Sangria Season

Dominick’s summertime drink is an Ann Arbor institution — and a closely guarded secret

With Michigan’s sweet, short warm season in full swing, Ann Arbor’s townies, tourists, and summer students gather at Dominick’s, taking shelter from the heat with a cool pitcher of sangria. A dangerously drinkable blend of red wine, brandy, and diced fruit served on ice in a mason jar, Dominick’s sangria is the perfect summertime buzz.

Located next to the University of Michigan’s Law Quadrangle, Dominick’s has served sangria since the 1960s. The campus favorite traditionally opens on the Monday following spring break. The season ends after the last home football game in November.

In fact, you could say that Dominick’s is a sort of unofficial herald of warmer weather. “On opening day there’s always two guys here first thing in the morning,” says owner Richard DeVarti. “It’s a tradition for one of the houses on campus, I guess.”

An Ann Arbor native, DeVarti says he became familiar with sangria when he traveled to Spain to study at the Complutense University of Madrid. Upon returning, he suggested his father start serving sangria at Dominick’s. It’s been a hit ever since.

DeVarti says Dominick’s sangria was originally more in line with the traditional Spanish recipe, but it has been tweaked over the years, mostly to streamline production so it can be made in large volumes. “I like our recipe better,” he says. “It’s not quite as sweet, and it’s darker.”

As for what accounts for Dominick’s magic ingredient, DeVarti’s lips are sealed: It’s a closely guarded family secret. “People are always trying to get the recipe from me,” he says wryly. “I think it’s better if we keep it in house.”

812 Monroe St., Ann Arbor; 734-662-5414; open 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Mon.-Sat