Sangria might steal the show when it comes to Spanish drinks, but there’s a whole bunch of lesser-known beverages to whet your whistle. From fiery queimada served as part of an ancient Celtic ritual to punchy sherry cocktails, here are some traditional drinks to try when you're on holiday in Spain.
Made with crushed ice and fresh fruit juice or syrup, there’s nothing better than a granizado on a hot summer’s day. There are all sorts of flavours, but one of the most popular is limon – made with lemon juice, sugar and shaved lemon peel to give it a zesty kick. You’ll find granizado all over Spain from ice cream parlours and grocery stores to bars and cafes.
Cava is Spain’s version of Champagne. It’s made in a very similar way, but with different grapes. Most cava grapes are grown in the Penedès region in Catalonia, but it's also produced in the Basque Country, Valencia and La Rioja. There are several varieties of Cava including blanco (white) and rosado (pink) – it looks like you’ll have to try both to see which one you prefer! Cava pairs very well with sheep milk cheeses, salty Padrón peppers and seafood.
La Rioja province in northern Spain is one of the world’s most famous wine regions. It's known for its bold reds that are on par in deliciousness with the earthy wines from Bordeaux, France or the full-bodied wines from Tuscany, Italy. Rioja wines are split into four categories – Genérico, Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva – depending on how long it has matured, but you can typically expect a medium to full-bodied vino with high tannins and notes of dark berries and earthy herbs. Oak may also be present depending on how long the wine aged in the barrel.
Ratafia is an ancient Mediterranean liqueur made from a curious concoction of macerated fruits, herbs and nuts. It can be made with various seasonal fruits, but it usually includes walnut, cinnamon and nutmeg. The liquid is then aged in wooden barrels for at least three months. Catalan ratafia is sweet, strong (up to 30% ABV) and is best drunk as a digestif over ice, or as an accompanying beverage with dessert. It’s also delicious poured over ice cream.
Qeimada, or ‘fire drink’, is from Galicia in northwestern Spain. It's drunk as part of an ancient Celtic ritual believed to purify the soul and ward off evil spirits. It's made by simmering lemon peel, coffee beans, cinnamon and a strong alcoholic liqueur called orujo over a big stove pot. It's then set alight until the flame turns blue and is poured into small cups. Evil spirits aside, drinking queimada is bound to put a fire in your belly and a spring in your step! It's very likely you'll encounter queimada as you walk through small Galician villages on the Camino trail.
Rebujito is an alcoholic punch from Andalusia, the southernmost region of Spain. Made with dry fino sherry, lemon or lime soda, mint and ice, it’s a refreshing tipple to cool down in the intense summer heat. You can drink rebujito on its own, or pair it with seafood or salty cheese and cold meats.
If you like the intensity of port and brandy, chances are you’ll like Jerez, a fortified sherry wine from the southern region of Cádiz. Jerez varies in sweetness and colour, ranging from a pale yellow to darker treacle, but the darker varieties are generally more intense. A glass of Jerez is best enjoyed as a digestif, or with a cheese board or slab of something rich and sweet.
We couldn’t not feature Sangria on this list. Sangria is an iconic Spanish drink loved around the world. There are heaps of versions, but the classic recipe is made with red wine, brandy or vermouth, sliced apples and oranges, and sparkling soda. A crowd-pleasing pitcher of sangria is the perfect drink to share with friends over tapas.
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