This blog post was originally posted on November 2, 2016, and was updated on October 11, 2017.
Your bags are packed, your tickets are booked, and you’re counting down the days until you arrive in Madrid. Now, all that’s left to do is brush up on those important Spanish phrases.
We’re not talking about “¿Dónde está el baño?” Serious matters only, we want to make sure you know how to order a drink in Madrid! We believe eating and drinking is at the heart of the Spanish cultural experience. Some might call it a national pastime! Familiarize yourself with ordering drinks in Spanish as well as typical drinks in Spain by following our tips and tricks for navigating the Madrid bar scene. Cheers!
Phrases for Ordering a Drink
If the the thought of having to order a drink in Spanish has you sweating bullets, take a deep breath and relax. Ordering a drink in Spanish is a thousand times easier than high school Spanish teachers would have you believe.
To start, the bartender makes eye contact with you or your server approaches your table. Here’s how the exchange will most likely begin:
¿Qué quieres beber? What do you want to drink?
¿Qué quieres tomar? What do you want to have?
¿Qué te pongo? What can I get for you?
In Spain, there’s no need for formalities. While it may be basic instinct for you to ask for something, you can directly use a Spanish command instead. Ask and you shall receive.
Dame… Give me…
Quiero… I want…
Ponme… Give me…
Example: Ponme una cerveza. Give me a beer.
If you’re unable to remember any of these phrases, simply asking for the beverage by name will suffice. Following up with por favor will cast a favorable light upon you.
Example: Una cerveza, por favor. A beer, please.
Cerveza – Beer
Embrace simplicity and ask for a cerveza. The majority of bars have just one or two on tap, and in Madrid, Mahou is king. The variation (and challenge) comes in ordering your desired size or mixer.
Caña: Small draft beer. Generally 150-200 ml, but this can vary depending on city, as well as even bar!
Doble: Technically double the size of a caña but varies depending on the establishment.
Jarra: A mug of beer. At least equal to a pint. This is generally the largest draft beer sold.
Botellín: Bottled beer
Clara con limón: Extremely popular and refreshing mix of beer and lemon Fanta.
Insider’s Tip: Many bars offer non-alcoholic beer in bottles. Ask for a “cerveza sin.”
Vino – Wine
There’s a reason Spanish wine is world famous. From fizzy cavas to full-bodied Riojas, wine is one of the most popular drinks in Spain. As the capital, Madrid restaurants and bars boast wines from all over the country. When ordering, feel free to specify the region or type of grape you’d like.
Vino tinto: Red wine (if you order this, they’ll most likely give you whatever their house red wine is.)
Vino blanco: White wine (if you order this, they’ll most likely give you whatever their house white wine is.)
Cava: Sparkling wine (the majority of which is made in Catalonia)
Joven: Young wine that has no aging
Crianza: At least two years old; must be aged at least one year in barrels and 1 year in bottles
Insider’s Tip: Spaniards rarely drink sangria. If you really want to look like a local when you order a drink in Madrid, satisfy your sweet tooth by asking for tinto de verano. One of the most typical drinks in Spain, tinto de verano is red wine mixed with lemon Fanta.
If you’re traveling to other regions of Spain, traditions might differ! Watch Devour Madrid expert guide Luke walk you through different apertifs from around the country and give tips on how to order wine throughout all of Spain.
Otras Bebidas – Other Drinks
We love beer and wine, but sometimes you need something stronger. Whether you’re winding down from a long day or pumping yourself up for an even longer night, a copa (mixed drink) is just the ticket. While the majority of Madrid’s alcoholic beverages are undersized, copas are not. Consider yourself warned: ask for a copa, and you’ll be getting a mixed drink in a goblet the size of your head. When ordering, be sure to specify what brand of alcohol you want. For example, instead of ordering a rum and coke you’d order a “Barceló con Coca Cola.”
The superstar of the Madrid cocktail scene has long been the classic gin and tonic (gin tonic, for when you’re ordering drinks in Spanish). However, bars boasting specialty cocktails can be found throughout the city. One of our favorites is 1862 Dry Bar (Calle del Pez, 27), which is located in the ever-happening Malasaña neighborhood.
Not sure what you’re in the mood for? Ask the friendly staff for a recommendation. With the entire cocktail menu fairly priced at around 8 euros, it won’t bankrupt you to be a little adventurous.
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Alex’s first taste of Spain was Basque Country, and it was love at first sip…of txakoli! Too obsessed with tapas to even consider returning to the States, Alex moved to Madrid and continued exploring Spain. Read more about her travels and expat adventures on her blog: Backpacking Brunette.