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Did You Know Tapas Means “To Cover” (Your Drink Glass)?

One of the key things you need to consider is World Tapas Day, as this is going to be the perfect occasion to celebrate all things tapas. Never tried tapas? Then you’re missing out! On World Tapas Day, we’re all about celebrating everything that makes these bite-size savory dishes so great and tasty. Tapas is so ingrained in Spanish culture that it is going to play a massive part in your experience. There are a lot of things that you need to consider, and it is important to make sure you sample as much as you can before you get to World Tapas Day. You have so many different types of dishes to choose from, and this is the ultimate opportunity to make the most of this right now.

  • This mainstay of Spanish cuisine is often served up as a snack or as an appetizer before a meal and can include lots of tasty things from olives and cheese to hams and squid.
  • The word ‘tapas’ comes from the Spanish word ‘tapar’, which is a verb meaning ‘to cover’. The actual action of serving up small dishes was popularized before the 19th century when travelers visiting inns would often be served up small samples of food available.
  • There’s also a story that says that tapas was originally bread or meat which was draped over the mouths of sherry glasses in-between sips, to prevent flies from getting into the sweet beverage.
  • Canny bartenders then began adding a salty slice of meat (like chorizo or ham) in order to make customers thirstier, and yes, drink more sherry!
  • According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas are ‘a small portion of any food served to accompany a drink’, however tapas doesn’t actually refer to a type of food, but a way of eating it.
  • Because the Spanish prefer to eat while drinking, appetizers then began to be offered for free to customers to pair with their beer or wine. This included small plates of savory foods that required little or no preparation like olives, almonds or cubes of sheep’s milk cheese.
  • One of the various legends on the origins of tapas involves Spanish king, Alfonso, who arrived at a restaurant and was served a glass of wine with a slice of cheese (or ham depending on the legend) over the top. Although he knew that the cheese was primarily to protect his wine from insects and dust, he ate it, as did his entire court. From then on, the King continued to ask for ‘tapas’ or a drink with a ‘cover’ everywhere he stopped for wine!
  • Another legend claims that King Alfonso X of Castile required snacks and small amounts of wine in between meals in order to recover from illness. Once the King got back to health, he ordered that all bars and inns in the kingdom should continue to serve a snack alongside wine!
  • Over the years, actual laws were also passed that stated that tavern owners should include a small amount of Spanish food with each alcoholic drink they served. King Philip III passed a similar law in order to curb drunken behavior by rowdy sailors!
  • Tapas are always served with alcohol – beer, wine or sangria … take your pick!
  • Tapas are actually not ‘starters’ or entrees. You can start a meal with tapas and you can also end it with tapas!
  • Tapas are eaten as a snack or to tide people over until the next meal, which in Spain means often means dinner at 9 or 10 o’clock!
  • The word “tapa” literally translates to “lid.”
  • Spanish linguists literally invented a verb for it because they eat tapas so much. “Tapear” literally means “to go and eat tapas.”
  • Tapeo – the art of eating tapas, is simply the gathering of people to share and socialize.


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