Why the Porrón Is the Drinking Vessel You Need in Your Life

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a hand holding a porron filled with wine
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

In 2019, I just started freelancing for a beer website based out of Chicago, and the first thing I noticed when I walked into their office was a porrón. Made of glass with a tipped spout and a rounded handle that almost goes straight up, I had no idea what the porrón was for—but its unique build made an impression on me. I immediately googled it when I got home.

A porrón (sometimes written as porró or without the accent mark as porron) is a Catalonian drinking vessel designed to share wine. Some websites suggest that its roots lie in Ancient Roman drinking vessels, but now the porrón has a life of its own. 

As my fourth COVID-cautious birthday began creeping up on me (it seems impossible, but my first COVID birthday fell just about a week after initial lockdowns in 2020), I began dreaming of the porrón again, remembering one of its defining details: you can convivially share wine and pass around the porrón without the vessel touching your lips. Using a porrón involves hawking your head backward, holding it over your mouth, and tipping the spout close to—but not on—your lips. 

a person drinking from a porron
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Watching someone drink from a porrón is quite a sight, especially if they’re good at it (yes, it requires skill and practice) and can move the porrón further and further away, creating a long stream from the tip of the spout to the eventual endpoint: your mouth. 

Like me, the porrón also left an impression on author George Orwell, who described it in his book, Homage to Catalonia, which he released right after fighting in the Spanish Civil War: 

We ate at long trestle-tables out of permanently greasy tin pannikins, and drank out of a dreadful thing called a porron. A porron is a sort of glass bottle with a pointed spout from which a thin jet of wine spurts out whenever you tip it up; you can thus drink from a distance, without touching it with your lips, and it can be passed from hand to hand. I went on strike and demanded a drinking-cup as soon as I saw a porron in use.

What Do You Drink Out of a Porrón? 

a hand pouring from a porron into a cup
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

Despite his disdain, Orwell’s description is apt, but his ire puts him in the minority of drinkers. Unlike Orwell, most of the people I chatted with describe drinking from a porrón as a delightful—albeit sometimes messy—experience. “I was already a fan of a long pour before I first drank from a porrón,” says Dave Riddile, Director of Marketing and Operations/Manager at Here Today Brewery & Kitchen in Seattle. “But when I saw the porrón and its beautiful utility in action, I was immediately smitten.” 

Barcelona-based wine educator and communicator Nika Shevela (who is also the co-founder of the wine consultancy and events organization Wine Alphabet) notes that the porrón is often associated with the countryside of Catalonia, a northwest region of Spain. “Porrón is not necessarily that common in Barcelona, but once you get out to the countryside, you start paying attention to them: they are in many wineries, masías (Catalan farmhouses), restaurants…,” she says. “You rarely used to see it in urban environments, it’s traditionally been considered something typical of the countryside pagesos (Catalan farmers), or spending summers in the countryside…until a more recent vermouth revival!” 

Traditionally, porróns were used to drink wine, but as Shevela notes, a recent vermouth revival has moved the porrón out of its countryside setting and folks are experimenting with serving different kinds of beverages in it. “It used to be a mere substitute for individual glasses in the wine country, and in the countryside generally. Today, some urban bodegas and some bars in cities do have them, either as part of the decoration, or actually available to order as an entire porrón, or sometimes, half a porrón,” she says. “Traditionally, it’s been used for sharing just wine, but today some places have gotten pretty creative! Bodega Monferry in Barcelona also uses it for vermouth and even beer, while Wine Fandango, a wine bar in Logroño, Rioja, are serving its signature ‘vintonic’ in it (wine with tonic).” 

Shevela also notes that the porrón is beginning to cross generational barriers. “You definitely see the older generation sipping their vi ranci (an oxidized style of wine) as a digestif, or even drinking a red wine with their menú del día! However, it’s fun to see the younger crowd use it too: birthday parties or just a fun night out, porrón might end up on the group celebration table.” 

