In a country that has as a type of olive for almost every day of the year, how do you know which one to choose? In reality, you don’t always have a choice. Most bars only have one type of olive that they serve to their customers. But if you’re going to be buying your Spanish olives in bulk, there are a few you should look out for.
So many types of olives to try, but which ones to go for first?!
One of the most common varieties in the country is the manzanilla olive. It’s most common in the south, where most cities have their own local styles and sub-breeds. They’re fleshy and meaty, with a mild and not too bitter flavor. Commonly marinated with wild herbs, they’re a great snack, and go perfectly with a glass of crisp fino sherry!
Their all-round appeal also makes them one of Lauren’s olives for people who don’t like olives!
If you’re looking for olives with a kick, then hojiblancas are for you. These olives have thicker skin than most varieties, giving them a sharp and spicy note. As well as being a great snack, the oil from these olives is famous for its peppery, nutty flavor.
Gordal (or “fat”) olives are named for their overly large size. At around 6 grams each, they’re one of the biggest olives in Spain! They’re even meatier than the manzanilla variety, and are perfect for stuffing. If you like your olives with a bit of cheese or pickled peppers inside, you’ll be right at home with a gordal.
This variety is most commonly grown around Madrid, and is one of the most popular olives in the capital. Their thin skins mean that the flavor is pretty mild, making it perfect for marinades! You’ll find Campo Real olives seasoned with an aromatic brine of fennel, marjoram, oregano, bay leaves, and cumin. They’re a must-try olive while in Madrid.
Beautiful olives in different stages of ripeness. All olives start green, but turn black as they ripen and oxidize.
The cacereña olive is a bit different from the others. Unlike other Spanish olives, these are left to ripen on the tree until they’ve gone completely black. As the olives oxidize, they lose their distinctive green color, as well as their bitter and vegetal flavors.
As such, these olives have a rounder, sweeter flavor, and go perfectly with the saltiness of their brine.
Are you one of those people who love bitter flavors? If so, you’ll want to try out some malagueña olives when you’re in Spain. These meaty olives from Malaga are smashed open before curing, to help the brine get deep into the fruit. The curing process is sped up, and the aromatic flavors are stronger than usual! This is a Spanish olive that packs a punch.
These small black olives from Spain’s eastern coast can be hard to find. They’re really only served where they’re grown, in the area around southern Aragón and Catalonia. But if you can get your hands on them, you’re in for a treat. Another example of an oxidized olive, these babies can be addictively sweet and nutty!
You’ll usually get a tapa of olives for free with a beer or wine in Spanish bars!
Now you know which Spanish olives to try, how exactly should you eat them?
I don’t mean the perfect way to chew them, but the best way to eat them like a true Spaniard! Locals eat olives as a snack or simple appetizer. In most parts of Spain, you’ll often get a small tapa of olives for free along with your glass of beer or wine! They’re the perfect way to start a meal, or a great salty snack to contrast a cold beer or fino sherry.
Sherry is a fantastic base for vermouth, and Bodegas Lustau combines dry amontillado and sweet Pedro Ximénez sherries to make Vermut Rojo. The sherries develop for 10 years in the solera system, and you can taste that age in this elixir; its bitter finish is tempered with orange peel notes.
The brothers Martínez Lacuesta developed their vermouth formula in the 1930s and have been producing it in the Rioja town of Haro ever since. White wine is macerated with 24 plants and spices and then aged in French oak. The resulting vermouth is lightly sweet, with a toasted, oaky character.
Mariol helped bring the vermouth tradition back onto hipster radars in Catalonia. Macabeo grapes are the base of the Vermut Negre, or black vermouth, which gets its color from unripe green walnuts and its herbaceous cinnamon and licorice flavor from over 150 botanicals.
Founded in 1884, the bodega in El Morell, Tarragona, was one of the pioneers of Spanish vermouth and maintains traditional methods and recipes. The mahogany- colored Reserva sits in oak barrels for a year, mellowing into a smooth vermouth with fruit notes—it's the most Italian-esque of the list.
St. Petroni counts itself among vermouth's new generation, touting terroir above all. Most of the base of this impressive, apricot-scented, fresh vermouth is Albariño from Galicia, and the aromatic mix of botanicals includes bay leaf, rosemary, and lemon verbena, abundant in the nearby hills.
This venerable sherry producer based its warmly spicy, rich vermouth on a recipe from the bodega's archives dating to 1906. Clove, savory, nutmeg, cinnamon, and other spices over a base of oloroso and Pedro Ximénez sherries create its complex range of flavors.
More an idea than a recipe, marianito is a word that describes a smallish sweet vermouth served over ice. When you order a marianito in Spain, it is often served preparado: garnished with an olive and orange and enhanced with a few drops of this and that. To make your own marianito preparado, follow these steps:
1. Place a few ice cubes (the bigger, the better) in a glass.
2. Pour sweet red vermouth (between 4 and 6 ounces) over ice.
3. Add a dash of Campari, a dash of gin, and a dash of Angostura bitters. But here's where you can freestyle, if you feel like it—use orange bitters instead, or any amaro-style drink, such as Amer Picon, Cynar, or Fernet- Branca.
4. Pierce a green olive and half an orange slice (or peel) with a toothpick, and place it in the drink, giving it a stir.
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