The rare and wonderful things to get drunk on in Catalunya


A bottle of ratafia. Photo by Yeza.
A bottle of ratafia. Photo by Yeza.
A bottle of ratafia. Photo by Yeza.

You’ll recall that in Catalonia, the women are hot, the sailors are drunk, and the grandparents get started on their vermut before noon. I assume, darlings, that you have absorbed this blog’s wisdom quite nearly become Catalans.

But how, you ask, scratching your mulleted heads, nervously twisting your pantalons cagats, should we get drunk in this lovely land? Or, more precisely, on what?

So here it is, your ….

Guide to What to Drink and How to Order in Catalunya

Vi negre — Literally “black wine”, these are often quite powerful reds; famous among them are the officially designated regions (D.O. or Denominació d’Origen) of Priorat and neighboring Montsant. At old-style wine shops in Catalonia you can still bring your own jug or plastic water bottle and fill it with ultra-cheap wine from a barrel.

Vi blanc — Many white wines are dry; one region to look for is Alella.

Cava — Sparkling wine (a.k.a. champagne); nearly all sparkling wine from the Iberian peninsula comes from the Catalan region of Penedès. Catalonia is the world’s second largest producer of sparkling wine after the French region of Champagne.

Aigua de València — “Valencian water” is a cocktail that combines cava, orange juice, vodka and ginger in varying ratios. It was invented by the painter Constante Gil and reached its heyday in the Valencian nightlife in the 1970s. Today, his signature drink remains more famous than his art.

Birra — Just order “una canya” to get a draft beer; you will most likely be served Estrella or a similar light concoction from Barcelona’s Damm brewery. Catalan microbrews include Keks from Girona, Catalonia’s first buckwheat beer; and the microbrewery Cerversera del Montseny, whose beers Lupulus Iberian Ale, Malta Pale Ale, and Negra Stout are the only Catalan microbrews available in the States.

Aiguardent — A “firewater” distilled from leftovers from winemaking.

Ratafia — An herbal digestif; some families in the Catalan countryside have their own secret recipes passed down through generations.

VermutVermouth.

Estomacal Bonet — Officially sold as “El Gran Liquor Bonet”, this is an artisanal herbal brandy of great traditional stature in Catalonia.

Les Herbes Eivissenques — An anise liquor from Ibiza infused with and distilled from a wide variety of herbs.

Orxata de xufes — A cold, refreshing, nonalcoholic beverage from Valencia, made from the extract of nutritious tubers known as xufes (sometimes called tigernuts in English, or chufas as in Spanish), sugar and water. It is best consumed in the summer at specialist orxaterias, which also offer sweet pastries. Orxata made from xufes that meet government quality requirements is labeled Denominació d’Origen by the Valencian government.

Aromes de Montserrat — Traditional liquor made by the monks at the tourist hotspot monastery high above Barcelona.

Cremat — Literally, “burned”. This is a flaming brandy-rum caffeinated cocktail.

Beguda del pobre — From the region of Lleida, this “drink of the poor” is made from oranges, anise, and sugar.

Absenta — Catalonia is one of the world’s hotspots for absinthe consumption and production.

Crema catalana — When referring to desert, “Catalan cream” is the same as what the French call a crème brûlée. When referring to drinks, however, crema catalana means a cream liquor. A popular brand is Crema Catalana Melody.

1 Comment

  1. August 31, 2015
    Reply

    I wish I had seen this post before visiting Catalonia. We were given some Ratafia to try in a restaurant in Girona and really enjoyed it (bought 2 bottles back with us). Would have been nice to try some of the other local drinks while we were there too, although we loved Girona so much we plan to go back.

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