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Be a txikitero, my friend
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In Bilbao there are not residents, there are txikiteros. Txikiteros are names given to those who drink txikitos, small glasses of wine served in the bars.

 

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Txikito Glass History
11.04.2024

Bilbao grabs you, it wants you to stay, and the more hours you spend here, the more you want to stay. Each monument is better than the last, la Ría, the estuary, reveals bridges and walkways with more interesting stories each time and, suddenly, it's time for lunch. Checkmate.

Basque gastronomy is a national and cultural heritage in itself. From the moment you take your first bite, you curse yourself for not having decided to visit Bilbao sooner. Don't suffer, better late than never.

If we combine culture, history and your desire to continue eating pintxos, we get an object that is so deeply rooted in Bilbao that the Virgin of Begoña herself, the Virgin of the Txikiteros, holds one in several images in the Casco Viejo; we are talking about the Txikito glass.

 

History of the Txikito glass

You walk through the Siete Calles, in the heart of Bilbao's Old Town, ask for a Pintxo and for the most typical drink in Bilbao: Sagardoa, wine from Rioja Alavesa or Txakoli?

Well, you will most likely be given a glass that, despite its small size, weighs as if it had been filled with lead. And speaking of filling, if you notice, a large part of the glass is already filled with glass at the bottom. But what is this?

What you have before you is the history of Bilbao, a piece of culture, never has a glass contained so much history and legend, with the permission of the Holy Grail.

The history of the Txikito glass is a history of reinvention and adaptability. As far as you can see, its original function was not to be used as a glass. And you can quickly understand why; it weighs more than 600 grams, and its capacity is no more than 12 centilitres. Small, with a lot of weight and little capacity, what was it created for?

 

Past, present and future of the Txikito glass

Like all stories and legends, it varies depending on who is telling it, but the most widespread version is that it dates back to the 19th century, when it was used as a container for lanterns.

When did its dignified function change? After a visit to Bilbao in 1929 by Queen Victoria Eugenia, wife of Alfonso XIII. Some say it was more likely to have been during the visit of Queen María Cristina or even King Ferdinand VII. Although Victoria Eugenia's is still the most widely accepted version.

Hundreds of them were placed to light the streets as they passed by, and after the visit, what do we do with so many containers? One of the most widely accepted versions is that they were given to the surrounding establishments.

So, this was the perfect measure for a txikito, which refers to a very small concrete measure of wine. Can you imagine what the groups of friends who get together to drink txikitos are called? The Txikiteros.

 

The reason why this glass was so openly embraced as a way of drinking wine is not just one, nor is it entirely clear. From the point of view of the txikiteros it was a good idea, and very well received, because as well as ensuring the same amount of wine to each friend, it is said that it improves the taste of any wine, even the worst ones.

The great thickness of the glass, as well as helping the taste, made the grip more secure, something that is appreciated after several sips. Precisely the number of sips was another reason why they liked it so much. Its small capacity helped to take many sips in different bars, making for a fantastic wine tasting route.

Seeing Txikito glasses in the bars was as common as the enamelled coffee pots and the famous porcelain jugs, inseparable companions of a good route along the Siete Calles.

 

Their use gradually disappeared until the mid-1970s. Nowadays you can find them in numerous souvenir shops, but we all know what happens with fashions; everything comes back.

That's why they are making a comeback in the Old Town, Casco Viejo, and that's great news, because it means that an important part of Bilbao's soul is still present and is coming back to life on the bars, not only in the groups of txikitero friends, but also for anyone who wants to have a few pintxos in the most traditional way.

 

 

 

Done