Everybody Botellón: The Art of Outdoor Drinking in Madrid

Does being a broke young person mean making questionably refined yet delightfully cheap wine concoctions? Does it mean drinking said concoctions on the unlit patches of grass in Tompkins or deep within the shady parts of Prospect Park? It might—and in Spain, there’s actually an established tradition for that.

The practice of botellóns—literally translated as “big bottle” in Spanish and vernacularly known as the widespread parties that take place in Spanish parks and plazas late at night—are rites of passage for the jovenes of Madrid. From the hours of 11 pm to 3 am or later, boxed vino and €1 cerveza is chugged and small bodegas reap the benefits of selling alcohol after legal hours with their lights turned low. 

These gatherings were invented sometime in the 1980s when workers desired a cheaper alternative to bars. Today, people in their early teens to late twenties engage in the park drinking culture on any night of the week. Drinking in public is technically illegal and offenders are subject to a fine of €600, yet attendees are at little risk; botellóns have become so engrained into the Spanish culture that one can even purchase a botellón “package” at any corner store, and cops prefer to stand around the circumference of larger such gatherings and monitor the situation for any serious mischief. It’s an extremely practical approach to patrolling young people, really.

If you’re under 25 and walk into a bodega after 10 pm, the guy behind the counter will almost certainly know what’re looking for. This botellón package includes, but is not limited to, a generous fifth of alcohol, a mixer, cups, a package of ice, and straws if you’re lucky. Your fun is secured for a mere €12.

Expectations of losing my own botellón virginity had me thinking I would be slapping the bag or impersonating a 1970’s divorcee with a white wine spritzer. I was only half wrong. Spanish drinks are hilariously intellectually undemanding—if you allow them to be.

Kalimotxo, also known as cocavino, is a mixed drink consisting of two parts parts red wine and one part any carbonated cola beverage pounded by madrileños both young and old. In the warmer months, cola is swapped for Sprite or Fanta and a generous twist of lemon is added to make for a popular summer cocktail called tinto de verano. Think sangria gives you a worldly edge? Think again; sangria is an indicator of your tourist status.

So the next time you’re in WSP too late on a school night partaking in some dubious activities, remember: There’s a word for that. You’re just helping NYU cement its global university status.

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  1. says

    Botellon is really weird, and I definitely don’t see it crossing over to the US. I don’t condone 12-14 year olds getting schwasted but I saw it with my own eyes when studying abroad in Madrid. Very interesting article.