When you’re in Spain, it might be tempting to eschew every other drink on the menu and just go for sangria.
After all, that’s what Spain is famous for…right? Surprisingly, no! Drinks in Spain are widely varied (but you’ll rarely see locals sipping on sangria), and in the Basque Country, choices become even more diverse. If you’re wondering what to drink in San Sebastian, here are a few options to get you started.
Get the complete scoop on drinks in San Sebastian in the video below! James and Ania will show you some of the drinks described in this post, along with insider info on how to enjoy them like a local.
First up on our list of what to drink in San Sebastian: the small but mighty zurito. This tiny draught beer is the world’s smallest, coming in at just 150 milliliters. Why would anyone want such a small beer? The answer is directly connected to pintxos culture here in San Sebastian. When locals go out for pintxos, they typically only have one at each bar (ideally, that place’s specialty pintxo) before moving on to the next. As a result, you don’t need a massive beer to wash it down. The zurito‘s convenient size helps it fit perfectly into any pintxos crawl.
Craving beer, but want something a little more substantial? A caña might be just what you’re looking for. With a typical volume between 300 and 400 milliliters, it’s the next step up from a zurito when it comes to draught beer. This is what to drink in San Sebastian if you plan on staying at one bar for a little bit longer than the time it would take to devour a single pintxo. Again, it’s a bit on the small side compared to other beers, but that just means it won’t get warm as you drink it!
There are so many excellent wines from Spain, but here in the Basque Country, we have something truly special: txakoli. This crisp, refreshing, semi-sparkling white wine is native to the Basque Country, produced mainly in the picturesque seaside village of Getaria just outside of San Sebastian.
The unique growing process behind txakoli is the secret to its incredible taste. Hondarrabi zuri grapes grow on vines reaching up to three meters high, with their leaves spread in order to catch as much sunlight as possible. The sea breeze wafting in from the coast carries minerals to the plants, giving the final product just enough of a slightly salty aftertaste to make you feel as if you’re sipping it by the shore. To really look like a local as you enjoy your txakoli, remember to pour it from the perfect height: a maximum of 20 centimeters!
If you think you know cider, think again. Basque cider, known as sidra in Spanish, is a far cry from the sweet, fruity drink you may be imagining. Instead, it’s quite flat, naturally cloudy, and very dry, with an almost buttery taste. And with an alcohol content of only 6 percent, it’s not as strong as you may think, either—but it’s still one of our favorite options for what to drink in San Sebastian.
Basques have been drinking cider for longer than beer and wine have been around, so it’s safe to say they know what they’re doing. They’ve perfected everything about the art of cider—from the fermentation process to the incredible pouring technique (from high above the head into the glass down below!). The unique pour and small amount in each serving of cider allow for it to accumulate the perfect amount of bubbles, giving each sip a crisper taste.
You can’t come to Spain without drinking red wine. Luckily, some of the most iconic reds in the country are produced not far from San Sebastian, in the D.O.C. Rioja wine region. In fact, a small part of the region is actually located in the Basque Country itself, in the province of Álava. The Riojas produced here undergo a slightly different growing and production process, giving the final products a fuller body and higher acidity than those made in La Rioja. Another great local option are the wines from D.O. Navarra, an up-and-coming wine region also bordering the Basque Country.
If wine is calling your name, be sure to go with a crianza variety. Aged for several years, including one in a barrel, these wines are unpretentious and not complex but still serve up an incredible taste, making them the perfect choice for a casual night out with friends.
Gin & tonic
You haven’t really had a gin & tonic until you’ve had one in Spain. This beautifully prepared Spanish classic takes the simple cocktail we all know and love and gives it a more incredible flavor than ever. The secret: a large glass, plenty of ice, a generous pour and a unique garnish. If you’re still undecided on what to drink in San Sebastian, try a G&T and you’ll never look back.
Last but certainly not least on our list of what to drink in San Sebastian is a twist on the vermouth currently taking most of Spain by storm. The marianito, a small vermouth flavored with orange and olive, is especially popular in the north of Spain and has made a name for itself as one of the most popular drinks in San Sebastian. It’s a testament to the excellence of Spanish dining: simple, local ingredients combined masterfully into one final product with outstanding flavor.
Still thirsty? Try some of the above drinks and more when you join us on our Ultimate Pintxos & Wine Tour! This fun-filled foodie experience will give you a crash course in the local pintxos scene, as well as an understanding as to why San Sebastian’s gastro culture is among the best in the world. Topa!
Life is too short to speak one language and stay in one place. In 2015, this philosophy took her from familiar Ohio to sunny southern Spain. Usually drinking tinto de verano, reading Lorca, or attempting to dance flamenco (not all at once). Follow her blog, Viatic Couture, for more.