Drinking is socially acceptable and even encouraged in Spain, although “drinking” does not bear all the same implications as it does in American society.
It is common to see men and women gathered in the early afternoon, or even in the late morning at a bar or outdoor patio sharing small glasses of wine or beer (generally a lager).
This is highly communal and casual, where the crux of the Spanish social life happens, because it's rare to have friendly gatherings in the home. Adults will gather around the drinks while their kids run around playing fútbol or riding scooters through the plaza, and it's not uncommon to see babies and young children sitting in the bar with their parents.
In Spain, a bar or tavern (“bar” and “taberna” in Spanish) bears little resemblance to the dimly lit joints serving warm pints one would find in the UK, or the 5 o’clock, after-work spot where folks like to unwind with a stiff one.
In Spain, bars are open essentially from the morning until night, and cater to all ages of clientele. This is due to the fact that these establishments sell a limited range of alcohol, with usually only one beer on tap and numerous bottles of some sort of regional wine or cider. However, they do offer a large range of food, such as the Spanish tortilla, chocolate con churros, sandwiches, burgers, tapas, and more.
In the mornings, an average Spanish breakfast will be a quick cup of coffee or hot chocolate and a small, sweet pastry. Then it is off to work until lunch, which is the main meal of the day known as “la comida”.
It is common for these bars and taverns to serve a “menu del día”, a cheap three-course meal consisting of bread and a mixed salad, potatoes or rice and a meat dish, and finally some sort of dessert or fruit bowl. One of the dishes will often include fish or seafood, fried or in a paella or stew. French fries are also common, as well as chicken, lamb, and pork. This is generally regarded as the most economic way to eat well in Spain, as these meals can be found easily anywhere and cost from 7€ to 15€.
Image credited to ornello_pics
Even though bars are not where people go to get drunk, you can still find a stiff drink in Spain. At night, most bars will begin to serve hard alcohol around 8 or 9pm. Common drinks are the gin and tonic, mojito, rum and coke, and sangria.
The wine and beer still flows, but there is also another uniquely Spanish drink called a kalimotxo, which is a delicious mix of 50% red wine, and 50% cola. Be advised that in a culture where even many teenage youths drink, people in Spain can hold their liquor. It is very obvious and embarrassing to be sloppy or belligerent while drinking in Spain, as well the rest of Europe.