If you've ventured to Latin House Burger & Taco Bar, we hope you've ordered the sangria. Since January 2013, Latin House has been the proud sole purveyor of Sangria Don Chu, a tasty libation made weekly by Maria Rita Rivera. Originally a "stalker" of chef Michell Sanchez's Latin House food truck (that's what Sanchez lovingly calls the most loyal fans), Rivera befriended Chef M and he became a great ally for her now-growing sangria business.
Short Order sat down with Rivera over a glass (or two) of sangria to talk about her boozy biz and plans for the future. And Chef M stopped by to reveal news about a second Latin House Burger & Taco Bar, set to open soon in Pembroke Pines.
New Times: The most obvious question: How'd you get into the sangria making business?
Maria Rita Rivera: Everything started in Puerto Rico. My big sister owns a restaurant there, Meson La Guitarra, and she makes sangria. When I came to Miami ten years ago for my husband's job, I started doing little bottles as gifts to my friends, and everyone loved it. They started calling me the "Goddess of Sangria." One of my friends was Chef M, so that is how we got in here. Every week I prepare a batch and they serve it.
So the recipe is from your sister?
The original recipe was my sister's, and I added some other flavors to it and made it my own. It's a secret family recipe with some wine and natural flavors. I can't tell you more -- sorry.
Where does the name come from?
Don Chu is my father, so that's how everything started. My father asked my sister to make some sangria for the restaurant in Puerto Rico, so we named it after him.
How can people get their hands on this supersecret sangria?
They serve it at Latin House by the glass ($6.50) or pitcher ($29.99). A customer can pick up a bottle to go, but they need to go through the staff at Latin House, text me, or send me a message through Facebook, and I'll prepare a little bit more that week.
Where do you hope to go from here?
I feel like we are starting with this because, for me, it's new. I didn't expect to have the feedback I had from all the clients here and outside. Next year, hopefully we'll take steps to get the permits and licensing that we need to expand. Hopefully we are going to be in other restaurants or supermarkets, but I don't want the sangria to be everywhere. I want to select the restaurants where I think the food is great and stay exclusive.
Will you stick with sangria or add some other drinks to the mix?
We started with the red wine that was the original recipe from my sister. Six months ago we introduced the white wine. Next summer I'll try passionfruit sangria. I have to take some time to mix and match those flavors.
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If you want to try the sangria but can't make the trip to South Miami, Rivera will be with Latin House at Burger Beast's Frita Showdown, taking place August 13 at Magic City Casino.
The second Latin House Burger & Taco Bar location, set to open in the Pines, will take shape over the next few weeks, with a grand opening planned for the end of next month. According to Chef M, you'll find the "same menu, same drinks, and same wonderful sangria," just farther north.
Connect with Cassie Glenn on Twitter @cassieinmiami.