Waking up your appetite like a local with a marianito among friends is a must when in the Basque Country.
Trying out this controversial drink may not be the first thing on your to-do list when traveling in Spain. After all, for many of us, the word “vermouth” brings back images of that old Martini bottle at the back of the liquor shelf that’s only used when preparing a Manhattan.
But in Spain, and especially in the Basque Country, the Sunday marianito is something completely different, and an essential part of our weekly routine.
A marianito, or el vermut preparado, is a Northern Spanish specialty. It’s a vermouth-based cocktail that’s fortified with some other drink, typically gin, to give it extra flavor.
Typically served with a green olive, a slice of orange and paired with a couple of pintxos, the Basque finger food, this local twist on vermouth is just that perfect something to work up your appetite.
We’ve gathered up a list of the best places to try vermouth in San Sebastian, where you’ll find donostiarras partaking every Sunday before lunch.
1. Bar Roberto
Let’s start off with a classic. In the heart of the Gros neighborhood, Bar Roberto and the surrounding couple of bars form “the triangle of vermouth,” where most locals head on Sunday afternoons.
Bar Roberto’s legendary vermouths are often enjoyed outside on the street—the bar itself is tiny!—and they’re famous for adding two or three olives and a grated orange peel.
Known for having the best cocktails in town, Sirimiri won’t disappoint when it comes to marianitos, either. This hip place has a wide selection of different brands of vermouth, and every drink is prepared with care and love.
If you’re suddenly feeling a bit hungry, Sirimiri also has some of the most beautiful pintxos in San Sebastian—perfect to combine with your afternoon marianito. Plus, it has a perfect location right on Calle Mayor in the Old Town.
3. A Fuego Negro
If you want to continue the vermouth tasting in la parte vieja, your next stop should be A Fuego Negro without a doubt.
In this characteristic bar, you’ll enjoy your Sunday appetizer drink with a live DJ playing records in the background—needless to say, it’s a must for anyone who loves good music.
A Fuego Negro also has its own vermouth brand, called The Beltza, which means “black” in euskera, the Basque language. It’s our number one choice at this vibrant bar!
4. Casa Valles
Casa Valles is officially the home of the gilda, the first pintxo ever invented: a green olive, green guindilla pepper and an anchovy on a toothpick. And a glass of vermouth paired with a gilda happens to be a match made in heaven. This is our go-to combo when strolling around in the Centro neighborhood of San Sebastian.
5. Kafe Botanika
Want to take a Sunday walk by the Urumea river?
In that case, you must pop by Kafe Botanika, a relaxing, cool place right by the river. This is the perfect option if you want to get away from the busiest and most touristic areas of town.
You’ll enjoy your marianito on a beautiful terrace surrounded by some of the trendiest people in San Sebastian—they know this is the place to be!
Kafe Botanika is also famous for having one of the most vegetarian-friendly menus in town—something that’s not always easy to find due to the local love for pork, steak and seafood.
If you’re lucky, you’ll end up hearing some live music—this is a popular spot for small concerts by local musicians. What more could you want on a relaxing Sunday afternoon?