The drinking age 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. Drinking in the streets has recently been banned although it is still a common practice in most nightlife areas.
Try an absinthe cocktail the fabled liquor was never outlawed here, but it is not a popular drink in Spain.
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!
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.
The Spanish beer is not too bad and well worth a try. Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou, Estrella Damm, Ãmbar, 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 beer made in Spain, and is quite extended, but more expensive than a normal 'caÃ±a'. Most brands offer non-alcoholic beer.
In Spain, beer is often served from a tap in 25 cl "caÃ±a" or 33 cl "tubo" tube glasses. Bigger servings are rare, but you can also ask for a "corto", "zurito" round the Basque country or simply "una cerveza" or "tanque" south of the country to get a half size beer, perfect to drink in one go and get quickly to the next bar while having tapas.
If you're in Zaragoza or Aragon, in general, the Pilsner-type Ambar 5.2% alc. and the stronger Export double malt, 7.0% alc. are available. Ambar 1900: Its production began in 1996. The system of fermentation to room temperature is used. Marlen is a beer of traditional manufacture using malted barley and hops.
Particularly on hot summer days people will drink a refreshing "clara" which is a light beer mixed with lemon/lemonade.
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 a different types of sherry were the oxidative aging process has taken the lead.
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.
It's important to know the difference between a pub which closes at 3-3:30 a.m. and a club which opens until 6-8 a.m. but is usually deserted early in the night.
On weekends, the time to go out for copas drinks usually starts at about 11 p.m.-1 a.m. which is somewhat later than in North and Central Europe. Before that, people usually do any number of things, have some tapas raciones, algo para picar, eat a "real" dinner in a restaurant, stay at home with family, or go to cultural events. If you want to go dancing, you will find that most of the clubs in Madrid are relatively empty before midnight some do not even open until 1 a.m. and most won't get crowded until 3 a.m. People usually go to pubs, then go to the clubs until 6-8 a.m.
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. Usually Spaniards can control their alcohol consumption better than their northern European neighbors and drunken people are rarely seen at bars or on the streets. A drink, if ordered without an accompanying tapa, is often served with a "minor" or inexpensive tapa as a courtesy.
Size and price of tapas changes a lot throughout Spain. For instance, it's almost impossible to get free tapas in big cities like Valencia or Barcelona, excluding Madrid where there are several Tapa Bars althought some times are a bit expensive. You can eat for free just paying for the drinks, with huge tapas and cheap prices at cities like Granada, Badajoz or Salamanca.
The tapa, and the related pincho, trace their existence in Spain to both acting as a cover "Tapa" on top of a cup of wine to prevent flies from accessing it, and as a requirement of law when serving wine at an establishment during the middle ages.
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 bombÃ³n in Eastern Spain, solo with condensed milk.
Starbucks (http://www.starbucks.es) is the only national chain operating in Spain. Locals argue that it cannot compete with small local cafes in quality of coffee and visited only by tourists. It is not present in smaller cities.
CafÃ© de Jamaica offers many kinds of coffee as well as infusions.
Bracafe that means 'brasilian coffee' offers high quality coffee.
If you eat for €20 per dinner, you will never be served a good tea; expect Pompadour or Lipton. It takes some effort to find a good tea if you spend most time of the day in touristy places.