There are of course the famous Spanish drinks we all know — sangria, wine and beer — but there are many more that most tourists are not familiar with — sweet creamy horchata, icy fruity granizados, and sherry-based rebujito cocktails, that are just as popular among the locals.
Vermouth is one of the biggest trends in Spain right now, with specialised vermouth bars popping up all over major cities, cafés creating their own homemade versions in large glass jars, and hotels organizing vermouth parties, complete with nibbles and live music. Vermouth is a type of sweet fortified wine and comes in red or white, but most often red. In Spain it’s served straight and is usually paired with an olive or a slice of orange. It is said to go well with small fishy plates of tapas such as boquerones (small pickled anchovies). Vermouth is drunk ‘a la hora del vermut’ — literally ‘at the hour of vermouth’, or around midday, as a type of aperitif before the main meal of the day.
A cooling creamy drink for summer, horchata (or orxata as it is also spelled in Valencian and Catalan) can be found in specialised horchatarias or ice cream parlors. It’s essentially tiger nut milk, squeezed from the tiger nut (not actually a nut at all, but a small root vegetable) or chufa in Spanish. It tastes slightly similar to almond milk and is often mixed with cinnamon.
Delicious thirst-quenching drinks to have during Spain’s unbearably hot summers, granizados are like fruit frappés, made from crushed ice mixed with fruit juices or syrups. The most typical is granizado de limón (lemon flavored), however, you can get everything from strawberry to melon.
Forget sangria, a tinto de verano is what the locals drink. Pretty similar actually, tinto de verano translates as summer wine, and is red wine mixed with a fizzy lemonade type drink. It’s best sipped in summer, accompanied by a plate of tapas.
Beer is, of course, a favorite Spanish drink, ordered not by the pint but by the caña (small glass) or tubo (long glass). Beer, like most alcoholic drinks here, is rarely drunk without some type of nibble on the side, be it a free bowl of nuts, olives, popcorn, crisps, or a larger plate of tapas. Some of the most popular Spanish brands include Estrella Damm, Moritz, San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Alhambra, and Mahou.
For a truly refreshing type of beer in the heat of summer, ask for a clara — a beer mixed with lemon juice, similar to a shandy. Many bars around the country will have claras already pre-mixed on tap.
Most common in Andalusia, rebujito is a kind of cocktail that mixes sherry with a soft drink such as Sprite. It is often found in Seville and Jerez de la Frontera around the Sherry Triangle, and is typically drunk around Seville’s Feria de Abril and Jerez’s Feira de Caballo (horse fair).
Of course we couldn’t make a list of Spain’s most typical drinks, without mentioning one of its most famous — wine (vino in Spanish). Spain is actually the third largest wine producer in the world, behind France and Italy, and has vineyards covering over a million acres. Spanish wine varies greatly throughout the country, so be sure to try the local variety from wherever you are visiting.
It’s actually impossible to find a bad Spanish coffee, even in the simplest of cafés, and there’s just as many ways to have it as you’ll find on a Starbucks menu. Choose to have it con leche (with milk), cortado (short coffee with a dash of milk), solo (an espresso), con hielo (with ice), carajillo (with a dash of brandy, whisky or rum), or simply cafe (black).
Spain’s answer to French Champagne, Cava comes in white or rosé varieties. 95% of Spain’s Cava is produced in the Penedès region of Catalonia, however, you’ll also find some made in regions such as Valencia, Extremadura, La Rioja, and the Basque Country.