the urbanist: barcelona

The Bartender’s Guide to Barcelona’s Booming Cocktail Scene

Negroni in Barcelona. Photo: Adolfo Fernández/Courtesy of Negroni Cocktail Bar/Adolfo Fernández

For much of its natural history, Barcelona was stuck on three drinks: beer, wine, and vermouth. Spirits took a back seat, which meant that cocktails, other than unsophisticated well drinks, were chronically underserved outside of a few storied institutions, like 85-year-old Boadas Cocteleria. That changed with the advent of the gin-and-tonic, called simply “gintonic” in Spain, which took the city by storm in the early 2000s and inspired entire bars devoted to creative twists on the G&T. Nowadays, a full-blown cocktail revolution has erupted across Barcelona, and there’s never been a better time to drink it all in. Bartender and cocktail writer Mar Calpena walks us through half a dozen of her favorites.

For a Cuban getaway, go to …
Caribbean Club
“This tiny bar behind Las Ramblas resembles an old transatlantic ship cabin; the atmosphere will transport you to Old Havana. Here, classic cocktails like Painkillers are served by owner Juanjo González, an alumnus of Boadas. Aside from old-school drinks like daiquiris, you can sample obscure Cuban classics like Canchánchara, a concoction of brandy, honey, and sugar.”

For a history lesson, go to …
Sol y Sombra
“Elegant Sol y Sombra in El Raval shines with a menu of historical cocktails; [drinking there] is like a session in archaeology. Head bartender Jordi Baqués not only brings old drinks back from the dead, but he prepares them with suitably vintage spirits — many of them out of production. [Try a classic Gibson: gin and dry vermouth, garnished with a pickled onion.] Some nibbles are served, but since it’s right next door to Suculent, a delightful [locavore-minded] restaurant from the same owners, go there first!”

Dr. Stravinsky. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Stravinsky

For a science experiment, go to …
Dr. Stravinsky
“This year-old bar in El Born has earned many accolades and awards due to its innovative offerings, but don’t let that fool you: Stravinsky is one of the friendliest speakeasies in the city. The interior looks like a laboratory and is filled with jars and beakers stuffed with herbs and flowers. [From the new spring menu, try the De la Tierra Fizz with beet vodka, lemon juice, absinthe, sugar, egg white, and soda.]”

For a bespoke experience, go to …
“This is a no-menu bar with a friendly, young atmosphere and a team of bartenders who take pride in personalizing each cocktail to the guest’s tastes. You’ll feel at home in no time.”

Mezcal Highball (left) and Matador (right) at Two Schmucks.

For baller drinks on a beggar’s budget, go to …
Two Schmucks and Macera Taller Bar
“Two Schmucks is a favorite of the globe-trotting cocktail community, and features a fortnightly changing menu designed by guest bartenders. Macera, which also has an outpost in Madrid, is cheap and cheerful — all white wood and a hipsterish crowd, with an emphasis on craft-spirit infusions. That makes it the perfect place for an early drink before heading to the clubs.”

The Bartender’s Guide to Barcelona’s Booming Cocktail Scene