How to Drink Like a Spaniard

How to drink like a Spaniard- Andalucía Bound

How to drink like a Spaniard- Andalucía Bound

So, you want to drink like a Spaniard? Let me warn you: it’s an art.

Moving to Spain fresh out of university, my drinking standards were fairly low. I was never a cocktail snob- pretty much anything with alcohol in it did it for me. Embarrassingly, we drank only to get drunk. Our nights out were sprints, not marathons and I was a top speed runner (figuratively, not literally).

I was in for a total wake-up call when I moved to Spain. Drinking is a natural and normal part of everyday life here, and not in the way it is for US college students. There is a time and place for different alcoholic beverages here, and if your not up to snuff on what to drink when, your guiri-ness will be quite obvious. Spaniards are marathon drinkers with a pretty deeply engrained “schedule” of how a day of drinking should go, so let me help you out.

Here I’ve listed the most common drinks Spaniards drink, along with the proper time and place to order them, lest you look like a total n00b.

Beer

Golden happiness in a glass...

Golden happiness in a glass…

I hope you don’t like variety, because there isn’t much here. When you order a beer, you literally just order “a beer”, and they bring you the one they have on tap, usually in a small 33cl glass known as a caña, unless you specify otherwise. Which beer it is will vary depending on your geographic location in Spain. Down here in the south we drink a lot of Cruzcampo as the factory is in Seville. Mahou is another common beer on tap and is commonly found in Madrid. Some nighttime bars will have a few different beers in bottles for your imbibing pleasure and I’ve even seen locally brewed options in some bars now and again. You’re pretty safe ordering a beer at any time of the day, starting around 12:00 noon. The beer is always cheap and cold and sometimes served with a little plate of olives, so it’s probably my favorite drink on this list- not only for the beer itself  but also for the day drinking that comes along with it. Once the sun sets, though, most people will stop drinking beer. Which leads us to…

Cubatas

Cubatas are how the Spanish refer to mixed drinks, and I don’t mean cocktails. That doesn’t exist in most of Spain, though surely in more modern/big/international cities there are some cocktail bars. Spaniards keep it simple. Rum and coke, whiskey and 7up, gin and tonic, or gin with lemon pop (soda) are the most common. One difference I quickly learned during my first week in Spain is that you must order the specific brand of alcohol you want. Unaware of this and also unaware of any brand names of alcohols here, my first night at the town fair during my first week in Arcos de la Frontera was marred by total miscommunication as I screamed “un ron con coca cola” across the bar multiple times while people stared and I did NOT understand when he asked me which ron I wanted. “uhhhhhh no se.” Awkward.  Anyway, once the sun goes down (or a bit before) most people will switch to cubatas to start the nighttime partying. The younger crowd usually participates in a phenomenon called the botellón, meaning the big bottle. What Americans refer to as pre-gaming, Spaniards do out in public, usually in a park or an empty parking lot. Believe it or not, most towns have a designated are where it’s actually allowed for people to gather, bring soda, bottles of liquor and ice, and party it up until they hit the bars. This is obviously a great option for people who want to save money and see what its really like to party like a rockstar Spaniard. A bottle of liquor can cost as little as 5€ ($7), where mixed drinks can cost 3-7€ each at the bar, depending on where in Spain you are.

Wine

Although Spanish wine maybe isn’t as famous as wine from other parts of the world (or maybe it is, but I have terrible wine knowledge), it’s definitely a staple of Spanish culture. There are amazing wine bodegas in many parts of Spain, including La Rioja, a province famous for it’s delicious vino tinto, that’s red wine, among others. In the south of Spain, Jerez de la Frontera is famous for its wine of the same name,  jerez- that’s sherry- and Sanlucar de Barrameda has a lovely manzanilla wine. I most often see wine being ordered with dinner, but it’s not uncommon to order a glass at midday if you prefer that over beer. The best part of Spanish wine is that you can buy high-quality wine for cheap! I’m talking a tasty bottle of wine for as much as the cost of a glass in the US. Can’t beat that.

Kalimotxo (Calimocho)

I don’t have much experience with kalimotxo as it is definitely a regional drink that’s drunk more commonly in Madrid and northern Spain. I’ve never seen people drinking it in Andalucía, but a Madrileño I met once introduced it to me and told me it was really common where he was from. What is it? Red wine and Coke. I know, we’re used to mixing coke with liquors, right? But when in Rome! It’s actually not as weird as you might think… try it!  As far as I know, this is more of a DIY drink and you wouldn’t order it in a restaurant. Can anyone confirm or deny? It seems that this is something people drink to pre-game and is sometimes made in large quantities, a la jungle juice.

Rebujito

Enjoying a crisp, refreshing rebujuto at the feria in 2013

Enjoying a crisp, refreshing rebujuto at the feria in 2013

Rebujito is a popular summertime drink in the south of Spain, most notably drunk at the feria. It’s made by mixing a white wine (manzanilla or finowith a lemon-lime pop like 7UP poured over ice. It’s light and refreshing and, at the fair, can be bought in giant 1-liter plastic cups with a straw, often served with a sprig of spearmint! Be careful with this one. It’s so yummy that you won’t realize how much you’re drinking and the buzz will hit you hard. Rebujito, like beer, is a daytime drink, so once the sun starts going down people will usually switch to cubatas.

Liqueurs

Shots of Limoncello

Shots of Limoncello

Liqueurs are often overlooked in the United States, as we tend to not draw out our meals into 5-hour-long social events like the Spanish. After a big lunch (or tapas at dinner) people will often order a round of chupitos (shots) of liqueur. The most common ones are licor de hierba (an herbal liqueur) and licor de limón (lemon liqueur). They say that this sugary little shot settles the stomach and helps you digest. I say, yum! I definitely prefer the lemon to the herbal one, but to each his own!

