How to Use Soda to Upgrade Your Cocktail Game, the Spanish Way

When in Rome, you can order spritzers of all colors of the rainbow. There are many aperitifs and fancy cocktails in Paris. But what do you drink in Spain when the food (and wine) is ready?

While tourists sip sangria, Spaniards sip cubatas, refreshing mixed drinks that are easy to mix and come in an enlightening array of flavors. The word Cubata is an abbreviation of Cuba Libre, a rum and cola concoction that became popular after Cuba gained its independence from Spain, and is now commonly used to refer to highballs or mixed drinks. These drinks are also called copas or combinados, after the shape of the glass in which they are served, which means combined drinks. Cubata, combinado, copa or cocktail, these combinations of alcohol and lemonade form the backbone of contemporary Spanish drinking.

The consummate copa is the gin and tonic. Forget everything you know about gin and tonic – gone is the 1:2 mix of gin and syrupy tonic water, the squirt of lime juice and baby ice cubes that melt easily. The Spanish gin and tonic is an art form whose proportions are so perfect they would make a Renaissance sculptor weep. Citrus peels are flicked and wiped, lightly scenting the glass with their aromatic oils, while large, cylindrical ice cubes resist watering down the drink.

Wine forms the basis of some of the most popular Spanish mixed drinks. There’s Tinto de Verano, a blend of red wine and lemonade that literally translates to “summer wine.” Or take its northern cousin, the kalimotxo (red wine, Coca-Cola and a note of lemon), a drink with humble beginnings in the 1970s Basque country that led to the word Coke itself becoming a trademark. The Rebujito from southern Spain is a delicious summery sip of fino sherry, lemonade and mint. While the basic ingredients are all the same – wine, bubbly soft drink, ice and flavorful toppings – the resulting mixed drinks are amazingly different – and dangerously drinkable.

These drinks are inherently simple, which is part of their charm. However, the secret of drinking success lies in the details. So, stock up on slow-melting ice, Spanish wine or spirits, and quality blenders, and pour at your next fiesta.

1. Spanish Gin & Tonic

In Spain, making a proper gin and tonic is an art form, with entire bars dedicated to the drink. Sure, the ingredients may look the same — gin, tonic, ice cream — but the magic is in the details, from the proportions (tonic-heavy) to the glass (think Fishbowl).

2. Kalimotxo

Young red wine, Coca-Cola and a note of lemon are all that makes this unusual crowd pleaser from the 1970s in northern Spain. A group of friends on the outskirts of Bilbao invented it during their town festival and in a stroke of genius they combined the ingredients they had on hand and the rest was history.

3. Rebujito

The Rebujito hails from southern Spain where the local wine is fortified sherry and the high temperatures call for something cool and refreshing. Lemon-lime soda is added to a base of sherry, tossed with mint, blended and served, a favorite for local celebrations.

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