Summers in Spain are famously steamy—especially because air conditioning hasn’t quite caught on in this part of the world. Midday siestas aren’t as popular as they once were, but many Spaniards have another secret weapon for staying cool when the temperature rises: Spanish spritzers.
What Is a Spanish Spritzer?
These sparkling, sweet and lightly boozy drinks are a refreshing twist on the classic wine spritzer. While the American wine spritzer is usually made with plain club soda, Spanish spritzers generally use flavored sodas like Coca-Cola or Lemon Fanta, which are mixed with red or white wine. These low-abv drinks are often served over ice with a wedge of lemon or orange.
Different regions of Spain boast distinct variations on the Spanish spritzer, according to Diego Baud, beverage manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Barcelona and founder of Liquid Journey, a cocktail master class.
“When it comes to spritzers, there’s a whole world of flavor waiting to be explored,” Baud says. “From Seville to the Basque country, the preferences for this refreshing drink vary like the colorful hues of a sunset.”
One thing they do have in common: They’re typically served seasonally, reserved for imbibing during the most caliente months. “While [the Spanish spritzers] tinto de verano or rebujito may be the stars of the show on a sweltering summer day, they’re hardly the go-to when the temperature drops,” Baud says. “These chilled wine-based elixirs were crafted to quench your thirst and cool you down during the scorching heat of summer.”
But you don’t have to jump the pond to sample these drinks. The formulas are simple enough to try at home whenever you’re in the mood for a taste of sunny Spain. Here are a few variations to try.
Tinto de Verano
Literally translated as “red wine of summer,” tinto de verano is an easy-sipping spritzer that blends red wine and citrus soda. “This quintessential summer beverage will transport you to the sun-drenched terraces of Andalusia,” Baud promises. “It was originally created as a summertime alternative to traditional red wine, which can be too heavy and tannic during the scorching hot summers in the south of Spain. It’s the perfect combination of light, bubbly and citrus.”
Invented in Cordoba in the 1920s, tinto de verano now has fans throughout the country, with some regional variations. The wine can be anything but a well-balanced Tempranillo or elegant Rioja are good options. The most traditional soda to use is the best-selling Spanish brand Gaseosa La Casera, but Fanta, 7-Up or other citrus sodas are also common. Some will add a touch of vermouth for added depth, then finish it off with a simple citrus garnish.
Make Your Own: Pour equal parts red wine and citrus soda into a glass full of ice. Adjust taste accordingly. Add a splash of vermouth, if desired, and garnish with a citrus wheel.
While he may be a master mixologist, Baud admits that the humble rebujito is his favorite Spanish spritzer. “Close your eyes and imagine yourself transported to the heart of Andalusia, Spain, where the air is filled with the rhythmic sounds of flamenco music and the irresistible aroma of mouth-watering tapas. The rebujito is the perfect drink for this occasion—a fun and fruity cocktail that’s tailor-made for the Andalusian spirit.”
The classic rebujito blends a dry Sherry with lemon soda and ice. For an added touch of sophistication, finish it off with a sprig of fresh mint. “The scorching weather in southern Spain calls for a cool, refreshing drink, but I also crave the complexity of a dry, saline Sherry with a touch of sweetness and citrus,” Baud says. “The key ingredient that sets rebujito apart is the Sherry, a fortified wine that’s been produced in Andalusia for centuries using the Solera system… The dry, saline notes of Sherry complement the refreshing lemon soda perfectly, creating a truly spectacular drink.”
A bit controversially, some have traced the Rebujito’s roots back to the U.S., where a cocktail called the Sherry cobbler was popular during Victorian times. But, Spanish wine specialist April Cullom counters that the drink rose to popularity at festivals like Feria de Abril in Seville, “because of the sheer volume of Fino or Manzanilla served during the local festivals, which are usually in the summer when temperatures can reach well over 100°F.”
Make Your Own: Pour one-part dry Sherry to two-part citrus soda in a glass filled with ice. Adjust to taste and garnish with a mint sprig.
The origins of this concoction are murky, but most accounts trace it back to a Basque festival where the organizers found themselves with an overwhelming supply of sub-par red wine. Someone had the bright idea to cut the wine’s sourness with cola, and the kalimotxo (also sometimes spelled calimocho) was born. It’s been called a poor man’s sangria, but its popularity has spread across Spain and beyond; even many American bartenders are now familiar with the drink.
Cullom remembers trying her first kalimotxo as a junior at the University of Madrid. “It was actually not bad at all,” she says. “I remember having one in San Sebastián with a local cola called Kas.”
Make Your Own: There’s no exact recipe for the kalimotxo, but most experts recommend equal parts red wine (Cullom suggests a Valdepeñas Tempranillo) with Coca-Cola, served in a highball glass over ice. Garnish with a lime or lemon wedge.
Beer Spritzer: The Clara
While it’s not made with wine, the Clara follows the same spritzer formula of soda and alcohol—but this time, the latter is beer rather than wine. “Given the heat in the summer in southern Spain, people often ask for a Clara, draft beer with a splash of [the popular Spanish sodas] Casera or Limon,” Cullom says. “This also reduces the amount of alcohol, [which is good] when it’s 100°F. A nice cold beer hits the spot, but sometimes having a Clara is ‘safer’ because of the combination of heat and alcohol.”
Make Your Own: Pour your favorite beer to fill a glass ¾ of the way up and add a splash of citrus soda to taste.
Last Updated: June 6, 2023