Cañas & Copas – A Guide To Ordering A Drink In Spain

Spain has more bars than any other country in the world, and with a drinking culture that goes back to the Romans,  its hard to ignore.

They also produce world class drinks; premium lagers, wines, fortified wines, spirits and digestivs – all will keep you glued to your new home from home – the bar.

In fact for visitors and inhabitants alike its near impossible not to tomar algo in a friendly establishment. We offer a short guide to how to what to expect and how to order at the bar so you can mix with the locals!

The Spanish rival their northern neighbours for alcoholic consumption but have a far more relaxed ( and civil) way of drinking – being over time and with complimentary bar food and nibbles ( tapas).

Una Caña

Spaniard are big beer drinkers and una caña, or a small draft beer — with lots of foamy head in 200 ml glasses is the stable of the Spanish day –  even for breakfast! Futhermore, the genius behind this is that your beer will always be extra cold. But, if you’re really thirsty, ask for un doble – literally a double caña.

Un Tercio

The Tercio is an important term in Spanish and has been used in different way – literally meaning a third – it is famous in Spain for the highly prized military formations ( of 300 men) of the Royal Army that defeated the Moors and took on the Protestant rebels of Holland during the 16th century.

In the bar this applies to a third of a litre and which is the standard size of a bottled beer unless you want something smaller ( whats the point…) Spain boasts a fine array of premium bottled lagers, Mahou, San Miguel, Ambar, Estrella Damm, Estrella Galicia among many national and local brews – with or without an ice cold glass ( con vaso).

Un Botellín

Also known as un quinto, a fifth of a litre—these little bottles of beer are quite popular in local fiestas where they are kept in ice cold buckets – expecting a high turnover!

Cerveza Sin / Cerveza Cero

Non alcoholic beer – all the major brewers have a surprisingly tasty options for non drinks – the difference between the two is neglible – both have no or hardly any alcoholic content.

Una Clara

Known in Britain as a Shandy this has long existed in Spain. It is a caña or doble mixed with lemon soda or lemonade. It is also a refreshing, delicious and the perfect aperitivo pre-lunch drink – especially in the hot summer months. Measures are usually a third beer to lemonade.

Un Chupito

There are a wide variety of post meal digestivs – usually offered on the house – with the most common being Hierbas, Pacharan and Crema de Orujo. Served in cooled shot glasses – its usually the a signal for the end of the celebration or the beginning of a very long one……use at your discretion!

Vino Tinto

This is red wine – dont say vino rojo! Spain has a rich variety of wine denominations and grape varieties so very much depends where you are if you ask for the general term – in Madrid bars the standard is Rioja or Ribera which are denomination terms – no inkling by that as to what grape it is – but as a standard glass in the bar its the norm.


Vermouth is the fashionable drink of the age – having made a spectacular comeback in recent years and which Madrid is a clear winner with a fine selection of Vermouth bars.

Sangria is known internationally, but its rare to find a local ordering one – more likely is tinto de verano which is red wine mixed with soda and ice. Excellent summer drink!

Una Copa

copa can refer to many different things – so beware! It could be just a glass as in ordering a una copa de vino but more likely it is for spirits – and a un bar de copas is generally a late night joint that serves whisky, gin and rum but not much else….and expect a late night!

For visitors to Madrid this can seem a little bewildering to grasp for the first time and there are plenty of group wine & tapas tours where you can just pitch up and enjoy the evening with likeminded visitors or if you really want to get to grips with it then a private wine and tapas tour, either in the day or evening is the perfect place to learn about Madrid´s rich gastronomic culture as well as enjoy some great food and wine.



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