Piquant Pintxos & Vermouth Culture

by | Feb 11, 2022 | Spain | 1 comment

When it comes to dining and imbibing in Spain, there is so much for the foodie’s heart and belly to be delighted with. Surely if you know anything about Spanish cuisine, then you’ve tried tapas or have had the desire to do so. But have you ever heard of pintxos or tried exquisitely refreshing afternoon vermouth?

Tapa Delights

Pintxos and tapas have both been around for centuries, and tapas are probably much more well-known. Thought to have originated in the 12th century, tapas came to life because of a piece of bread that local imbibers used to “top” (“tapa” is Spanish for the word “top”) their glass of wine to keep the flies out. These little pieces of bread would later become local small plates, typically enjoyed with a glass of wine, preferably on a sunny terrace.

"Pintxos & Vermouth" by Marjorie Jean Vera
“Pintxos & Vermouth” by Marjorie Jean Vera

In the Basque country, a well-known region for culinary delicacies which boasts several Michelin-starred restaurants, the modern trend of taking small slices of bread and topping them with various local delicacies became a hit in the 1930s, which quickly spread to the other regions of Spain.

Some typical pintxos could be Iberian ham with manchego cheese and a small slice of membrillo (a typical sweet quince preservative), a slice of Spanish tortilla, a fried padrón pepper and bite of chistorra, or crab salad with grated egg whites all garnishing a slice of bread with a skewer (AKA the pintxo itself) poking through the center to make a bite-sized morsel of goodness atop a piece of bread.

The cost is typically between €1-3 and they are prepared in advance and on display so that you can mosey on over to the counter and pick out as many of these delicacies as your hungry heart desires.

Then when you finish, the restaurant will count the number of skewers on your plate and charge you according to whichever ones you’ve selected. They vary in price according to the ingredients.

Vermouth Perfection

Now, no afternoon pintxos foodie date in Catalonia is complete without a vermouth. And an afternoon vermouth is a very local experience and sometimes simply refers to the moment you take to sit with friends on the terrace to have a drink and catch up either during lunch or after work.

"Carrer de Blai, Barcelona" by Marjorie Jean Vera
“Carrer de Blai, Barcelona” by Marjorie Jean Vera

While vermouth originated in Italy, Spain imported it for centuries. In the early 1900s Reus, a tiny town in Catalonia which is the known birthplace of the legendary artist and architect Antoní Gaudí, became a top producer.

Vermouth is wine infused with various herbs which give it a robust flavor, ideally served over ice and garnished with an anchovy-filled olive (or two). You can even visit the vermouth museum in the heart of Reus, which is also a restaurant and boasts hundreds of varieties of local vermouth.

For a vivacious experience in Barcelona where you can try piquant pintxos and enjoy vermouth culture to the max, I highly recommend visiting  Carrer de Blai in Poble-Sec, where you will find several pintxos restaurants with lovely terraces and locals doing as the locals know how to do so well. That is to enjoy time to sit with loved ones with no sense of urgency to be anywhere or do anything while sipping on afternoon vermouth with some decadent nibbles in perfect weather.

What are some of your favorite local dining and imbibing traditions in Spain or anywhere else you’ve traveled to? Comment below to get the conversation started!

by: Marjorie Vera