LEARN SPANISH: A FREE BLOG SERIES #9 Ordering in a Bar – Diary of a Spanglish Girl

by learn a language journalist



En el Bar

Hola a todos,

I’m pretty surprised that I’m sitting here writing this Learning Spanish #9. With all the posts sitting in my drafts and all of the ones I need to write up, I thought this would take a back-seat. Looks like I enjoy it more than I thought!

As funny as it sounds, the Learn Spanish Blog Series helps me too. I’m nowhere near fluent, I still forget the odd word and I definitely struggle with speaking more than anything. I don’t know if it’s a confidence thing, or because I genuinely can’t think quick enough. It feels like when you have an argument, and two hours later you think of the perfect comeback. Maybe that’s the reason why we can’t think of the comeback at the time, or why I can’t think of the response quick enough. Pressure.

It’s one of the reasons why I don’t and wouldn’t offer classes. I’m not good enough to do it.

But, my writing is pretty good, and the vocabulary I do know is definitely good enough and wide enough to create a course, and it’s doing so okay so far, I think…!

I enjoy going to different bars, for different reasons. I’m not a drinker myself. I never have been. Neither is Alex, so it works pretty well. But, I do enjoy the socialisation, or the sports, or the tapas…

If you’re in Spain, whether that’s Benidorm, Barcelona or Benalmadena, you should definitely stop off at a Spanish bar, at least once, and try some of the tapas. You’ll love it! (and if you don’t, you’ll have probably spent less than €3 anyway!)

The Bar Culture

I never really went to bars in England, I didn’t see the point. But in Spain, they have a bigger purpose, in my opinion.

In Spain, drinking is not for the intention to get drunk. Instead, it’s more a case of having a small drink, with a group of friends and some little nibbles along the way.

It’s not rare for somebody to go to a bar twice a day for a caña and a bit of tapas. The thing is, if you actually look at what they drink, it’s not a lot. It’s usually a typical caña of beer, which is less than half a pint, or they have a botellín, which is the smallest bottle of beer available. Sometimes, they may order a pinta, which is a pint.

In this lesson, I have pulled out some of the vocabulary and key phrases you will need to order drinks and tapas in the Spanish bars, just like the Spanish do. ¡Salud!


Most people might just to say “una cerveza” but in actual fact, you’ll need to order this by saying which size you want.

  • una caña – a small draft beer, less than half a pint
    una can-yah
  • una mediana – a third of a litre bottle
    una meh-dee-ah-nah
  • un botellín/un quinto – a fifth of a litre bottle
    un boh-tay-yin / un kin-toe
  • una clara – beer mixed with lemonade
    una -clah-rah

If you’re ordering a shot, you’ll want to order “un chupito” you’ll follow this with “de” meaning “of”. So, what would you like? “Un chupito de”

  • vodka
  • whisky
  • ginebra – gin
  • tequila

Wine is super popular in Spain, and the best thing is, it’s usually a lot cheaper than it is in the UK. You can stop off to Mercadona and pick a good wine up for around €3. A vaso de vino in a bar can be as little as a €1!

  • un vino tinto – literally translated to “tinted wine”. This is red wine. If you order un vaso de vino tinto, you’ll be given a glass of the house red, if you’d like the bottle, ask for una botella de vino tinto.
    un bee-noh tin-toe
  • un vino blanco – this is white wine
    un bee-noh blan-coh
  • un tinto de verano – this is a popular summer drink of wine mixed with soda water. Don Simón is a popular brand, you can even get alcohol free versions. My favourite is tinto de verano limón
    un tin-toe day bear-ah-no

Water can be served at room temperature or cold. Usually, during the summer months, you’ll want it fría. 

  • agua natural/fría – normally, this will be a glass bottle of still, natural water.
    ah-wah nat-oo-rall/ free-yah


The best part about bars is the tapas. At most bars, they may bring out a bowl of nuts or some cheese biscuits, some places even bring out crisps or bread and garlic butter. But, nothing compares to the real tapas. If you’re not sure what they are, or what they mean. I’ve pulled together some of the best tapas.

  • Gambas al Ajillo: This is an amazing tapas, sizzling prawns served in olive oil and garlic, usually with some chilli peppers, too
    gam-bas al a-hee-yo
  • Calamares: These are fried squid, usually served in rings
  • Nuggets de Pollo: My absolute favourite, chicken nuggets, normally they come with fresh chicken and homemade batter
    noo-getts day poy-yo
  • Pan y Alioli: A very good standard piece, bread and garlic butter
    pan e ah-lee-oh-lee
  • Arroz del Día: Rice of the day, normally includes vegetables and meat and/or seafood
    ah-rrohss del dee-yah
  • Patatas bravasFried potato cubes, topped with spicy alioli sauce
    pah-ta-tas bra-bass
  • Tortilla: A potato omelette which is very popular
  • Jamón Iberico: Sliced salt-cured ham
    hah-mon ee-bear-ee-coh
  • Boquerones Fritos: Fried anchovies, one of my favourites!
    boh-kay-roh-ness free-toss

Sometime in the future, I’ll do a post just on tapas, the history of it, the culture of it and its significance.


It’s time to put this into action. It’s all well and good knowing what is on the menu, but, let’s help you to know how to ask for what’s on the menu.

If you’re not sure what you’re after, you could ask ¿Qué me recomiendas para beber?” meaning “What would you recommend (me to drink)?”
kay may reh-coh-me-en-das para beh-bear

You could say:

  • Tomo un vaso de vino tinto – I take a red wine
    tohmoh un ba-so day bee-no tin-toh
  • Dame un chupito de whisky – Give me a shot of whiskey
    dah-may un choo-pea-toe day 
  • Quiero una caña – I want a small beer
    kee-air-oh ooh-nah cah-nyah
  • Me vas a poner un vaso de vino blanco – You will put a glass of white wine for me
    mah bas a poh-nair un baso day bee-no blan-coh
  • Yo voy a tomar un agua natural, gracias – I’m going to have a natural water, thanks
    joh boy a toh-mar un ag-wah nah-too-rall gra-thyas

You can order la cuenta by signalling a check with your fingers or you can wave at the waiter and say “la cuenta“.  (lah cwen-tah)

Now, you’ll know how to order your favourite drinks in Spain!

Keep up to date with the Free Blog Series and have them straight to your inbox by adding your email address to the subscription box on the right-hand side, in a box that looks like this one!

Hasta luego,

This guide is a free blog series. This information has been picked up by practising speaking with locals in the Comunidad Valenciana area. Any resemblance to any book, guide or learning Spanish resources, is purely coincidental. This guide is not intended as a substitute for other resources or teaching. This guide does not guarantee fluency in Spanish.

This content was originally published here.

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