophisticated version of the summer punch that is, quite frankly, hard to resist.

One glance reveals this isn’t the sangria you may be used to throwing back: there are no boozy chunks of oranges and apples lingering at the bottom of the glass. In fact, from a distance, it looks like a simple glass of red wine—proof that looks can be deceiving. But a sip confirms that this drink is more than wine; it’s a party punch full of flavor and effervescence, thanks to a few unlikely ingredients not often found in the popular wine punch. “It is bright, refreshing and fruit-forward,” says STIR’s bar manager, Che Ramos.

The North Hills restaurant swaps the go-to fruits and inexpensive wine with perfectly polished Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur, macerated strawberries and rose water for a subtle floral touch—but not overdone. “Fresh ingredients help,” says Ramos. “Using only the brightest strawberries, freshly squeezed lemon juice and a splash of soda helps make this sangria a light, refreshing drink to have during the summertime.” Pickers Vodka, from Tennessee, and a quality cabernet sauvignon also plays key roles in the drink’s upscale taste. It all comes together in harmony for a standout glass of sangria.

Ramos reports selling 20 glasses or more of Strawberry Moon sangria daily. (Note: these stats are during a pandemic—it would likely be triple or more on a typical mid-August afternoon.) The drink gets poured over STIR’s famous ice. The ice cubes, precisely 1×1-inch squares, custom cut during one of STIR’s “ice harvest” days, look more like gemstones. Robert Werk, chief operating officer of SquareOne Holding Company, the restaurant group behind STIR, stresses the importance of getting just the right ice when making craft cocktails. “You can’t skip the ice,” he says. And it’s an ingredient worth as much consideration as all the others: impurities in water or lingering flavors in bad freezer ice can ruin a noteworthy cocktail.

The aforementioned ice harvest happens two to three times a week, where a dedicated STIR employee uses a band saw to intricately cut multiple shapes and sizes of ice from a large, 300-pound block. It’s mesmerizing to watch the shiny ice baubles come to life, dropping onto a tray, one by one.

STIR recently started serving the Strawberry Moon sangria on draft, alongside several other popular cocktails. Think of it as having a favorite libation on speed dial, ready to be poured into a wine glass for consumption. The nitrogen in the system enhances and further brightens flavors, while a revolver continuously mixes ingredients to ensure every sip is equally delicious.

The best way to enjoy Strawberry Moon sangria is, no doubt, at a corner patio table people-watching—but you can take a cue from STIR to recreate it at home. In that case, Ramos says, regular draft cubes (the kind you get from a tray, not a dispenser), fresh from the freezer are mandatory. “The important thing is to keep it nice and cold,” he says, noting that a bigger cube equals a slower melt, allowing the flavors to continue to shine instead of watering down the cocktail. Refrigerate the sangria and ensure it’s chilled and shaken well prior to serving over ice. As for straining fruit, Ramos says it’s a classier way to serve it up so you won’t have to worry about navigating around pesky bits and pieces. Dress up the rim with a garnish of lemon and strawberry, and indulge.

photograph courtesy STIR

How to make STIR’s Strawberry Moon Sangria


4 ounces cabernet sauvignon
1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice
Dash rose water
1/2 ounce Luxardo Maraschino Cherry Liqueur
1 ounce macerated strawberries
1/2 ounce vodka
Splash soda water
Lemon wheel and strawberry, for garnish


To macerate the strawberries: Place berries in a container and sprinkle generously with sugar. Alternatively, soak the berries in vodka.

Puree or muddle the berries to release their juices, then combine with the remaining ingredients in a shaker. Top with ice.

Stir and shake. For a sangria free of fruit pulp, strain. 

Pour over ice, then add a splash of soda water. Garnish with lemon wheel and strawberry.