Drinks are pretty much the quickest and easiest way to experience Barcelona’s culture. They’re also the most relevant: Barcelona’s tourism hits its peak during the hottest month of the year. Hottest month = lots of drinking.
The city is home to many amazing bars and coctelerias, but right now we’re only interested in giving you an overview of Barcelona drinks.
Our Boozy Guide to Barcelona’s Drinks
Carajillo: The Old Man’s Magic
The carajillo is straight up old-manness: a shot of espresso, a shot of whiskey (usually rum or brandy) and a whole lot of face-scrunching firepower. This is not a drink for the weak of heart. Take one after dinner. You’ll respond one of two ways: “I will NEVER drink that again,” or, “I will NEVER EVER drink that again.” Only time, bitterness and more time will help you like this grumpy troll of Barcelona drinks.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: your bartender mixes in some sugar and a zing of citrus to deliver you from the usual bitterness and flaming angst that put even the most jaded hipster to shame.
Vermouth: Stay Classy, Barcelona
We just like the sound of the word “vermouth”. It reminds us of aloof aristocrats sucking on those super-long filtered cigarettes while talking about the merits of impressionist art. And it reminds us of Daniel Craig’s James Bond. And Coke…that’s right, many first-time vermouth drinkers liken the taste of the sweet, spiced wine to Coca-Cola.
The drink is a Sunday afternoon favorite for the older crowd, but vermouth is making a comeback with the younger crowd in many of Barcelona’s artisanal bodegas.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: you get your vermouth with a peel of citrus and the customary siphon, a bottle of bubbly water Barceloneses use to spritz up (and water down) their strong vermouth.
Cava: Screw you, Champagne!
No, random Barcelona tourist. Cava is not the Spanish version of Champagne. How dare you, sir. How dare you! Cava is sparkling Spanish wine first made popular in Catalonia. It’s a mix of several types of native Spanish grapes (Spanish, NOT French).
It’s light, bubbly and your best friend on a hot day when you feel those delightful cava angels dancing in your mouth as you prepare for a plate of seafood.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: you stop by El Xampanyet, the Barcelona epicenter for bubbly quaffing. Their cava is cheap, their food is good and the restaurant is so cozy your bound to leave with parts of your clothes drenched in the Catalonian tipple.
Cava Sangria: Don’t Mind If I Do
So….we’ve got news for you. Sangria isn’t just the purple stuff with massive chunks of citrus floating around in it like helpless fish waiting to be caught. This type of sangrilicious is an import from southern Spain, where the Andalucians make their purple stuff with wine, sugar and brandy.
A very Catalan version of sangria is cava sangria — bubbles, fruit and a delicate pale color with so much more class than the violent violet of its southern counterpart.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: you’re the classy culture expert who asks for cava sangria while the rest of your bleary-eyed mates slur out “san-GREE-aaaaaah!”.
Sherry is making a comeback as a popular mixer in cocktails. But that’s not the style of sherry/xeres/jerez we’re talking about. The sherry we’re lauding is the straight up stuff you get in a wee little glass after dinner. Brace yourself for a wonderland of raisiny, honeyish, plummy, dateish fantastic journey of delight.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: you find yourself feasting at La Flauta, a must-visit restaurant on near Balmes and Diagonal. Their Pedro Ximenez sherry is the perfect complement to a night of tapas.
Estrella Quintos and Medianas: Blue-Collar Bossness
Estrella Damm is arguably Barcelona’s most famous brewery and home to the beer for which it’s named. Bars all around Barcelona serve bottles Estrella and other beer in two sizes: quintos and medianas.
Quinto means “fifth”, which explains the 20 cl bottles known as quintos. Small bottles stay cold, which is why they’re a popular choice at neighborhood bars. Medianas weigh in at 33cl, making them more susceptible to going warm on a hot Barcelona day.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: the local bar has a cubo + tapa deal. Translation: a bucket of quintos like the one picture blow and a tasty tapa for about €5.
Orujo: The House Secret
Many bars in Barcelona have a secret bottle of booze they call orujo. The recipe is privy to the bar or restaurant, and they usually only serve the stuff to regular customers or, like in the case of one of our favorite (but secret) restaurants in El Carmel, after a table buys a lot of food.
Sometimes the stuff is yellow, sometimes it looks like milk and other times it can look like chocolate milk.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: your waiter brings you free shots at the end of your meal. Orujo me, please!
Anise: The Other Old Man’s Magic
Black licorice fans, unite. Anise (like the monkey-labeled stuff below) is a licorice-flavored liqueur Barceloneses like to drink after dinner. It settles the stomach, you know? It’s thick and sweet — basically, it’s like someone boiled down a couple of pounds of black licorice and infused it with lots of booze.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: you’ve got some napkins handy. Get any of this super sugary stuff on your hands and you might as well dip them in glue.
Clara: Not Just a Lady Drink
In Barcelona, hot summer days beat down on you like a searing hot mallet from hell. The average Barcelonese combats this incessant heat with: a super-expensive tryst with their air conditioner or a frosty clara, a mix of lemon soda and beer. It’s what some people call a shandy or radler. It’s what Barcelona residents call heaven.
Thank the lucky Barcelona unicorn drink gods when: your clara is a mix of Estrella and Schweppes Limón, a top-level combination of fine ingredients.
Carajillo Photo Credit: Carles Escrig i Royo, Flickr Creative Commons
Estrella Quintos Photo Credit: Pinc Floit, Flickr Creative Commons
Cava Photo Credit: dpotera, Flickr Creative Commons
Cava Sangria Photo Credit: Jay Cross, Flickr Creative Commons
Jerez Photo Credit: Jonathan Rubio H., Flickr Creative Commons
Vermut Photo Credit: kerinin, Flickr Creative Commons
Orujo Photo Credit: aherrero, Flickr Creative Commons
Anis Photo Credit: Despanabrandfoods.com
Clara Photo Credit: Ruben