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Only Joe King

A light-hearted look at life in Andalucía and Spain in general. Its good points and its bad. This blog doesn't pull any punches.

¡Salud! – A guide to drinks in Spain
Thursday, March 3, 2022 @ 3:41 AM

Spain has drinks, alcoholic and non-alcoholic, which are unique to the country. World-famous are sherry, sangría and cavaSan Miguel beer is recognised the world over, yet it originated in the Philippines, when the island group was a Spanish colony.

Joe King likes a drink. Here’s his run-down of the drinks that are truly Spanish. We think he’s probably tried most of them in the last 50 years!

Spain has its world-famous drinks, as well as others that you never see in other countries, except in a specialist wine merchant.

The most famous is probably jerez (sherry), a fortified wine that has to be produced in the Sherry Triangle, an area formed by the towns of Jerez de la Frontera, Sanlucar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María in the province of Cádiz, Andalucía. The name sherry is a corruption of the Spanish word for this drink, jerez. Sherry became popular with the British to the extent that British wine merchants invested in the bodegas which produce the sherry. Names like Osborne and Sandeman are two examples of British sherry producers based in Jerez de la Frontera.

There are several different types of sherry, ranging from the dry fino of Jerez and its cousin manzanilla from Sanlúcar, through medium amontillado to the sweet olorosoPedro Ximénez is another style based on the Pedro Ximénez grape. The most famous fino is , of course, Tío Pepe from the house of González Byass. Tío Pepe (in English, “Uncle Joe”) was named after one of the founders’ uncles.

Almost as famous is sangría, particularly popular with British tourists on the costas and/or in the island resorts of the Balearics and the Canaries. This is a potentially lethal cocktail of red wine, brandy and citrus fruits topped up with lemonade and lots of ice cubes. Very thirst-quenching but with a high alcohol content.

Cava, the Spanish equivalent of champagne, and in my opinion much nicer to drink than the over-priced French vino espumante, is also famous. One brand in particular, Freixenet, is sold throughout Europe, if not the world.

San Miguel beer is probably the most famous of the Spanish lagers. Originating in the former Spanish colony of the Philippines, it is now manufactured in a number of places in Spain, as well as under licence in other countries.

The cuba libre, brandy and coke, is also famous, but arguably originated in Cuba, hence its name.

Remaining with alcoholic drinks, a couple are numbers-based. Cuarenta y tres (43) is a licor, much loved by the ladies, and Ciento tres (103) is a brand of Spanish coñac.

Amongst wines, the name immediately recognised and associated with Spain is rioja, named after the tiny region in northern Spain where it originates. Riojatinto or blanco is still very popular, especially abroad, but in Spain it is being marginalised more and more by wines from Ribera del Duero in the area around the Duero River in northern Spain close to Portugal.

Here in the Serranía de Ronda, there are more than 20 small bodegas which produce high quality wines, many of which have been awarded the coveted Sierras de Málaga denominación de origen (appellation, as we say in English and French). Where we live is right in the middle of this wine zone.

A slightly sparkling white wine unique to the Basque Country is chacolí. It is delicious, so you need to watch out you don’t overindulge. Also from the north of Spain, but further west in Asturias, there is sidra (cider). I’m from cider country in Devon and scrumpy was the tipple of my youth, but I can honestly say that sidra natural de Asturias is better.

Some Spaniards who want to show off like to order an expensive single malt whisky, like Glenfiddich 18 years or Cardhu 12 años and drown it in coke. Excuse me! What’s that all about? If that were my kind of drink it’d be a large dash of whisky DYC with coke for me. You’d save a fortune and I bet you couldn’t tell the difference.

Coffee is the dominant hot beverage, although you can get infusiones (teas) too. One is manzanilla (the same name as the dry sherry from Sanlúcar). I kid you not, but a few years ago in the local hotel I ordered “una manzanilla, porfa” (I prefer it to fino). Imagine my surprise when I was served a cup of hot water with a teabag in it!

Un café con leche, un café solo, un cafelito, un cortado, un sol y sombra, un manchado, even sin cafeína are some of the different styles of coffee available. And so cheap, between 1€ and 1.50€ round these parts. More expensive on the coast, of course. You can read more about coffee here.

Many a Spaniard likes a shot of alcohol with his coffee, even in the mornings! Anything is available, but the most popular are anís, coñac, pacharán, miura or orujo. At breakfast time most opt for a small version, un chupito, which costs the same as the coffee.

Have you come across horchata and granizadoHorchata de chufa (tigernut) looks like milk but isn’t. You drink it cold and it’s rather delicious. La chufa is a superfood containing a huge quantity of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, phosphorous and zinc. La horchata contains neither phosphates nor glucose. It is rich in vitamins C and E. And it’s vegan!

Granizado is a drink of crushed ice flavoured with concentrated fruit syrup. We discovered it after we’d toured the film studios in the Almería desert many years ago and got a bit of sunstroke. It was the only drink that got anywhere near quenching our raging thirsts and re-hydrating us.

And cacalao? It’s a chocolate drink much loved by kids. You can drink it cold or hot.

The ladies who lunch and don’t want to get sozzled on gin tónica have discovered a non-alcoholic gin called Gin Sin.

What’s the correct way of ordering una cerveza? Depending on how much you want, draught beer is ordered, in rising order of size: una caña, un tubo, una copa, un tanque, una pinta. Bottled beers come as un botellín (25cl) or un tercio (33cl).

Wine is ordered by the copa, or una botella, if you want that much.

Coñacs y licores are ordered by the copa, or if you want a shot, it’s un chupito.

So, that’s my journey through the drinks unique to Spain that I’ve come across in my life. I’m sure to have missed some. Sorry!

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