The unique Tabanco bars of Jerez, Spain

Almost everyone has heard of a tapas bar, but unless you’ve been to Jerez, you’ve probably never heard of a Tabanco. A Tabanco is a unique type of bar found almost exclusively in Jerez.

What is a Tabanco?

The name Tabanco comes from a fusion of the Spanish words “estanco” (small shops where wine was sold) and “tabaco” (tobacco). Tabancos are like Tapas bars in that they are a place where locals gather to have a drink and a snack.

Sampling sherry at Tabanco La Pandilla (photo: Karen L. Campopiano)

However, at a Tabanco, you will probably get a glass of sherry rather than a beer or wine. In addition, there are barrels of sherry at a Tabanco, so you can buy it in bulk to take home.

Tabancos also often have Flamenco performances, though not always.

Eating at a Tabanco

Tabancos are casual bars, not fancy sit down restaurants. Like a tapas bar, you can get delicious little plates and snacks.

Tabanco el Pasaje artichokes (photo: Brent Petersen)

Dishes like marinated artichokes, Padron peppers, and potato salad (no mayo here) are popular. You can also often get a tortilla in a Tabanco. In Spain, a tortilla isn’t a wrapper for a burrito, instead it’s an egg omelet. Tortillas often have potatoes and sometimes peppers or onions. You might see a tortilla served on toasted bread. Delish!

You can also get dessert in a Tabanco. Tocino de Cielo is the local sweet and is an early version of flan. Caramel tops a light egg custard.

Tasting Tocino de Cielo at Tabanco El Anticuario (photo: Karen L. Campopiano)

Drinking in a Tabanco

The drink of choice in a Tabanco is Sherry, a fortified wine made in and around Jerez.

A distilled spirit is added to the wine to create Sherry. It ranges from very dry (Fino, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Amontillado) to sweet (Cream, Pedro Ximenez, Moscatel). Sherry can have an alcohol content of 15-22%.

Sherry barrels (photo: Brent Petersen)

Sherry is most commonly sold by the glass in a Tabanco. But, you can also get a bottle or even buy it in bulk for takeaway straight from the barrel.


Flamenco is an integral part of the culture of Jerez and the region of Andalucía. Flamenco features traditional dance, singing, guitar playing, and percussion (often handclaps) that was originated by the Romani people who emigrated from the Indian subcontinent to Spain.

Flamenco performance at Tabanco el Pasaje (photo: Brent Petersen)

Many Tabancos will feature Flamenco performances. Often, for just the price of a glass of Sherry, you can enjoy the show. At some more formal places a reservation might be needed and you might be expected to buy dinner as well.

Best Tabancos in Jerez

At the end of the 20th century, it was feared that the Tabancos in Jerez might vanish because of changing tastes. However, a concerted effort was made to save these symbols of the heritage of Jerez and today they seem to be thriving. Visit a Tabanco in Jerez, especially after 10pm and you’ll see all kinds of people enjoying a glass of sherry and a little snack.

Sherry barrels at Tabanco El Pasaje (photo: Brent Petersen)

My favorite Tabanco in Jerez is Tabanco El Pasaje. They have great food (the artichoke with a sherry wine reduction is amazing) and regular Flamenco performances. Pro tip: if you’re going to El Pasaje for a Flamenco performance, you can sit up front for the best views. However, you’ll be expected to order at least 30€ of food and drink per person for the privilege. Better, in my mind, to stand at the bar and enjoy the show.

Tabanco La Pandilla is another great spot. Order food by marking your preference on the sheet of paper that looks like a Yahtzee scorecard. The kitchen isn’t much more than a toaster oven to warm the egg sandwiches. But this place has atmosphere to burn. I love that the ladies from the neighborhood come out at night for a sherry with their friends.

Menu/Order form at Tabanco La Pandilla (photo: Brent Petersen)

For Tocino de Cielo, Tabanco El Anticuario is a great spot. Inside is a traditional bar and there’s seating outside when the weather is nice.

About the Author

Brent Petersen is the Editor-in-Chief of Destination Eat Drink. He currently resides in Setubal, Portugal. Brent has written the novel “Truffle Hunt” (Eckhartz Press) and the short story collection “That Bird.” He’s also written dozens of foodie travel guides to cities around the world on Destination Eat Drink, including in-depth eating and drinking guides in Spain to Madrid, Cordoba, and Puerto de Santa Maria. Brent’s podcast, also called Destination Eat Drink, is available on all major podcasting platforms.

Author: Brent