Which is more important, eating or drinking? Well, in Spain, they pretty much go hand-in-hand. And because I already covered coffee and tea in my last post, I'll focus more on other drinks in this post - some to try, and some to drink with caution.
Coffee and orange juice aren't your only choices for breakfast. A very common spanish drink, one I never tried, is Cola Cao. Not to be confused with Coca Cola.
From my understanding, it's like a energy chocolate drink and we saw spanish families drinking this on the weekends quite regularly. The flavour isn't to be confused with hot chocolate, which is actually more like chocolate pudding. Which you can also have for breakfast. Or before dinner.
When hunting for tapas you are usually ordering beer or wine alot, so it's good to know a few things about them. It is important to know that you don't NEED to order alcohol for a tapa, any drink comes with one. So it's perfectly okay to order water, coffee, tea, coke, Kas lemon soda, or something I thought was awesome - white grape juice which is called "Mosto". I didn't even discover it until my second last day.
Wine is always served in normal wine glass, meaning the amount of liquid you get is pretty standard. Not the case for beer, which is up to interpretation. From what we learnt, bartenders just randomly pick the size they want to serve and most often, it's much smaller than an average pint. Here was our loose understanding:
- Cerveza - you'll get a beer in whatever size the bartender picks
- Caña - like a half pint
- Tubo - served in a tall, skinny glass
- Jarra - About the size of a pint, we only found these at 100 Montaditos
- Botellas - we never ordered a bottle of beer because we didn't know any brand names, but "botellas" means bottle
- Caña con limón - I started drinking these when I saw other people ordering them, it's half beer, half Kas lemon soda. The common slang term is "Clara", pronounced "Claire-hah"
- Shandy - Cruzcampo makes a low alcohol shandy (wine with lemon soda) that comes pre-mixed in a cooler-size bottle. There is also a brand called Mixta which is the same thing.
You can buy beer, wine, hard liquor and shandy's at any of the local grocery stores. Look for Dia, Supermercado, Carrefour, Mercadona or Hipercor - these are the biggest chains. Don't be shocked at the prices, the wine is super cheap, and we had to restrain ourselves. We brought bottles back that only cost us one euro. Totally amazing.
Spain and sangria. It's like chocolate and peanut butter - totally awesome.
Sangria gets it's own category because its a home-brew kind of thing. Bars whip it up in pitchers and set it out on display, letting you know it's time for Sangria! Red wine mixed with fruit, fruit juice and fizzy lemonade, it's a perfect drink anytime. We were there in November and several bars were still offering sangria, although it's more popular in the summer.
During one of our BIG spanish lunches, we noticed the the table next to us had received a frozen bottle of clear liquid, which the waiter just left there. I assumed this was an aperitif because I've had similar experiences in Italy with limoncello. After some amount of time, the waiter returned to retrieve the bottle once the guests were done. I'm not entirely sure how they were charged for this. Eventually we learned this liquor is a common occurrence, with the same licorice-taste as sambuca. (No idea what the real name is, maybe it's Anisette)
It wasn't until we landed in Guejar, after finishing a three course lunch, that two similar frozen bottles showed up on our table. One contained a translucent red liquid, the other yellow. Both were a flavoured infusion of the clear version. I tried two sips just to see what they were like, and it turns out - both tasted like rocket fuel. The good news was there was no charge on the bill. So lucky for us.
The generosity of liquor seems to be common in Spain, especially concerning mixed drinks.
I took on the challenge of ordering hard alcohol one night at a pub in Iznajar. The spanish bartender, who spoke no english, was patient enough to figure out I wanted a rum and coke. In a tall skinny glass filled with ice, the bartender free-poured rum until it was past the half-way mark, and topped the rest off with coke - leaving me with the remainder of the coke bottle. Clearly there is no need for shot glasses in Spain, because my "three-shot" drink only cost 2.50 euros. This was thrilling until I had two more and the room started spinning out of control. Followed by a shot of sambuca and some weird mixture that the bartender created, it made for a lousy next day.
Drinking water is Spain is totally fine. We would bring the large one litre bottles of water with us when we were driving long distances, simply to avoid pulling over.
Bottled water is also served just about everywhere. In all of our hotels the water was good enough to drink straight from the tap, although in some gas stations they will indicate if the water is not potable. So, don't drink from the sketchy gas station bathroom tap. As if you needed telling, right?