My year in Spain left me richer as a person in many ways (except the part where it made me poorer, which was in my bank account). One key lesson: When it comes to alcohol, quit being such a snob.
Lesson 1: Mixing soda pop in your wine is A-OK.
Spaniards love to drink red wine mixed with lemon fanta. It’s called “tinto de verano,” or “red (wine) of summer” which sounds much better than “wine spritzer.”
This makes perfect sense. Spain is mostly a warm-weather country; Spain is a country that produces an abundance of red wine; red wine is not at all refreshing on hot days. You can fix this by making sangria, but who has the time? Just mix half lemon Fanta and half wine into a bottle, and go drink in the park. Problem solved.
This was a big switch for me, as I always thought wine spritzers were tacky. I think I got this idea from watching sitcoms in the ’90s, when I was too young to know what a “wine spritzer” was, but knew that shows like “Just Shoot Me” had a low opinion of them.
Spain broke me of that habit, and for that I am grateful. Now on a hot day, I pour out some cheap red, toss in a few ice cubes, and mix in some Sprite (it’s hard to find lemon fanta in the states).
You should try it. It’s delicious.
#2: Sometimes, crappy lager is the best possible thing.
Spaniards also love light beers. It comes as a surprise when you first show up in Spain, but very few people are drinking wines in those outdoor cafes in Madrid — they’re drinking Mahou, the local lager. I didn’t understand this at all, until it got really hot out in the late spring. Suddenly, Mahou was all I wanted. I was compelled to drink it. Couldn’t get enough of it. Every Mediterranean country has its own crappy lager, and in every place I visited on a hot day, that’s what I ordered and gratefully drank.
#3. That soda/wine thing? It doesn’t work with Coke.
Another classic wine drink from Spain is the kalimotxo (pronounced “calimocho”). It’s Basque — note the “tx” in the word, which is just a super Basque way to spell something — and it’s half cheap red wine, half Coke. I really like Basque country and the Basque people I had occasion to interact with, but this booze is not for me. It tastes like Coke’s evil twin. Like, it looks like coke, but tastes vaguely sinister. The Coke flavor actually enhances the taste of the alcohol in the wine, somehow.
#4. When possible, add fruit to your alcohol.
I now do this with my gin & tonics. Chop up ripe fruit and let it hang out in there. This isn’t strictly a Spanish thing (sangria notwithstanding), but I picked up the habit there and now love it.