Summer beach holidays in the Spanish sun remain a clear favourite among tourists keen to escape cooler, and wetter, climes in the north. Apart from guaranteed sunshine every day, Spain’s diverse cuisine – especially the renowned Mediterranean diet in popular resort areas such as Murcia’s Costa Cálida – can be enjoyed on al fresco restaurant terraces by the sea.
And it’s not just about food. As the SpainInfo tourism board notes, “To accompany your dishes, what better than some of the cooling drinks that are typically served at this time of year, and are staples of the Spanish summer?”
Hydrating drinks also obviously help refresh the palate when the temperatures rise – just one of the key recommendations by government health authorities for people to take adequate precautions against the heat (but more about that below).
To savour with meals, both lunches and dinners, SpainInfo suggests an old favourite, “tinto de verano” (“summer red wine”), a drink that combines red wine with lemonade. “Other options include a delicious jug of sangria, with red wine, chopped fruit, sugar and – depending on the area and the bar – a few special touches such as cinnamon or rum. And, if you like the idea of combining wine with other drinks, a favourite with young people is what they call ‘calimocho’ – red wine mixed with cola.”
For beer drinkers wanting to keep their intake light, especially during the day, the Spanish equivalent of shandy is “clara” (beer and lemonade served ice-cold).
After meals, many locals drink iced coffee. They add sugar to (usually) a “solo” (black with no milk) coffee, then pour it into a glass full of ice. Another suggestion? “Cream of orujo (a type of brandy) or pacharán (sloe liqueur) over ice. Delicious.”
Those who prefer a non-alcoholic option are also well catered for. “One favourite with young and old alike, and very popular all over Spain, is the creamy drink known as horchata, which is made with water, sugar and tiger nuts. You’ll love the taste, particularly if you drink it accompanied by the long sweet pastries known as fartones, a traditional complement to this drink.
“And of course you have to try the sorbets, ‘granizados’ (slushies), fruit juices, lemonade and ‘leche merengada’, a drink made of milk, sugar, eggs, lemon and cinnamon, served ice cold, which is an instant hit with everyone who tries it.”
Many areas also have their own special concoctions that are just as well suited to the hottest months of the year and which can be easily prepared wherever you are.
“Here are a couple of examples to whet your appetite: Valencia water, made with orange juice and cava; and “rebujito”, a drink from Andalucía combining dry sherry and fizzy lemonade.”
The Classic Pleasures of Gazpacho
Any talk about cooling drinks in Murcia – and, indeed, the whole of Spain – would not be complete without mentioning another classic: gazpacho. Around 70 per cent of gazpacho that is packaged or bottled and sold around the world is produced in the Murcia region.
A small carton of gazpacho is always great to have in the fridge for a pre-lunch aperitif or (if you overindulged the previous night) a common remedy for hangovers (or at least one way of easing the symptoms).
But, of course, nothing better than the rich red cold soup prepared fresh using natural ingredients and served in either a bowl (with diced vegetables) or a large glass. The traditional ingredients are tomato, cucumbers, onion, capsicum, garlic, olive oil, wine vinegar, stale bread, water and salt. Sometimes, however, the cook will add their own little touch – like strawberries or melon, for example, to give it a sweeter taste. Chefs at top restaurants have also taken gazpacho to new levels of fusion haute cuisine, often remarkably innovative and appetising although sometimes barely resembling the original.
Summer Heat Precautions
Drinking water frequently is one of the main recommendations by Spanish health and meteorological authorities to help people prevent the harmful effects of high temperatures.
Their top-10 for this summer is:
- Drink water or fluids frequently, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
- Avoid caffeinated, alcoholic or highly sweetened drinks (but still okay to try some of our recommendations above).
- Pay special attention to babies, children, pregnant women, nursing mothers and elderly people with diseases that can be aggravated by heat (heart, kidney, diabetes, hypertension, obesity, cancer, dementia, etc.).
- Stay in cool, shaded or air-conditioned places.
- Reduce physical activity and avoid outdoor sports in the middle of the day.
- Wear lightweight, loose-fitting, breathable clothing.
- Never leave anyone in a parked and locked vehicle.
- Consult a doctor if you have symptoms for more than one hour that may be related to heat.
- Keep medicines in a cool place.
- Eat light meals (fruit, vegetables) and cut down on high-fat foods.