Easy drinks to make for your next fiesta

By Jessica Chaiken

(Jason Kuffer/ Flickr)
(Jason Kuffer/ Flickr)

Last semester I decided to take a leap into the unknown, and do what only about 1.5 percent of college students across the Unites States do: study abroad. I stuffed as many clothes as I could into one regulation-sized suitcase, crossed my fingers that it wouldn’t be overweight, and I went off on my next adventure: Spain.

From the moment I arrived, I fell in love. For being just a “hop across the pond,” Spain introduced me to a whole new culture centered on food, drink and socializing. Compared to Americans, most Spaniards embrace the laid-back Mediterranean custom of taking time out of their days to be with family and friends, enjoy big meals and relax or take siestas (afternoon naps.)

Besides the amazing food, the drinking culture in Spain is like no other. Drinking is a huge part of the culture, and there is less of an aversion to underage drinking because it is so embedded in the culture. Alcohol is often present at meals, so children are often around it. In Spain, grabbing a beer with a friend is the equivalent to meeting someone for coffee. It is not unusual to walk past a café at 11 a.m. and see people drinking beer.

Of course, the nightlife in Spain revolves heavily around drinking as well. They don’t eat dinner until 9 or 10 p.m. so people won’t go out until around midnight. Then after a night of drinking and clubbing, they will come home at around 6 a.m..

I specifically spent the semester in the city of Valencia, on the east coast of Spain, where I immersed myself in the culture of living and dining like a Valencian. I tasted so many foods, and drinks as well. Now being back in America, I figured I’d bring a little culture into the mix and share a few of my favorite Spanish drink recipes.

One of my absolute favorite drinks in Spain is called “Agua de Valencia.” It is a Spanish cocktail, similar to a mimosa, but with more of a kick, and it is incredibly simple to make. For a pitcher of “Agua de Valencia,” combine one cup of orange juice, one-fourth cup of gin, one-fourth cup of vodka, three cups of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) or champagne, a pinch of sugar and sliced orange wedges. Adding ice is optional. Just pour these ingredients into a pitcher, stir and in minutes you can enjoy this Valencian specialty. But fair warning, the sweet taste does a great job at masking the alcohol content, so be careful.

Sangria was also one of my go-to drink orders. When I ordered sangria at bars, I was usually not served the sangria with apples and fruit, but rather a simpler version. I found that bars usually made sangria out of red wine, lemon soda and a combination of several hard liquors.

There are so many different sangria recipes around, and each bar has their own unique recipe. A similar sangria recipe to what I would get includes one bottle of red wine, two teaspoons of white sugar, 1.5 cups of soda (such as orange or lemon Fanta), one-fourth cup of triple sec, one-fourth cup of brandy, and both orange and lemon slices.

Another very simple drink that is popular in Spain is called “Tinto de Verano.” This drink is similar to sangria, but much easier to make with fewer ingredients. All you need to make this is one bottle of red wine, three cups of a citrus soda (either Sprite, 7-Up, Fanta, etc.) and a few sliced lemons. Combine these ingredients to make this hassle-free drink that tastes more complicated than it is.

These are just a few very simple recipes that I found to be worthwhile to share from my study abroad experience. There are so many culturally different drink recipes out there, so next time you’re in a bind and don’t know what to drink, look across the pond and beyond to find something new that just might surprise you.

Jessica Chaiken can be reached at [email protected].