Northern Spain’s regional cocktails

Sloshing Around Northern Spain

Welcome to our ‘must experience’ cocktail list to save and check off as you tour around northern Spain with U.. We’ve chosen these drinks for their uniqueness to their regions, in many cases their humble local beginnings, their fun factor and well,…. just the experience of drinking them! There are of course many more cocktails to enjoy, and these are just a sample of what you can expect. It will of course, come as no surprise to read that many of these cocktails are made with local red or white wines and in some cases, the wines are in fact the feature beverage! So relax and enjoy your U. trip and make sure to have fun this summer!

Galicia – Queimada

For a cocktail that will set the scene of a vibrant and passionate experience in Spain, look no further than the fiery punch Queimada. The core ingredients of Orujo (pomace brandy – ‘aguardiente’ or ‘firewater’ distilled from grape skins and more often than not, distilled in the sheds and garages of locals!), sugar, coffee beans, and lemon zest are sometimes accompanied by orange, cinnamon, apples and grapes in a large clay bowl and then set alight! Yes, you heard right….. This scrumptious cocktail is the tasty flaming Galician drink of choice! And if you’re lucky enough, your local bartender may just add to the experience with a chant to ward off evil spirits. All in all, the Queimada will keep you spell bound and engaged in the gastronomy of the region!

Asturias – Sidra d’Asturies

Warm weather and gentle breezes help the region of Asturias grow and harvest the sweetest juiciest apples which are used to create the best sidra in Europe (or so the locals would say)!. In english, we call it sider, and this thirst quenching alcoholic beverage, not at all like beer, has been produced in the region since the days of the Romans, has been influenced through time by a range of multi cultural settlers such as the Arabs who called it ‘siserio’ and is now considered the equivalent to a ‘regional wine’. So much so that 3 main types, Sparkling cider, Natural Traditional cider, and Natural New expression cider are protected and marketed under the Denomination of Origin – Sidra d’Asturies.

Refreshingly crisp, sidra is used in much of the local gastronomy, both as a primary ingredient and as an accompaniment. As wine bars are to wine, sidrerias are to sidra, and there are plenty of them in the region. Its a pretty special experience to watch a local serve the cider in a ‘traditional’ glass the escanciado way – a process of carbonating the drink by pouring from the flask above your head into the glass sitting at hip height, creating a delightful bubble reaction.

Castile and Leòn – Limonada de León

Don’t let the name fool you. This Limonada packs a punch. It’s a red wine based cocktail that’s touched with sugar, spices, lemon juice and cut with water when needed. Each town within the region have their own slant on this traditional cocktail such as adding cinnamon or dried fruit like figs. You can get one at any time of the year, but it is the default festival beverage so you may see it on the drinks list as Limonada de Semana Santa.

Cantabria – Orujo

Aguardiente – think Firewater! Like Grapa is to Italy, Orujo is to Spain. Made from distilled grape skins, stalks and seeds this was traditionally a ‘garage’ drink which has found more artistic popularity in recent times. Today you can find the variations of blanco (white), hierbas (herbal), crema (creamy), con café (with coffee), amongst others. And like many of its vino counterparts, the Orujo festival in Cantabria celebrates the simplicity of this traditional drink which originated in the valley of Lièbana.

Basque Country – Kalimotxo

Kalimotxo is a delightful summer drink made simply from red table wine and cola. It’s actually much more refreshing than it sounds and comes with its’ own serving traditions. If you’re thirsty, then order a maceta – that’s a one litre sized glass with the cocktail served on the rocks with a few slices of lemon. We also suggest that you splash out and order a quality dry wine as this seems to bring our the flavour combinations well. On a more local basis, some bars take this basic recipe and add more local flavours like Ouzo, Ourjo and different spices and citrus fruits.

La Rioja – Marianito

Marianito is a sweet vermouth-based cocktail best enjoyed as an aperitif in the late afternoon’s setting sun. Add Campari, Gin, and Angostura in a tumbler and you have a beautifully deep red sweet cocktail that is often served with olives or slices of fruit. Like many other alcoholic traditions which have morphed over time, different towns and cities within La Rioja spice up the cocktail with locally grown ingredients such as other bitter liqueurs, such as Cynar, Fernet Branca, and Bitter de Naranja and even lemon or orange juice

Navarra – Pacharán

Pacharán is one of the most complex and interesting liquors on this list which alone makes it an interesting ‘must taste’ experience. But be careful, because this liquor will knock you for a six if you’re not mindful. It has a whopping 25-30% content and is usually served after dinner as a digestive. It’s made from blackthorns / sloes which are tart berries that resemble blueberries and are found in the wild and in hedge type clusters. The sloes are macerated in sweet, aromatic black liquorice tasting spirits such as anise and different bars add their personal touch with accents of roasted coffee beans or bay leaves, herbs and spices. In most cases you’d be served a ‘shot’ straight, or chilled on the rocks.

Aragon – Wines

Sorry folks, but we’d be remiss if we put a cocktail before the wines of Aragon. With four appellations of origin (DOs): Calatayud, Campo de Borja, Cariñena and Somontano, and five ‘Vinos de la Tierra’ (The IGT-like appellation for regional wines), Aragon bring a huge diversity of wine culture to the Spanish table! The most typical grape of the region is Crujillón or Cariñena although the region also produces a broad range of earthy complex reds and crispy refreshing whites.
For a real experience, seek out a traditional cooperative that still produces local wines and match it with the highly impressive local cuisine! And of course, add the cola or the Oruja for a twist!

Cataluña – Ratafia

Another fine liquor of Spain, made in the Cataluña region, is Ratafia. Instead of using grape skins, this sweetly spiced liquor is made using brandy and then layered with a combination of macerated herbs and fruits such as green walnuts, mint, thyme, and basil, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. In days gone bye, this beverage was used for ‘medicinal purposes’ and so women were allowed to drink it. I feel a headache coming on…. every evening!

Trips to get you here

Udforsk de gastronomiske lækkerier, de pulserende byer, de fantastiske strande og naturparkerne i Nordspanien – fra Baskerlandet til Barcelona og Madrid!

Fæstninger og strandbarer, flamenco og sherry-smagning, byer på bjergtoppene og gammel arkitektur – Sydspanien på 8 dage med masser af action

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