A Taste of Porrón

A porrón is a traditional Spanish wine vessel, used to store and drink wine. It is no mistake that the word, pronounced “pour-OHN,” contains the word pour, because that is exactly how you drink from it. It resembles a cross between a wine bottle and watering can; the top is narrow and ends in a spout. Since it is also used to store wine, the top usually has a cork or a stop - its almost like wine ready-to-go. To drink from it, you tilt the porrón with the spout pointing at your mouth really fast, drink and then tilt it straight really fast again. The wine jets out really fast from the spout, so you never have to touch it with your lips. You really have to do this with no hesitation whatsoever, otherwise you can expect to have a lot more wine on your shirt than in your mouth. It is a festive device meant to facilitate communal activity, so you pass it around in a group and drink together - a little bit like how the Native Americans used to pass around the smoke-pipe around the fire. Its an awesome ice-breaker in a big group and a lot of fun. It’s nearly impossible not to not enjoy a porrón pour, unless of course, you're George Orwell.

Porróns mainly hail from Catalunia and Aragon, but they can be found all over Spain. They were designed originally to take the place of wine skins or bota bags and made with ceramic, but at some point switched to being made with mouth-blown recycled glass. This vessel originated in the middle ages and was used when there weren’t enough glasses for the guests. The design has a logic as well - It’s shaped this way so that the wine will have minimal contact with the air, which quickly ruins it. Porróns are most commonly filled with regular wines, either white or red, but are also used to drink Cava. Because you ingest a mouthful at a time, young wine is most suited for the porrón.

Porrón drinking is a pretty old tradition - and even though the ritual remains a symbol of Spanish sociability, as well as fine evidence of the country’s characteristically unpretentious approach to wine - being an old tradition in a modern world, it is dying. The young generation in Spain don't really drink from a porrón much, and if you go into a regular bar and ask for a porrón, they may look at you funny. I first saw a porrón being sampled by Anthony Bourdain while he was traveling through Northern Spain, and ever since then I've been wanting to try it. So my last trip to Spain, Cristina's Aunt Mili and Uncle Alejandro decided to take us out to an off-the-beaten path place, Bar Ruiz. This was really out of the any tourist zone and embodied what I would think would be like to drink at one of these places. The patrons were all local, and they all knew each other. The place was no-frills, but had a soul, like it had seen many things. It didn't pretend to be anything other than what it was. The only food you could get there is embutido, or charcuterie and cheese. We ate a bunch of chorizo, salchichón and manchego and enjoyed the experience of drinking from a porrón.


Some places to drink porrón in New York City:

157 E. Houston St.
(between Allen and Eldridge)
New York, NY

El Porron Restaurant
1123 First Avenue (btw. 61st & 62nd Streets)
New York, NY