There’s nothing more frustrating than ordering a beer in a bar using your perfect Spanish, only for the bartender to respond in English! Let’s be honest: it might be your accent or even the way that you’re dressed that gives it away. But sometimes, it’s simply the wrong choice of words that do it: one example is a phrase that you probably already knew, before you ever even started to learn Spanish: “Una cerveza, por favor” - one beer please. While this is a correct sentence, there are other ways to order that will not necessarily flag you up as a tourist.

Here we will provide you with a few tips to order more like a local!

Size matters!

Think about it: in a British pub, you wouldn’t just ask for “one beer please”, you would ask for a pint or a half-pint. The same applies in Spain. Sizes vary, but here are the sizes from smallest to largest

una caña - the smallest size, around 0.2 litres, and probably the most common way to order a beer
un doble - as the name suggests, this is a double, so approx. 0.4 litres
un tubo - literally a tube, this is normally served in a slim glass. The size varies, but is also usually 0.3-0.4 litres
una pinta - a larger glass, served in typical pint glass. This is a fairly uncommon glass size in Spain, and might not be available everywhere
una jarra - the largest, either a tankard-style glass or a large jug for sharing amongst friends (again, this is not common in all bars)

“Una caña, por favor”

This is the phrase that you will most often hear when out in bars across Spain. In the UK you might go one step further, by specifying what kind of beer you want. In Spain this isn’t normally necessary. Most bars will only have one beer on tap, so you will just get a fresh draught beer of whatever they have. There will often be a big logo of the brand they serve hanging at the entrance.

Want a bottle instead?

Another phrase that you might know is to ask for “una botella de cerveza” - if you want a bottle of beer instead. This is another phrase that is rarely used by the locals. Again, they would again refer to a bottle of beer by its size, asking for “un tercio” - a third - referring to a 0.33l bottle. Un quinto is even smaller - usually 200ml. I’ve often seen workmen or a postman pop in the tapas bar for one of these. It guarantees them their free tapas, but, presumably, has little effect on their ability to work or operate heavy machinery.

Tapas Tip

While you may be tempted to order a larger beer on a balmy summer evening in Granada for example, don’t forget that you get a free tapas with every drink you order, no matter how big the beer. If you stick to cañas you will get plenty of tapas to wash them down with!

We hope this helps you to enjoy your trip more. If you want to make your trip worthwhile, you might be interested in spending a few hours learning Spanish before you head to the pub! If so, Estudia-España offers great deals on intensive Spanish courses.