The sources I chatted with seemed open to serving almost anything out of a porrón—I couldn’t find any etiquette rules or frowned-upon practices, but there are some practical implications to consider when trying out a porrón. “Like, maybe not milk?” Riddile suggests. “I’ve porróned pisco sours, hype-y hazy IPAs, bourbon barrel-aged stouts to settle a bet, and so much more. Not every beverage has [worked]—like when we porróned cheap sparkling rose (too many bubbles) or a really dry sherry.” 

a porron against a tan backdrop/surface
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

What you put in a porrón also depends on your experience—and maybe on what you’re wearing. “The first time I drank from a porrón was in the late 1990s in Barcelona. Some American friends were living there, and they had one, and they broke it out at a party and filled it with red wine. It was very messy,” says Jason Wilson, author of books like Godforsaken Grapes: and Boozehound and the voice behind Everyday Drinking, a newsletter about wine, spirits, travel, and culture. “I think with the porrón, there are levels of danger and confidence. If you put white wine in the porrón, there’s not much risk if you spill. But with red wine, you’re really taking a chance of ruining your clothes. I watched a friend from Barcelona drink red wine from a porrón while she wore a white sweater. That is a level of confidence I may never have.”

How Do You Drink Out of a Porrón?

For those wondering, ‘How the heck do I drink from this?’ Riddile has a foolproof guide: 

a hand pouring from a porron
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

“If porróning for yourself, start at your mouth and raise the porrón while pouring until your arm is straight, and then return back the way you came before your mouth overflows. If porróning with others—if you’re the one drinking, DON’T MOVE. This is essentially a trust fall exercise in beverage form. You need to trust the person pouring from the porrón that they will hit your mouth and not make a big mess of it. If you’re pouring, have a steady hand and be a trustful partner in this endeavor, and ya know, hit their mouth and don’t make a big mess of it.”

He also strongly encourages all imbibers to enjoy the fun of a porrón. “YOU DON’T HAVE TO PORRON BOOZE,” he typed emphatically. “Whether taking a break or living an NA lifestyle, you too can enjoy the magic of a porrón. Pop some dressed-up lemonade or a tasty NA version of a cocktail in that thing and be the life of the party you’re trying to have.”

When Should You Drink Out of a Porrón?

a hand holding a porron outside
Serious Eats / Ashley Rodriguez

A porrón is for drinking with friends. Although technically, you can pour a porrón anytime, the best time to pull the glass vessel off your shelf is to keep the party going. “It can liven up a party in a big way. I was at a beer festival at a Chicago music venue, and the folks from Cruz Blanca had brought a porrón to the festival,” Riddile says. “We probably put a keg of beer through that porrón that day, and it was a wonderful catalyst for some now deeply cherished memories that I hold.” 

“In my experience, it always seemed to be broken out at a point where the party is about to go off the rails, to be honest,” says Wilson. “Other than that, though, I’ve mostly had it at very traditional restaurants in Catalonia. I’m no expert on the porrón, but I think it’s fun, and it’s definitely not ‘touristy’ though obviously tourists probably love it.”

The porrón feels especially suitable for drinking situations where you want to avoid sharing the same vessel—not that you’re going to parties and all sipping from one cup, but the porrón is a fun way to do something fun with a group of friends. And beyond being germ-safe, the porrón is a fun way to show care. “During the pandemic, some dear friends bought me a porrón as a housewarming gift for my new apartment that I had moved into a week after lockdown,” Riddile sats. “The presence of that porrón and the thought behind it brought some warmth to that little studio apartment. I am now happy that I can share a porrón or, frankly, any beverage, a little closer with my dearest friends.” 

FAQs

What is a porrón? 

A porrón is a Catalonian drinking vessel designed to share wine with friends and drinking compatriots. Because of its tip and design, you can drink from a porrón without putting your lips on the spout, making it a safer option for people who want to avoid drinking from the same vessel—but still want to have a raucous good time. 

Where can you buy a porrón? 

Porróns aren’t the most accessible vessels to come by—you couldn’t walk into a big-box store and find them with your kitchen tools, but they’re relatively easy to find online. Most are made from glass and can easily hold an entire bottle of wine.


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