Everyone knows that one of the signs of alcoholism is drinking alone. It’s true that Rioja has its share of alcoholics (with the cost of young Rioja at 85 U.S. cents a glass, I’m surprised that there aren’t more!) However, drinking is a group activity in Rioja, based on ‘la cuadrilla’.
‘Cuadrilla’ can best be translated as ‘crew’, but not in the nautical sense. A bullfighter has a ‘cuadrilla’ (the picador, the banderilleros, and the mozo de espadas), a construction company has ‘cuadrillas’ of bricklayers, painters, plasterers, formwork specialists etc. In addition, ‘cuadrilla’ means the group of friends that you hang out with.
Here in Rioja you can see cuadrillas going from bar to bar before lunch and dinner having a small glass of wine or beer and sometimes a tapa. Each round is paid by a different member or the money is collected at the beginning and the rounds continue until the money is gone.
Unless it’s a special occasion when everyone goes to the old part of town to the highest concentration of bars, cuadrillas drink in their own neighborhood. Since there are several bars on every street in Logroño, and most other cities in Spain, you can have a few glasses of wine without going too far from home.
A variation on the theme of the cuadrilla is having a few glasses of wine with your spouse after work. We do this at least three times a week, visiting several bars near the house. It’s a great way to get a little fresh air, some exercise, see your friends and chat with the bartenders, whom we know very well, to hear the latest jokes. You enver get drunk because the glasses are small. Spaniards are gregarious people and the streets are full between 7:30 and 10 PM every night, so it’s easy to run into friends from the neighborhood.
One of our favorite bars is El Tirador (The Shooter). Like other bar owners in Rioja, Pedro Ruiz, his wife Toñi and their children moved to Logroño in the early 1970s. Pedro is from San Asesnsio, one of the most important wine villages in Rioja, and the bar serves wine from the family’s small winery. The bar takes its name from the fact that Pedro was a rifleman in the Spanish army.
El Tirador serves a wide range of tapas: a hothouse mushroom, a piece of pig’s ear, sausage and my favorites:the VIP – two boiled quail eggs, a pickled anchovy and chopped onion; and the huevo frito – a fried quail egg with a piece of sausage on a piece of bread.
Bar El Tirador, Somosierra 22, Logroño. Tel. 941 24 40 39.