Beer lovers will surely have heard the word “zurito” more than once. It is a common name in the northern part of Spain, especially in the Basque Country. But what is it? And where does the word that is used in some areas of Spain to ask for a beer come from?
The zurito is a name that is commonly used to order a beer in the Basque Country, in the north of Spain. It is a measure equivalent to half a glass of beer or “caña”. In some places in the north of the peninsula, such as La Rioja or Santander, these glasses are also called “short beer”.
In this sense, in Spain there are many ways to order a beer. This is due, in large part, to the large number of regional languages spoken throughout the peninsula. This is why you can find someone asking for a beer, a fifth, a third, a short, a medium, a half… And in all cases, what they are asking for is a beer.
What is a zurito and where does it come from?
We have already seen what a glass of zurito is; half a glass of beer . It would be the equivalent of a “chato” of wine, that is, a short, wide and small-capacity glass.
Like everything in this world, this curious name has an origin. In this case, the inventor of the beer zurito is Carlos Pérez Garrido. Pérez was a “txikitero”, which is a way of saying wine enthusiast in Basque, who used to go with his crew to see the bulls at the “Peña Zurito” bullfighting club, in the Old Town of San Sebastian in the 1960s.
The name comes from the famous bullfighter Gabriel de la Haba , better known in the bullfighting world as Zurito de Córdoba, third member of the “Zuritos” dynasty of bullfighters, who took the alternative in Valencia in 1964.
In this sense, Carlos and his friends used to go to the bullfighting club, which had its headquarters in the Loretxu bar, to enjoy the bullfights in a group. At that time it was common for them to order wine, in one of the glasses called “chatos” or “txikitos” in Basque.
However, Carlos Pérez Garrido was “up to the balls with that bullshit wine,” so he started ordering beer. In this sense, although Carlos did not baptize the measure, he was the first to order a beer in a glass of wine. What Carlos surely did not know was that this measure would become so popular throughout the north of Spain.
In those gangs there was a tradition that each member paid for a round and, after taking it, they went to another bar, making a “round”. As at that time there were still no beer taps , Carlos was forced to ask for “half a bottle” of beer, since his friends drank the “txikito” in one or two gulps and left, so he had to find a way of drinking beer at the same pace as their peers.
In this sense, Carlos asked for the bottle and served himself half in the glass of “txikito”. He drank it at the same rate as his gangmates, they left and, when they returned to the premises at the end of the “round”, he drank the rest. At that time, Carlos Pérez’s drink was called “mini” and it didn’t take long for him to become popular among the patrons of the old area of San Sebastián. Finally, as Pérez was a member of the bullfighting club, the measure began to be known as “zurito”.
On the other hand, the popularity of zuritos is due to the fact that a craft beer company decided to patent the name as a brand. These blond beers are marketed in a 180 ml measure and are made with natural raw materials and have an alcohol content of 4.5 degrees.
Another theory about the origin of this measure has Patxi Alkorta, owner of the Hirutxulo bar, as its protagonist. According to this theory, the bartender began to serve beer in wine glasses , but he did not know what to call the drink to make it popular. To which someone in the bar told him: “Don’t you have the Peña Zurito here? Well, Zurito!”
Finally, a third theory points directly to the bullfighter as the creator of this popular drink. In this sense, when the Zuritos were fighting in San Sebastián, they asked for this type of short glass of beer, which is why they ended up giving the short beer a name (here you can find some options to choose from).
What is the txikiteo?
The zurito cannot be understood without the “txikito”. In this sense, in the 60s and 70s in Donostia the golden age of the “txikiteo” was experienced. Thousands of groups of young people and adults went out daily to drink wine in short and wide glasses , called “txikitos”. The name of this glass comes from its price, since it cost “a small bitch”, that is, one peseta.
The time of the “txikiteo” was at noon or at the end of the working day, between 7:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m.
The problem with these wines was their quality. You have to keep in mind that they were very cheap wines, “peleones” or “claretes” red wines from Navarra , so their flavor was not the best. This caused many members of those gangs to change the wine for beer, which was also cheap, but of better quality.
The popularity of the zurito
Oddly enough, zurito is an officially accepted word. In this sense, although it is not part of the Dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy of Language, it is part of Elhuyar, the dictionary of the Basque language . In it, the zurito is defined as “half a glass of beer”, so it is also a correct way to order a beer in Basque.