The week we drank

Just to be clear, we actually drink every week. Water, obviously, plenty of fresh orange juice, and the occasional beer or bottle of cava. But this week I finally achieved Catalan Drink Bingo, and I had to tell someone!

There are many popular tipples to taste while watching the world go by here in Catalonia. Some you may have heard of, others perhaps not. But to achieve bingo, you gotta taste them all. Get your pencils out, it’s time to play…


1. Cerveza

Although we are discovering more and more local craft beers (like Tortosa’s own Lo Gambusi), cerveza on tap is pretty much limited to Damm Estrella, Cuzcampo, or if you’re lucky, Barcelona’s own Moritz. Oh, or you can have Damm Lemon, which is 60% beer, 40% lemon. Beer is everywhere here – it’s probably harder NOT to have one!

Una cervaza waits patiently for lunch in the sun
  • Average price for a canya (pot): €1.50.
  • Appropriate time to drink: all the time.

2. Vino

Spain is famous for its delicious wine, and Tortosa is very close to Terra Alta, a not-so well known wine growing region that produces some lovely shiraz blends. There is also a lot of Rioja from the northwest of Spain which is famous for its delicious tempranillo. If the wine is not so delicious, just cut it with some gaseosa (lemonade) and you have yourself a refreshing glass of tinto de verano, or summer red wine.

Vino tinto
A glass of Terra Alta vino tinto with lunch
  • Average price for a copa (glass): €2.50 (often free with lunch).
  • Appropriate time to drink: all the time. We’ve seen abuelas drinking red with breakfast.

3. Cava

Ahh cava. The bubbles that don’t need a reason to celebrate. Cava (xampany in Catalan) is Spanish champagne, produced mainly in Catalonia to the west of Barcelona. It is fantastically cheap to buy, and H is yet to find a bottle he doesn’t like.

Two glasses of delicious cava at our bar downstairs, Rosa del Vins
  • Average price for a copa: €2.50, but often you need to buy the whole bottle for €6–20.
  • Appropriate time to drink: all the time, according to those same abuelas.

4. Sangria

I always thought sangria was a bit of a tourist drink, and maybe it is, but now that summer is here you can get your sang’ on at most bars, particularly those with a terrace in the sun. You can have typical red wine sangria, made with vino tinto, some lemonade, a liqueur (often brandy), and some fruit, or a cava sangria which is similar but white and fizzy. We’ve been told that the fruits and liquids must be combined up to 24 hours before consumption for the drink to legitimately be called sangria, but are yet to test this extensively. Research continues, the things we do for science!

Sangria in the sunshine at the seaside. Spectacular!
  • Average price for a jarra: €8–€20, depending on your vista.
  • Appropriate time to drink: when the sun is shining.

5. Vermut

In this part of the world, ‘let’s go and take a vermut’ is similar to ‘let’s go grab a drink’. It’s pretty much a verb. Before lunch or dinner, and on weekends, people head to beach bars (or chiringuitos) or any kind of bar for an aperitif. Vermouth (vermut) is having a revival at the moment, and many bars and pubs make their own version of this sweetened and herb-infused wine treat. It is served on ice, with gaseosa on request, and garnished with a slice of orange and one or two anchovy-filled olives. I’m not even kidding a little bit about the anchovies.

A vermouth with chips in Barcelona. It tasted better than it looks, promise
  • Average price for a vaso: €3.00.
  • Appropriate time to drink: pre-lunch or dinner, Sunday morning.

6. GinTonic

Now things start to get serious. Although you can also buy all your other mixed drinks here, the gin and tonic reigns supreme as lord of the beverages. Multi-paged gin menus are standard, with garnishes ranging from standard lemon to lemon rind, strawberries, cherries, rosemary, juniper berries and pepper. And that’s just the gin half. You also need to pick your tonic, one that matches the fruity, floral or crisp nature of the gin. Served in a huge glass and prepared lovingly by even the most hardened barman, Spanish gin and tonics are in a world of their own.

A saffron-infused gin with tonic if you don’t mind!
  • Average price for a copa: €5–10, depending on your gin and your tonic.
  • Appropriate time to drink: At the start of the night, at the end of the night.

7. Café

So you’ve gone out, worked your way through the first six drinks on the list, and now it’s morning. You need a coffee. But which one? This excellent infographic shows you just how many different coffee variations are available in cafes and restaurants across Spain. Taking a coffee is an important part of the Spanish daily ritual, so it’s easy to drink yourself through the list, from a café solo (an expresso) to a bombón (a shot of coffee with the same amount of condensed milk). I have a cortado descafeinado de sobre (a sachet of decaf in a small cup of hot milk), pretty much a decaf magic!

A cortado with cake
  • Average price for a café: €1.50.
  • Appropriate time to drink: at the start of the day, morning tea time, afternoon tea time, before lunch, after lunch, before dinner, after dinner.

8. Horchata

Not just the name of Vampire Weekend’s first single from their second album Contra, horchata is actually a sweet milky drink made from tiger nuts (or chufas), originally from Valencia, and reserved for the summer months. The first time I drank it, I thought it tasted a bit like Clag, but now that it is warm and sunny, it tastes more like sweetened soy milk. It is traditionally served from horchaterias with fartons (hehe), long fingers of pastry covered in icing sugar.

H hoes into a horchata in Barcelona
  • Average price for a vaso: €3.
  • Appropriate time to drink: after school or on the weekend, when it’s warm.

9. Leche Merengada

And finally, the last square on my bingo card, leche merengada. A colleague told me about this drink last month, when the ic-ecream shops in town reopened after their winter break. Leche merengada is a kind of milkshake mixed with sugar, egg, a bit of lemon zest and some cinnamon. H thought it tasted like citronella candles when we drank one on the weekend, but I loved it. Not bad as an ice-cream flavour either!

A tasty leche merengada, complete with cinnamon on top
  • Average price for a vaso: €3.
  • Appropriate time to drink: after school, on sunny afternoons.

Best of luck with your own round of Catalan Drink Bingo. Please tell me what drinks need to be added for season two!

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