You might think that sangria is to Spain what ice cold beer is to the States—quintessential. But not all sangrias are created equal, and finding the best sangria in Madrid requires a bit more than just popping into any old bar and ordering some.
If there’s one drink many visitors to Spain seek out, it’s sangria. And we can see why: when done right, it’s the most delicious way to freshen up on a sweltering Spanish summer day.
That said, it can actually be quite hard to find good sangria at bars and restaurants here in Spain! So if the best sangria in Madrid is what you’re after, here’s everything you need to know about where to find it, how and when locals drink it, and so much more.
Sangria’s roots date back to the Iberian Peninsula’s Roman days, when people often added alcohol to water to make it safer to drink. The Romans soon started getting creative, mixing together water, wine, fruit, and herbs to create primitive versions of sangria.
These days, sangria generally includes red wine, citrus juice, a liquor (vermouth or brandy are common additions), sugar, ice and chopped up fruit. A lot of the best sangria in Madrid is based off this recipe, too.
That said, no two recipes are the same, and there are as many ways to make sangria as there are people in Spain. (47 million can’t be that far off!)
Tinto de Verano vs. Sangria
The thing about sangria is that it takes time. You need to let the fruit really macerate and give the wine time to soak up all those wonderful flavors. This makes it a great option for an event like a cookout or picnic, which is when most Spaniards will drink it (rather than ordering it at a bar).
What locals will drink while out is a much simpler wine cocktail called tinto de verano. A blend of equal parts red wine and lemon soda (or sometimes an artificially sweetened soda water called casera), tinto de verano is much easier and faster to make than sangria. Its simplicity is refreshing, and come summertime you’ll spot dozens of Spaniards drinking glass after glass of the stuff on sunny terraces.
Most bars and restaurants actually don’t serve homemade sangria, due to both the time constraints required in making it and the lack of demand from locals. But they know that tourists often expect it, so most places will either (a) add some sliced fruit and a splash of vermouth to a glass of tinto de verano, or (b) pour out a glass from a pre-made packaged sangria from the grocery store. Either way, prepare to overpay for what you’re getting.
If you’re still craving some really great sangria (and don’t have any Spanish friends to invite you over to try their homemade recipe), all hope is not lost! We’ve rounded up some places serving the best sangria in Madrid (and we promise it’s the good stuff).
Where to Find the Best Sangria in Madrid
Sangria is the type of drink you want to sip slowly while reclining under a beach umbrella. Unfortunately, Madrid doesn’t have a beach, but it does have Ojalá.
This bar knows ambience is key when it comes to sangria, and that’s why they’ve turned their downstairs into a sandy beach complete with a chiringuito (Spanish beach bar). What better way to enjoy their unique twists on sangria—both red and white—than by sitting back and feeling the sand between your toes?
2. El Palco
Next stop on our list of where to drink sangria in Madrid: El Palco.
This elegant cocktail bar is housed in Platea, a gourmet food amphitheater in Plaza de Colón. It’s the kind of place to see and be seen. From your seat at El Palco’s bar, you’ll have the perfect view of Platea’s stage, where performances vary from Cirque du Soleil acrobatics to the hottest international musical artists.
And did we mention the sangria? Happy hour gets a whole lot happier when you’re drinking one of El Palco’s summer cocktails. After a glass of their spectacular sangria, head downstairs to the patio for some tapas tasting (we recommend the salmon and feta cheese stuffed olives!).
3. Las Cuevas de Sésamo
No list of the best sangria in Madrid would be complete without mentioning Las Cuevas de Sésamo. It’s easy to miss this bar with its nondescript door at Calle Príncipe, 7. But go down a flight of stairs and you’ll find yourself in an urban cave.
Let us set the scene: Low tables and even lower lighting, walls covered in lines of poetry, pitchers of sangria served to boisterous clients while a pianist bangs out a few tunes. In short, having a drink in Las Cuevas is like going back in time. In fact, during the days of the dictatorship, many famous artists, actors and literary giants frequented the caves, including Ernest Hemingway, Juliette Greco, Ava Gardner and Jean Cocteau.
These days, the tradition lives on, and Las Cuevas continues to draw some of Madrid’s most luminary figures. So stop by, you never know who you might meet!
Best Sangria in Madrid FAQs
Sangria is a Spanish wine cocktail traditionally made with red wine, citrus fruits and juice, spices, and other liquors such as vermouth or brandy. In Spain, most people make and drink it at home for events like family gatherings or barbecues
Tinto de verano is related to sangria in that it’s a red wine cocktail, but it’s much simpler. In this case, the recipe is simple equal parts red wine and one of two types of soda (either lemon cola or sweetened soda water). Unlike sangria, many Spaniards will order tinto de verano when out at a bar or restaurant.
Sangria is traditionally made with red wine—ideally something young and fruity. If you’re making sangria at home, don’t use wine you wouldn’t drink on its own!
Update Notice: This post was originally published on March 2, 2018 and was republished with new text and photos on June 3, 2021.