Christmas 2015

Festive cheer: Seven great Spanish tipples to enjoy over the holidays

Festive cheer: Seven great Spanish tipples to enjoy over the holidays
Photo: Nathalie Babineau-Griffiths / Flickr
There is nothing better than celebrating the holiday season with a great drink or two among friends and family, and what better way to do it than Spanish style?
From steamy hot chocolate to a chilled bottle of bubbly, here are our favorite festive drinks from Spain.

Photo: Violette Riestra
One of the more surprising holiday drinks is alcoholic apple cider. Spain’s cider is a totally different affair to the carbonated, sometimes sweet cider typically found in countries such as Ireland and England. It’s tart, dry and cloudy, without any carbonation, and is poured from a great height into specific cider tumbler glasses and drunk quickly in frequent, small amounts.
The cider is produced in northern Spain, where the cool climate is perfect for growing the crisp apples required for the cider production, so in these northern regions – especially in Asturias where 80% of Spanish cider is produced and where they drink more cider per capita than anywhere else in the world – cider is a popular drink at all times of the year, especially during the holidays! However, it’s not uncommon to find families in other places in Spain using the festive season as an excuse to enjoy an aperitif of cider or toasting in the New Year with cider as an alternative to cava.

Archive photo: Shutterstock
Cava is one of the most traditional and beloved holiday drinks in Spain. This Spanish bubbly is a champagne style sparkling wine produced mainly in Catalonia (also in parts of Extremadura, Aragon and Valencia), but enjoyed throughout all of Spain. In Catalonia Cava is enjoyed by many on an almost daily basis, but for much of Spain the bubbles only get cracked open when the occasion calls – and of course, the Christmas and New Year holiday season is the most important time! Spain’s New Year’s Eve tradition says that we toast in the New Year with a glass of cava, while eating our 12 grapes to every strike of midnight, a tradition that is said to bring good luck for the following year.

Photo: Ignacio Palomo Duarte/Flickr 
While many people associate “sherry” with the sickly sweet drink that was found at the back of Grandma’s liquor cabinet, this could not be any further from reality. Sherry is a fortified wine from the sherry triangle in Cadiz, and sherry wines range from the driest in the world to the sweetest in the world, with everything in between. In fact, you could match a different type of sherry wine to every course of your Christmas feast, without even batting an eyelid!
Start your meal with a glass of fino, a bone dry sherry which is crisp and nutty. It’s  a very popular aperitif in Spain, and pairs amazingly with all the seafood that we love to devour over the festive season. Then move on to a variety of sherry called amontillado, which always makes for an interesting drink choice. This is an amber colored sherry which is often nuttier than fino and pairs amazingly with such a wide range of food that it is perfect for a “one glove fits all” solution when it comes to wine pairing. Finally, go for a good bottle of sweet but delicious Pedro Ximenez for dessert– perfect over vanilla ice cream!
Rioja Wine

Photo: AFP
Rioja is practically synonymous with Spanish wine, and this red wine is adored by households all throughout Spain. Hearty roasts are popular during the holiday season, making Rioja an easy choice for many holiday tables. The great news is that as Spanish wine becomes more recognized outside of Spain, finding a nice bottle of Rioja wine in other countries is becoming easier than ever, so even if you aren’t spending the festive season in Spain, choose your wine wisely and you will be able to create a Spanish experience at home! 
Sweet Malaga Wine

Photo: Carlos Madrigal/Flickr 
While Pedro Ximenez sherry is certainly one of the most famous Spanish sweet wines around, the truth is that delicious sweet wines are produced all over the country, meaning you can finish of your meal with something unique and special. Malaga, the well known capital city of the Costa del Sol in southern Spain, produces its own sweet wine by the same name. In fact, the wine making region in Malaga and the surrounding mountains is one of the oldest wine producing regions in Europe! In Malaga they produce a sweet wine wine using Pedro Ximenez and moscatel grapes, and this wine is the perfect accompaniment to our favorite Christmas shortbread cookies, such as mantecados and polvorones.
Warm Spiced Sangria

Photo: Piero Fissore/Flickr 
While sangria is not drunk on a regular basis in Spain like the rest of the world has been wrongly been led to believe, it is enjoyed during a party or celebration – and what better celebration than Christmas! However, sangria as we know it is a summer drink, so for a modern (and festive!) twist on this quintessential Spanish beverage, why not take the recipe into your hands and spice it up with some holiday sparkle? Feel free to get creative with your choice of red wine, spices such as cinnamon & cloves, some fresh apple juice, something to sweeten, such as local honey, and a splash of hard liquor or brandy to finish. Warm it gently over the stove, then let your tastebuds be the judge!

Photo: Trubble/Flickr 
There is nothing more satisfying after long day of Christmas shopping than stopping for an afternoon snack of chocolate and churros. A steaming hot cup of chocolate is served almost pudding thick in Spain, and surprisingly not too sweet. Real chocolate is melted down with milk and sugar, providing a cup of warmth and a kick of caffeine to keep you going til dinner time! 
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