Spain

alcohol

The drinking/purchasing age of alcoholic beverages 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. Alcohol may not available in some stores between 10 p.m. and 9 a.m. without the store possessing a specific license to sell alcohol.

Try an absinthe cocktail the fabled liquor was never outlawed here, but it is not a popular drink in Spain.

sangria

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

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.

beer

The Spanish beer is not too bad and well worth a try. Most popular local brands include San Miguel, Cruzcampo, Mahou, Estrella Damm, Ámbar, 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 'caña'. Most brands offer non-alcoholic beer.

In Spain, beer is often served from a tap in 25 cl "caña" 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.

sherry (fino)

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.

horchata

A milky non-alcoholic drink made of tigernuts and sugar. Alboraia, a small town close to Valencia, is regarded as a best place where horchata is produced.

wine

Spain is a country with great wine-making and drinking traditions: 22% of Europe's wine growing area is in Spain, however the production is about half of what the French produce.

Regions: most famous wines come from Rioja region, less known but also important come from Ribera del Duero, Priorato, Toro and Jumilla . The latter are becoming more and more popular and are slightly less expensive than Rioja wines. White, rose and red wines are produced, but the red wines are certainly the most important ones.

Grapes: main red grapes are Tempranillo, Garnacha, Monastrell and Mencia. Primary white grape used is Albarino, and the grapes used in Jerez are: 'Pedro Ximenez and Palomino.

Specific names: Valdepenas is good value for money. Whites: Belondrade Y Lurton is regarded as greatest white wine in Spain. Vina Sol is good as a mass product, with fruity taste.

Grades: Spanish quality wines are produced using an aging process and they have been in a oak barrel for at least one year before they can be labeled Crianza and then spend another two years in a bottle before been sold. Reservas are aged for five years and Gran Reservas are aged for 10 years.

Prices: Spain has seen a tremendous rise in wine prices over the last decade and Spanish wines are not as much of a bargain as they used to be. However you will still find 5, 10 and 20 year old wines at affordable prices especially when compared with similar quality wines from Australia, Chile, France, and the US.

Wine bars: they are more and more popular. In short, a wine bar is a sophisticated tapas bar where you can order wine by the glass. You will immediately see a blackboard with the wines that are available and the price per glass.

In a bar: for red wine in a bar, ask "un tinto por favor", for white wine "un blanco por favor", for rose: "un rosado por favor". In certain bars you have to specify "un crianza" for an aged wine or "un Rioja, un Ribera" for a wine from Rioja or Ribera de Duero if you don't want a cheap wine.

Wine tourism: Spain´s wine regions offer many opportunities to enjoy wine tasting at wineries and local food. Most popular wine destinations are Rioja due to its tradition as a red wine producing region, Jerez de la Frontera, due to its proximity to holiday destination and the impressive wineries that specialise in Sherry production and the wine region south of Barcelona in Penedes. Many interesting itineraries and routes are proposed by local wine organisations. List of wine tourism routes in Spain (http://winetourismspain.c...)

Wine-based drinks: young people in Spain have developed their own way to have wine. When having botellones big outdoor parties with drink and lots of people, most of them mix some red wine with Coke and drink it straight from the Coke bottle. The name of this drink is calimocho or kalimotxo in the Basque Country and Navarre and is really very popular... But don't ask for it while in an upper class bar or among adults, since they will most certainly not approve of the idea! As a general rule, any wine that comes in a glass bottle is considered "too good" to make kalimotxo.

bars

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 bombón 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 it's frequented mostly by tourists, thought it has become somewhat popular with young "hip" people. It is not present in smaller cities but it's basically everywhere in Barcelona or Madrid.

Café 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.

cider (sidra)

Can be found in the Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and Pais Vasco. This is slightly different to ciders found elsewhere in the world, since it not carbonated. It is often served in small doses culines that are poured from great height called escanciar in order to give it the feel of a carbonated beverage. This practice is particularly common in Asturias, although nowadays many establishments provide a small machine that makes the slightly difficult process of escanciar easy to do at your table.