How to Use a Spanish Botijo

The Spanish botijo (or búcaro) is one of the most interesting bottles ever seen. It's made of porous clay with the intention of holding water. Its best claim to fame is that it keeps the water cool under really hot conditions (provided it's kept in the shade) and even better, it never changes the water flavour.

Using a Spanish botijo isn't too challenging but it does have a few tricks that it's worth being aware of to ensure that it's effective.


  1. Image titled Use a Spanish Botijo Step 1
    Buy a traditional botijo. They are made of white or red clay. You might be able to pick one up on one of your travels to Spain, or purchase one in a specialty store (either in your area or online) or through an importer.
    • The shapes and colours vary, dependent on where you've purchased the botijo from.
    • If the botijo is glazed and very artsy or heavily decorated, it's not suitable to drink from.[1] Look for a plainer one.
  2. Image titled Use a Spanish Botijo Step 2
    Fill the botijo with fresh water. Fill with water from the tap (this is what it is designed to take). Simply pour straight into the large central hole. Cover with either a cork stopper made for the hole shape or with something like muslin or cheesecloth. You may need to tie the cloth in place with string or a rubber band. Place the botijo in the shade, away from sunlight.
    • If you live in Spain or you're vacationing there, it is usual to put the botijo out in the garden or near a window. However, it is important to always cover it under some fabric netting, to avoid any insects getting in and spoiling the water. This is probably no different wherever you live, unless you're somewhere that is miraculously hot and insect-free!
  3. Image titled Use a Spanish Botijo Step 3
    Refill the botijo every time you drink water, or else it will run out. Since you can't actually see through the clay, you'll just need to get into the habit of refilling it either after each use or whenever you know you've used up a lot of the water.
  4. Image titled Use a Spanish Botijo Step 4
    Drink from the botijo. There is no need to be on ceremony looking for a glass. The botijo is made to drink from directly! Look at your own botijo––you should see that is has both a wide belly and at least one spout (it may have more). These spouts (or "mouths") are known in Spanish as "pitón" or "pitorro". It is from the spout that you consume the water. Follow this process to drink water:
    • Lift the botijo in the air, holding it by the handle. Direct the small spout (pitón or pitorro) toward your mouth by tilting it.
    • Do not put the spout too near your lips––the water has to be about 5–6 centimeter (2–2 in) (2-2.5") distance from your lips. The botijo is meant to be shared among others and germ-sharing is not a part of the deal.
    • Drink. Don't be surprised if it doesn't work at first; it takes a bit of skill and likely some water will spill rather than reaching your mouth. Keep practicing; it'll eventually feel natural. (And all the water spilled on you on a hot day should be a pleasant feeling!)


  • For the botijo to be of greatest benefit, it should be used in a hot environment.
  • There are two types of botijo: summer ones and winter ones. A summer botijo keeps water cold, because the clay lets water evaporate through its pores (evaporation releases heat). Winter botijos are varnished to prevent evaporation, so that the water remains warm.
  • The botijo is especially used in the Spanish regions of Extremadura, La Mancha, Levante and Andalucía. In Catalonia they are called "càntir".
  • Some like to "prime" the botijo prior to using it; this is supposed to help reduce the clay taste from transferring to the water. To do this, fill with a half and half mixture of water and cheap alcohol. Let it stand for two weeks, then discard.
  • There's an alternative for the priming of a botijo: Take the new botijo and and fill it to the half with tap water,give the botijo some vigorous shakes to rinse it inside, do it again and leave the botijo standing upside down for a whole day to drain and subsequently dry in a shady corner in the garden where the dripping will do no harm. When the new botijo is thoroughly dry, get a bottle of Marie Brizard, the sweet anisette, and pour two cups of it through the big pitorro. Shake the botijo to make the anisette cover and the permeate the inner surface. Leave the botijo alone for a couple of hours and then fill it with cool fresh tap water... and up the botijo goes to enjoy a delicious mouthful .Pieces of black chocolate are the right thing for the priming ceremony.
  • If you live in a first-world country with a reliable electricity grid, an alternative to the botijo is a pitcher of water left to cool in a refrigerator. Make sure the refrigerator is plugged in, functioning, and the temperature properly adjusted.
  • If your botijo is on the fritz or has not had time to properly cool your water, adding ice to a glass of water will work in a pinch to quickly cool it.


  • Don't touch your lips to the spout of a botijo; that is bad etiquette.
  • Practice a lot to avoid the water falling on your shirt.

Things You'll Need

  • Botijo
  • Water
  • Cover such as a cork, cheesecloth or muslin
  • Twine or rubber band to tie cover in place

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