Top pilgrim tip: Non-alcoholic drinks

There are many reasons why you might want to limit your drinking or avoid alcohol altogether while on the camino. For one thing, when you are spending your day walking through the heat and dust and relentless sun, alcoholic drinks are not your best friend – what you need is hydration, hydration, hydration. Obviously your typical fizzy drinks and fruit juices are widely available in bottles, cans and cartons from shops and bars, but you can get them at home too. So I thought I would make a quick and far from exhaustive list of fabulous non-alcoholic drinks you can enjoy in Spain, without the risk of waking up with heavy legs and a sore head.

Water: Widely available for free. From taps, fuentes – check they are marked potable, or at least *not* no potable! – bars, shops, people in vans parked around the corner when you are gasping for a drink … Bring your own reusable bottle or bladder to save on plastics. The water in Spain is perfectly safe to drink unless there is a warning, so you don’t need to keep buying bottles. Sparkling mineral water can be just as refreshing as any sugary pop, and it’s better for you. Make sure you get at least a litre of water every day in addition to any other drinks, more if it is really hot!

Coffee: Most pilgrims start their day with a café con leche or any other kind of coffee for breakfast, or before breakfast, or indeed in stead of breakfast. Spanish coffee is delicious and available in the smallest of bars in the tiniest villages, just don’t overdo it as it can dehydrate instead of rehydrate you. Get into the habit of drinking water on the side, it doesn’t interfere with the flavour but adds back more than you lose. Tea is also readily available, as are infusiones, or herbal teas.

Iced tea: Many of you might be drinking tea with or without milk most days, or most of the day, but when you get to Spain, it just isn’t like it is at home. Why not try substituting your regular tea for a refreshing iced tea instead? Most shops and bars have some form of iced tea in the cooler, whether it’s black or green tea, with or without added flavourings. Served with ice and a slice you get your caffeine while you hydrate!

Orange juice: Many Spanish bars have these odd contraptions that squeeze fresh oranges into the most divine orange juice – it is a joy to watch and a delight to drink, plus it’s got all your vitamins and natural goodness to keep you going. Yum!

Aquarius: Yes, it’s a sports drink, but most of all it is insanely refreshing! Choose your favourite, lemon or orange, and enjoy with or without ice like you would any soft drink, knowing you are topping up your electrolytes at the same time. Some bring rehydration salts, fizzy tablets etc, I just have an Aquarius limón (or two) every day and often bring a can in my pack as well. If you can find a bottle, get it! Then you can buy the cans along the way and pour them over so you don’t have to drink it all in one go, on the go.

Kas limón: Somehow the Kas and Trina lemonades and pops seem so much nicer than the big international branded ones (you know which ones I mean). The Kas Limón has an especially loyal fan base and is apparently less sweet than the competition. Try the local stuff, you might like it.

Mosto: Mosto is must, a grape juice with all the flavour and goodness, but it hasn’t been fermented, so has none of the alcohol. It comes in white and red, just like wine, is widely available and works well with tapas too. I didn’t know it was a thing before I noticed all the hip young vegans were drinking it last year, so you don’t need to drink craft ales to be cool (if you wanted to be).

0% beer: Alcohol-free beer is easy to find, both in shops and bars and restaurants. You can often find 0% lager on draft as well, even in small bars, and it makes for a really good thirst quencher during the day if you don’t like the sweet drinks. Also a great cold refresher with your light tapas lunch. Most major beer brands have their own cero version and most of them are surprisingly good!

Alcohol free clara: A clara con limón is a shandy or radler, basically a mix of roughly 40-60 of lemonade and lager. Ask to have it made with a 0% beer and you have a slightly sweeter, fresher, very drinkable and still non-alcoholic drink you can down in one. You can even get ready made 0% ones in cans to bring with you – a great alternative for pit stops along the way.

Gazpacho: Is it a soup? Is it a fancy juice? Well – yes. Gazpacho is cold tomato soup with lots of other vegetables, healthy and nutritious, sometimes thickened with bread, sometimes drizzled with oil … If you’re lucky you can get fresh, homemade gazpacho in a bar or restaurant, or you can pick up a small bottle or carton from the cold drinks fridge to enjoy for a light al fresco lunch at a nice spot. Dunk that bit of stale bread in it and it’s a full meal!

Kas bitter: This is the aperitif of choice for many Spanish and pilgrims alike – bitter, citrusy and fiery red, very refreshing over ice before your evening meal. An adult soft drink with class.

Tonic sin gin: Perhaps the easiest of non-alcoholic swaps – just ask for the tonic sin gin, without gin. Unless you are sensitive to quinine this is a great long drink for the evening with lots of ice and a slice.

Colacao: On a cold day you might want to try a Colacao at the village bar. It is a chocolate drink in a yellow sachet and you will soon notice it is everywhere. Some mix it with hot milk, some with hot water, some add it to their coffee. Thousands of cold and miserable pilgrims can’t be wrong – try it for yourself and you might get hooked (it seems easy to do). Some also have it as a warming drink before bed.

Chocolate con churros: I am including it in my list of drinks, though technically the chocolate should be so thick it is hardly a drink anymore. Churros are long sticks of deep fried dough sprinkled with sugar, so don’t expect much in the way of nutrients here but all of the calories! Delicious, indulgent, and perfect to share, it is one of the iconic Spanish treats and should be tried at least once.

My favourite trio must be café con leche, Aquarius limón and gazpacho … if I have missed your favourite non alcoholic Spanish drink off the list, let me know!

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