What is the legal drinking age in Spain in 2023?

Nadia Nadia

Written by Nadia

Legal Drinking age in Spain

The minimum age to legally drink alcohol in Spain is 18, like in many other countries (Italy, France, Portugal, etc.).

However, this is not the case in all countries of the world. In the United States, for example, the legal age is 21, and in Canada, it is 19. In addition, there are countries such as Belgium, Austria (in some regions), Denmark, and Germany where 16-year-olds can legally consume some low-alcohol beverages (drinks with less than 1.2% of distilled alcohol).

75% of adolescents aged 14-18 in Spain have consumed alcohol at some time in their life.

For some, it is a way to fit in with their friends or be seen as cool. For others, it is a way to relax or escape from problems at home. Whatever the reason, it is important to remember that alcohol can be really harmful.

The reasons why alcohol is banned for young people

Young people drink too much

Drinking alcohol at a young age is dangerous for several reasons.

Alcohol consumption can lead to many problems, including liver damage, brain damage, and addiction. It can also interfere with organism growth, leading to problems later in life, and contribute to accidents and fatalities among young people.

Drinking alcohol at a young age also increases the probability of becoming dependent on it in adulthood and affects the development of the brain. This has consequences in the social and educational sphere since “violent attitudes, alterations in family relationships, problems with studies and risk behaviors” can occur.

That being said, waiting until 18 is the most sensible thing to do.

What is wrong with the law

Lady drinks some alcohol?

Legal restrictions do not completely pass the reality check. As reported by the Spanish Ministry of Health, the typical age of initiation in alcohol consumption in Spain is 13.7, and approximately 75% of adolescents aged 14-18 have consumed alcohol at some time in their lives.

The survey also states that 6 out of 10 young people have already gotten drunk before age 18, and 1 out of 3 has done so in the last 30 days.

Although boys tend to consume more alcohol, it is the girls who are more likely to get drunk. That means an increase in the risks associated with alcohol consumption. After all, at these ages the organism is not fully developed.

In this sense, the Ministry of Health states, “the risk to physical, mental, and social health of young people consuming alcohol acquires worrying dimensions.” That is the reason why Spain is strict on its drinking age.

Which non-alcoholic beverages can minors drink?

Kombucha drink Spain

The question is not as simple as it may seem because some alcohol-free drinks can affect young people in an unexpected way.

Which beverages are non-alcoholic, apart from the obvious ones? The following drinks can be found in Spanish grocery stores:

  • Kombucha
  • Kefir
  • Tinto de verano (non-alcoholic version)
  • Alcohol-free beer
  • Horchata

You may be surprised to learn that most alcohol-free beers still contain some amount of alcohol. This amount could be almost 0.5%, even though the label says 0%.

I have experienced this odd situation myself, when I drank two bottles of non-alcoholic beer and felt a little drunk.

The same is the case with kombucha. It is a fermented drink, so it can contain alcohol that originates from fermentation. However, in grocery stores, kombucha can typically be found in the non-alcohol section. This drink is also allowed in the Muslim religion (which strictly prohibits alcohol) and is considered halal.

Kombucha is a fermented and bubbly drink that can be taken at any time of the day. It is the natural result of the fermentation of sweetened tea after a symbiotic culture of healthy bacteria and yeast, better known under the acronym “SCOBY” (Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeast). This super-living organism metabolizes the sugar in kombucha tea. It creates a refreshing beverage with abundant probiotics, organic acids, and nutrients ideal for your body and well-being. Kombucha has antioxidant and detoxifying properties, helps digestion, and balances out and diversifies gut flora.

So, would you tolerate minors drinking kombucha, non-alcoholic beer, or non-alcoholic wine? I guess not, since it cultivates a culture of drinking and, later on, leads people to make a smooth transition to consuming alcoholic drinks.

Spanish beer IPA, Aguila

Drinking age in Spain if you are with parents

It is legal to consume alcohol in Spain while monitored by parents.

If you are a parent, do not go too far with your restrictions. Give your minors a taste of red wine if they ask.

The forbidden fruit is sweet. Eventually, your child will get drunk, and it is better they are not obsessed with the idea of drinking to spite their parents. If you are young and curious to partake in adult behavior such as drinking, suggest this to your parents. See if it works.

Frequent questions

Can you drink alcohol at 16 in Spain?

No. In Spain, young people may not drink alcohol before they reach the age limit of 18. Doctors agree that minors should not drink; but if it does happen, never before they are 15.

What is the legal age to drink in Barcelona, Tenerife and Menorca?

It is the same, the legal drinking age is 18 in these cities and across the whole country.

Can you drink kombucha or non-alcoholic beverages before 18?

Sure you can. Just do not get used to drinking non-alcoholic beer too much.

Can I drink alcohol in public areas in Spain?

At the national level, the consumption of alcohol is qualified as a minor infraction in public spaces, streets, establishments, or public transportation in Spain. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, there were some additional strict rules against gathering in public areas, which have affected young people who are used to gathering in order to drink.

What is considered a low-alcohol beverage (Low-ABV)?

The definition of a low-alcohol beverage differs from country to country. In Europe, a beverage with less than 1.2% alcohol by volume is considered a low-alcohol drink. While in other countries, 5-7% alcohol is also considered a low-ABV drink.

What is the most popular alcoholic drink among Spanish people?

In Spain, the most popular alcoholic beverage is actually beer (surprise!). Why is this the case? Well, Spanish beer is light, making it easy to enjoy even a small 0.33L bottle during a weekday lunch break.

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