Tinto de Verano

A summer drink, as implied by it’s name, tinto de verano is red wine served over ice with lemon soda. It’s sweet and refreshing and is the closest thing to sangria I’ve seen in Spain. I don’t think Spaniards actually drink the sangria that Americans think of- you know, with the chopped up fruit. This is a really popular drink that technically can be ordered all year long, especially since Casera made their own pre-bottled version that can be bought by the liter in grocery stores and in glass bottles at restaurants. Sometimes referred to as a tinto con limón, this tasty drink is usually as cheap as beer- just 1-2€ per glass.

So, have I missed any big ones? Would you be able to drink like a Spaniard? The Spanish drinking lifestyle really hits the nail on the head in my opinion. Drinks for all seasons, day drinking, and casual marathon drinking sessions beginning at mid-day end ending well past my bed time are now some of my favorite parts of Spanish culture. I’m not sure what that says about me, but if you want to come give it a go, first round’s on me ;).

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24 thoughts on “How to Drink Like a Spaniard

  1. Great list! I’m a little hungover at the moment and some of those photos were tough to look at haha

    Drinking in Spain is definitely different than other places and like you said, it is totally a marathon not a sprint!

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  2. Good job! I’m Spanish and this is a good resume about our most common drinks! I’m from nothern spain (basque country) and there are some big differences with southern spain in this area! hahaha. Here after a big lunch we usually order a round or “patxaranes”, more than txupitos. Txupitos are more a nightclubbing thing. Like you said we drink Red Wine (A LOT!). We are sooo near to La Rioja, so we love red wine and Kalimotxo more than anything else! (At least in my case! haha). Kalimotxo is the most popular drink here, but also Beer, and SIDRA! (Cider!) We have Sidrerias (Cider restaurants), where you can drink ALL THE CIDER YOU WANT plus the best steak in the world, fish, fish omelette, cheese+nuts+membrillo for 30€! No jokes here!
    Come to Northern Spain, you’ll enjoy our drinks & food!! True story 😉

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    • Thanks Nere, I’m glad it’s pretty accurate! I really want to travel in the north of Spain, it’s at the top of my list of travel destinations! Once time and money align I’ll definitely be heading up there. Sidrerias sound amazing! Thanks for reading!

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  3. My sister just visited me last week and it was her first time in Spain…she was excitedly ordering sangria everywhere we went because it was one of the only things she knew how to say in Spanish, and got increasingly frustrated when people would say they didn’t have it…she literally couldn’t comprehend that people don’t actually drink it here! It was kind of hilarious how put off she was by it though!

    Also apparently it’s not only a Spanish thing but I’ve only seen it here – cerveza con limón…I thought it was gross at first but now find it pretty refreshing and also a way to combat what I find to be the really gross taste of Mahou haha. Great list! I’d never heard of rebujito, but it sounds absolutely delicious!! Putting it on ever growing list of things to try…

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    • Ha! That’s hilarious. I wonder where the US got it from that Spaniards drink sangria? I guess its basically a tinto de verano but we had to go an get all fancy by chopping up fruit to throw in.

      You’re the 2nd person to remind me of cerveza con limón, aka a clara. I think I’ll make an edit and add that into the beer part. Thanks!!

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  4. This is a great, down-to-earth list of what people drink in Spain. As my school director once mentioned to me last year, “los españoles saben beber”–Spaniards know how to drink–and I think this is true because most drinking is done accompanied with a meal or with tapas or little things to munch on: and the goal isn’t to get drunk per se.

    Up here in Galicia there is a big tradition of “licores caseros” that grandmas & grandpas will have brewing in their country homes–ranging from the strong licor de hierbas to the sweet, dark licor de café or even the ice cream-like crema de orujo. Definitely worth savoring a little tiny glass of the stuff after a meal to, uh, “help with digestion.” 😛

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    • Hi Revé! You’re too sweet, thanks for checking in! I’ve been plagued by what I think may have recently turned into bronchitis, so to say the least, I haven’t been feeling very well. I have some things drafted though, so definitely watch out for a new post soon! Happy Easter 🙂

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  6. I’m going to be a mess at the bars haha! I’m a beer drinker and don’t know much about wine or a lot of liquor brands! Yikes! This post is a big help =)

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  7. Great list! I really enjoyed this as I’ll be heading over to Spain in under two months now. Being mostly a beer drinker (see: from Milwaukee, Wisconsin), it’ll be a slight adjustment for me, but I think I’m up to the challenge. Can’t wait to be over there, and I’m glad I found your site!

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  8. i love this!

    you can get Kalimoxo in lots of bars and pubs, although i have never seen a restaurant serve it……i have been a kalimoxo man for years, and i can tell you that it is also common along the coastline where i live….you drink it in the night while going out for example, you ask for it as a “mini de kalimoxo” which means a big white plastic glass.

    as for beer, that is what i drink now, and it beats any other drink.

    wine? most people talk of Riojas, you know what? better to mix them with coke, haha! in Murcia we’ve got Jumilla wines that beat those bloody Riojas everyone talks of 🙂

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  10. I just stumbled across your blog, great post! And pretty accurate… As a Spaniard who have lived in the US for 5 years, I was excite to see the other side of the story.

    Aw, our beer… As much as we love it, I can tell why foreigners dislike it so much. But it pairs so well with tapas! As for Sangria, we do occasionally drink it at gatherings (mixed with the fruit, the sugar and all the alcoholic drinks that you may think of) but I do not think it is as common (we definitely are beer lovers).

    Thanks for the post. I can’t wait to read your other posts!

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