explore spain

What to drink in Spain

Tea and Coffee

Spanish people are very passionate about the quality, intensity and taste of their coffee and good freshly brewed coffee is available almost everywhere.

The usual choices are solo, the milk-less espresso version; cortado, solo with a dash of milk; con leche, solo with milk added; and manchado, coffee with lots of milk (sort of like the French cafe au lait). Asking for caffee latte will likely result in less milk than you are used to–it’s always OK to ask for adding extra milk.

Regional variants can be found, such as bombón in Eastern Spain, solo with condensed milk.

Starbucks is the only national chain operating in Spain. Locals argue that it cannot compete with small local cafes in quality of coffee and it’s frequented mostly by tourists, thought it has become somewhat popular with young “hip” people. It is not present in smaller cities but it’s basically everywhere in Barcelona or Madrid.

Alcohol

The drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages in Spain is 18. People under this age are forbidden to drink and buy alcoholic drinks, although enforcement in tourist and clubbing areas is lax.

Try an absinthe cocktail (the fabled liquor was never outlawed here, but it is not a popular drink in Spain).

Bars

Probably one of the best places to meet people in Spain is in bars. Everyone visits them and they are always busy and sometimes bursting with people. There is no age restriction imposed to enter these premises, but children and teenagers often will not be served alcoholic drinks. Age restrictions for the consumption of alcohol are clearly posted at bars but are enforced only intermittently. It is common to see an entire family at a bar.

For a true Spanish experience, after a night of dancing and drinking it is common to have a breakfast of chocolate con churros with your friends before going home. (CcC is a small cup of thick, melted chocolate served with freshly fried sweet fritters used for dipping in the chocolate and should be tried, if only for the great taste.)

Bars are mainly to have drink and a small tapa while socializing and decompressing from work or studies.

Beer

The Spanish beer is not too bad and well worth a try. Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou, Estrella Damm, Ámbar, Estrella de Galicia, Moritz, Keller and many others, including local brands at most cities; import beers are also available. A great beer is ‘Mezquita’ (Cervezas Alhambra), try to find it! Also “Legado de Yuste” is one of the best beers made in Spain, and is quite extended, but more expensive than a normal ‘caña’. Most brands offer non-alcoholic beer.

Particularly on hot summer days people will drink a refreshing “clara” which is a light beer mixed with lemon/lemonade.

Cava

Cava is Spanish sparkling wine and the name went from Spanish Champagne to Cava was after a long lasting dispute with the French. The Spanish called it for a long time champan, but the French argued that champagne can be made only from grapes grown in the Champagne region in France. Nevertheless, Cava is a quite successful sparkling wine and 99% of the production comes from the area around Barcelona.

Cider (Sidra)

Can be found in the Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Pais Vasco. This is slightly different to ciders found elsewhere in the world, since it not carbonated. It is often served in small doses (culines) that are poured from great height (called escanciar) in order to give it the feel of a carbonated beverage. This practice is particularly common in Asturias, although nowadays many establishments provide a small machine that makes the slightly difficult process of escanciar easy to do at your table.

Horchata

A milky non-alcoholic drink made of tigernuts and sugar. Alboraia, a small town close to Valencia, is regarded as a best place where horchata is produced.

Sangria

Sangria is drink made of wine and fruits and usually is made from simple wines. You will find sangria in areas frequented by tourists. Spanish prepare sangria for fiestas and hot summer, and not every day as seen in touristic regions like Mallorca.

Sangria in restaurants aimed for foreigners are best avoided, but it is a very good drink to try if a Spaniard prepares it for a fiesta!

Sherry (Fino)

The pale sherry wine around Jerez called “fino” is fortified with alcohol to 15 percent. If you would like to have one in a bar you have to order a fino. Manzanilla is bit salty, good as an appetizer. Amontillado and Oloroso are different types of sherry were the oxidative aging process has taken the lead.

Wine

Spain is a country with great wine-making and drinking traditions: 22% of Europe’s wine growing area is in Spain, however the production is about half of what the French produce.

Wine bars: they are more and more popular. In short, a wine bar is a sophisticated tapas bar where you can order wine by the glass. You will immediately see a blackboard with the wines that are available and the price per glass.

Wine tourism: Spain´s wine regions offer many opportunities to enjoy wine tasting at wineries and local food. Most popular wine destinations are Rioja due to its tradition as a red wine producing region, Jerez de la Frontera, due to its proximity to holiday destination and the impressive wineries that specialise in Sherry production and the wine region south of Barcelona in Penedes. Many interesting itineraries and routes are proposed by local wine organisations.

Wine-based drinks: young people in Spain have developed their own way to have wine. When having botellones (big outdoor parties with drink and lots of people), most of them mix some red wine with Coke and drink it straight from the Coke bottle. The name of this drink is calimocho or kalimotxo (in the Basque Country and Navarre) and is really very popular… But don’t ask for it while in an upper class bar or among adults, since they will most certainly not approve of the idea! As a general rule, any wine that comes in a glass bottle is considered “too good” to make kalimotxo.