Two months ago, I returned to Barcelona after a gap of two years, to “scope the scene” for new bars and cocktail play. It seems there has been a metamorphosis.
Barcelona’s cocktail game is strong and the bar scene burgeoning, with bartenders from around the world making the city their home and upping the ante. The city is usually full of life and bustling with that effervescent Catalan energy, but what has really come of age is the city’s passion for craft drinks and cocktails.
This is evident from the buzz in and around El Born, an area teeming with life, great little restaurants and cafes, and some of the city’s coolest cocktail dens.
I was let in on a few of Barcelona’s cocktail secrets by a friend, Enzo Comes, whose exhaustive list I was obviously unable to do justice to over a weekend. But I did manage to knock a few off the list, and yes, I picked my favourites to talk about here.
Yes, that’s right. Sounds like a doctor’s chamber? That’s because it was. This repurposed space still retains almost all the elements of its erstwhile avatar – medicine cabinets, the lab, the shelves. Even the spirits are stored in hand labelled, unbranded apothecary bottles so don’t expect to see your favourite bottle of hooch screaming out to you from the back bar. This is a great way to get out of your comfort zone and let the magicians work their magic.
The bar team at Stravinsky, led by Antonio Naranjo are a lovely lot. Massive amounts of energy, efficiency that is best described as ‘ninja’, and the warmest and most welcoming smiles.
Dr. Stravinsky has just launched their brand new menu, based on the team’s travels around the world and their exposure to various culinary cultures and tradition. The menu hadn’t yet launched officially when I was there but Antonio was kind enough to let me bring back a copy and try some of the drinks.
The first page of the menu is a wonderful illustration of the Dr. Stravinsky cosmos – a universe of flavours, strengths, and styles – all wonderfully connected and mapped to come together as this brand new menu.
The menu is designed with great simplicity and makes a solid effort to explain the process behind the build of each drink. In my opinion, this is a wildly attractive element to have on there as we often find ourselves at bars where the bartenders may not always have the time or wherewithal to laboriously explain the build of a drink, and a drink that has been crafted so carefully, deserves its story to be told.
Each drink is also accompanied with a little illustration and a note stating where it’s from and its flavour profile.
The Pan Tumaka – Mezcal, Tomato, Sugar, Lime, Fermented Sauce
Tiempo – Rum, Bitters, Oloroso & Chartreuse macerated in banana and mango
What makes Dr. Stravinsky my top pick for Barcelona is the fact that they have a solid calendar of guest shifts planned months ahead. The best bartenders and bars from around the world make an appearance here almost every other week. This is a great way to introduce the city to global cocktail trends and keep Barcelona on the map, where she really belongs.
If you’ve got a few hours to spare, sit at the bar and take it all in. You could get lost in the world of Dr. Stravinsky and you’d probably emerge on the other side of history, which may not necessarily be a bad thing!
A short walk from Dr. Stravinsky is a lovely little spot called Marlowe. Earlier known as Gimlet, the bar in its new avatar has found its sweet spot in the city’s list of favourite bars in the last year and a half.
Marlowe has also just introduced a brand new cocktail menu – one that is based on modern classics using local ingredients, sourced from within a 600km radius of the city.
The idea behind Marlowe’s new menu is to showcase the rich produce of the land and bring the focus back to the regional flavours and abundance that exists in the region.
Lorenzo and his bar team at Marlowe have left no stone unturned in working with local produce to extract the best from it, and serve it in a glass to the discerning.
Tibidabo (a twist on the Gin Fizz) – Gin, Oxidalis and foraged plants soda
Estacio de Franca – Cava, Oloroso, Facelia Honey, Olive Oil, Muscat Wine
If you’re in the mood to try something you’ve never heard of, Marlowe needs to be on your list.
COLLAGE – BCN
Down the road from Marlowe, tucked away in the bylanes of the Gothic Quarter, this little gem is an unsung hero. This small and humble 20-odd seater is a delectably designed homage to the bar’s mascot who is half human, half animal (isn’t that who we all are by day and by night?). Clever.
The cocktail menu showcases easy, meditative drinks – to be sipped slowly as you let your eyes wander across the bar, the shelves, the walls, and the stairway to the mezzanine. Being in Collage is a little like visiting that eccentric friend with a penchant for quirky art but who always has the most fascinating stories to tell over the most ridiculously delicious drinks.
(What’s that now? Everyone doesn’t have a friend like that? Oh well.)
Be Fresh My Friend: Green & Red Pepper Liquer, Desayunos el Jalisco
Walk in, take a seat at the gorgeous bar, and take some time to let the ambience soak in. I can safely say, I have not seen a bar more intriguing than this in years.
Barcelona is on the cusp of something extraordinary and the community is hard at work, labouring away each day to bring their best to the table and have their story told.
If you’re planning a trip to Barcelona soon, you know what to do.