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Tapas with friends, planning a tapas party

Sarah Beard - Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Tapas, loosely translated, means small bites of food to be eaten while enjoying wine.

Everybody loves tapas! They are the very essence of life in Spain. It is such an essential ingredient to Spanish life that the Spanish people invented the verb tapear, which means to go and eat tapas!

Artesano was born out of a love of Spanish food and culture that begun in the Tapas bars of Spain 25 years ago and I have had an ongoing affair with Tapas as a food source and more importantly as a tradition ever since.  Tapas are In and Tapas are Hot, so I have chosen our first blog to feature the well loved tapa and where better to celebrate this wonderful tradition then in your own home, where you can share tapas with friends by hosting your own tapas party.

Hosting a tapas party is a fantastic way to get friends together to enjoy some great wine and food.

My main resource for this blog comes from Janet Mendel’s wonderful homage to tapas called “Tapas A bite of Spain”. In her book Janet writes about the Tapas way of life, Planning a tapas party and shares her favourite tapas sourced from her thirty plus living in Spain. Her book, published by Santana Books can be bought via our online shop.

The Tapas Story!

Tapas, or small portions of food served in Spanish bars, is a very old custom in Spain, so old that no one really knows where it all began. The custom originated in the wine producing regions of Andalusia, such as Jerez where sherry comes from.  The word Tapa translates literally as lid and it’s widely believed that the tradition evolved from when the bar tender would cover a glass of wine with a tiny saucer to prevent tiny fruit flies that were attracted to the fermented grape juice from swarming into a glass of wine. It was not long before a few olives or a slice of house made sausage was placed on the dish. The bar that served the best dishes would be the most popular and there an idea was born. Others have suggested that back in 1264 King Alfonso X wrote a treatise on Sherry and instructed that persons taking wine shall take small bites of food, to temper the effects of alcohol.  Regardless of its story this practice of having tapas is steeped in wonderful tradition. Overtime the number of appetisers increased and it was only a short step to the many tapas available to us today.  Nowadays, the majority of tapas bars, from the most humble to the most sophisticated offer a varied display of dishes, which range from the conventional to the inspired.

Planning your Tapas Party
Part of the tapas tradition is that you eat them standing up.   In many popular tapas bars, space is at a premium and there’s no room for tables, so you stand at the bar. This tradition translates well to a party atmosphere.  Whether your party is for a few friends, a drink party for 10 to 20 people or a sit down dinner party, serving Spanish Tapas is a wonderful way to entertain.  You can prepare most of the tapas in advance before your guests arrive either to be served cold or quickly re-heated. 

Here are a few things to think about when planning your tapas party.

Calculate quantities – for a drinks party (not a dinner party)

  • For six to eight people allow for at least four different tapas. Each person will eat three or four of each one.
  • For 12 people allow six to eight tapas, a guest will eat two or three of each.
  • For parties more then 12, serve as many as 12 different tapas and expect each person to eat two or three.

What type of party, traditional tapas style or sit down dinner.

Where will your guests be seated at a table or moving around the room standing or sitting where they choose. If they are seated you can present some tapas in individual small dishes with spoons or forks, so saucy foods work fine. If your guests are to be standing with a glass of wine or sangria in one hand, they will only be able to pick up tapas that are easily handled with one hand. Tapas on tooth picks or on bread are best.

How to present?

Think about your serving capacity. You will need lots of small serving dishes/side plates. Make sure you have enough to go around. If you don’t have enough then plan tapas that can be picked up from a tray and don’t require dishes. Make ure you provide plenty of napkins as even finger foods can be a little messy. In Spain, tapas are served in little cazuelitas, pottery dishes, for individual tapas. At Artesano we sell a full range of cazuelitas ( the smaller sizes) or cazuelas the larger sizes for more then a single serve (racion).

How much and when to serve?

The key thing to remember is Tapas are small bites or tastes of food.  Use small plates about the size of a side plate. (See our tapas plates in our products sections). Instead of serving all the tapas at once, try setting out one to two tapas dishes every half-hour or so. That way your guests will taste each tapa individually and before they fill up on the current tapa, the next one is being served. Since many tapas are best when cooked just before serving, you can impress your guests as you finish preparations while they watch.

Although your tapas party, may have never been intended to include dinner, allow for some guests arriving early and staying late. On one hand make sure the tapas are substantial enough but don’t try and feed guests a meal. As Janet says you just want to titillate their taste buds. 


  • Don’t put out all the tapas at once. Serve them two by two.
  • If possible provide a clean dish/plate for each tapa so that your guests don’t have to pile them all one plate all together.
  • Have plenty of crusty bread
  • Have plenty of napkins.


Well you cant really have a tapas party without several jugs of Sangria. You can serve it in any sort of jug but if you want an authentic looking table have a look at our Sangria jugs in our product selection. There are many many great Sangria recipes available we have included Janet Mendels red wine Sangria in our blog. Here in Australia you can buy Spanish wines, for example wines from La Rioja are excellent, and beer, for example Moritz, can be found at selected bottle shops if you want to have more of an authentic feel.

Hosting a Tapas Party - What you will need:

  • Select tapas recipes
  • Sangria jugs. Any jug will do but if you want an authentic looking table have a look at our Sangria jugs in our product selection.
  • Plenty of small plates, side plates.
  • Variety of serving platters/trays and bowls
  • Lots of crusty bread cut into chunks for serving tapas on or for dipping into saucy dishes
  • Toothpicks
  • Napkins
  • Selection of Spanish music wont go astray
  • If it’s a night time affair decorate the room with plenty of candles


Whilst tapas are small bites of food they are most emphatically not “fast food” Iberian style. Their secret is that of all good Spanish Food: quality and freshness of ingredients.  Australia shares these characteristics, quality and freshness in abundance, especially in our seafood, which makes for great tapas. 

I have selected some of the most well-known and popular tapas for you to choose from and have chosen recipes with ingredients that are easy to come by here in Australia. Tapas can be as simple as serving “aceitunas alinadas” (marinated olives) and “almendras fritas” (fried Almonds) or there are those that take a bit more time like a Tortilla Espanola (Spanish Omelette) and Mejillones Rellenos (Spanish Stuffed Mussel).

Of course no tapas party can go without some jugs of sangria served chilled of course.

One idea if your pushed for time, is you can invite your more “foodie” type friends to bring a tapas dish to offer to the table. Everyone likes to tell their story about how they made their dish and it’s provides for a nice feeling of community.

 Sangria Red –Wine Sangria

Almendras fritas - Fried Almonds

Aceitunas alinadas- Marinated Olives

Alioli - Garlic Mayonaise

Sofrito -Tomato Sauce

Tortilla Espanola-  Spanish Omelette

Patatas Bravas – Fried Potatoes –

Calamares fritos – Fried Calamari
Gambas al ajillo –Garlic Prawns

Chorizo ​​frito en tostada -Fried Chorizo on toast

Mejillones Rellenos – Spanish Stuffed Mussel Tapas

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