I recently spent 10 glorious days in Spain, soaking up the culture, the food – and the libations, of course – in Barcelona, Madrid and Segovia. No bourbon, or whiskey, was consumed. It’s not what Spain is known for, obviously (one guidebook went so far as to caution that “Spanish whiskey is to be avoided”), and while I did spy the occasional bottle of Jim Beam or Four Roses Yellow Label in a bar, I didn’t travel 4,000 miles to drink bourbon from back home. I wanted to drink what the locals drank.
By far the most interesting spirit I sampled was orujo, glasses of which (above) were offered to my traveling companions and me following a lovely dinner at Mariano, a small neighborhood establishment in Madrid (below).
Orujo is a strong (typically 37 to 45 percent alcohol by proof) Spanish liqueur made from what’s left of the grapes following wine production. The skins, stalks and seeds are fermented in open vats and then distilled in copper stills. This produces a colorless liquid – the “white dog” of Spain; to achieve the bright yellow liqueur pictured above, the liquid is aged for at least two years in an oak barrel. (It’s a small world, after all.)
According to tradition, men are served this orujo envejecido, which, as you’d expect, is fiery but is also very smooth. Women, meanwhile, are served crema de orujo, the light-beige liqueur above, which is very sweet, reminiscent of Bailey’s. Yes, of course I tried them both. Would you expect less from the Bourbon Babe?