Barcelona is known for magnificent sights, mouth-watering food, and vibrant colors. People flock to buildings on the street like they flock to paintings in museums. Recently, Barcelona is starting to turn its spirits into an art form through unique cocktails, a young craft beer scene, and a fresh craft distillation scene. It has something for everyone found in its small cafes, modern breweries, and raging clubs.
Here’s where we drank in Barcelona:
Tandem looks like a classic bar with cozy leather chairs, a big wooden bar, and bartenders dressed in vests and bowties as if they’re from a different era. The cocktails themselves are anything but typical, combining ingredients like carrot, basil, and tabasco to create a surprisingly cohesive drink. We went in with the intention to stick to our budget and only get one. That didn’t work. Upon first sip, we knew we would want another. The menu is broken up by types of alcohol, featuring two cocktails per type that are ranked by strength. We tried two cocktails with a base of Opihr gin and two with Sipsmith gin. The first Sipsmith cocktail—The Green Park, which consisted of lemon, apple, basil seeds, cucumber, and elderberry—was our favorite. It was light and fresh. I felt like I was drinking a smoothie but better because, well, alcohol. Our other favorite was the second Opihr cocktail, featuring orange liquor, black tea syrup, lemon, and Ras el Hanout. The gin and the Ras el Hanout created a strong earthy, spicy flavor that was balanced out by the tea syrup. The environment was quiet and laid back. It’s an easy place to pass an evening.
Balius offers a more modern atmosphere than Tandem but with equally as delicious cocktails. The space is airy and bright, and it hosts an excellent selection of spirits–particularly vermouth, per Spanish tradition. I tried a different take on classic vermouth with their vermouth sour. This drink was one of many on the menu that offered a twist on a classic recipe. The negroni ristretto is a take on a classic negroni featuring coffee infused Campari. It even smells strongly of coffee, thanks to a smoked coffee bean garnish. Our bartender, Nordin, said this garnish is difficult and that just the other night, he’d nearly caught the bar on fire trying to roast one. When his blowtorch exploded the entire bar clapped, (wrongly) thinking it was all part of the show. The menu also had six different kinds of pisco tonics, which I had never seen before. The lemon-thyme pisco tonic is light and refreshing like a gin tonic, but it’s sweeter and more mild. It was worth a try, but not as good as the classic gin drink.
Madrid is often labeled the craft beer capital of Spain, but our visit to a Barcelona microbrewery gave Madrid a run for its money. Garage Brewing combined Barcelona beer culture with familiar flavors from the U.S. After spending a few weeks in Europe, we were missing hoppier flavors common in American breweries. The Middle Child Session IPA and the Doping Scandal IPA both fed our hop cravings. They were both medium bodied and light and hazy in color, but the difference was in the details. The Middle Child Session was juicy with slight tropical notes where the Doping Scandal was–as the name might suggest–dryer and a bit danker. We switched gears and also tried the Silver Peel Berliner Weisse, a raspberry sour that was hazy and bright pink in color. Refreshing and drinkable, the Silver Peel packed a tart punch without being too sweet. Garage is located a few blocks away from Plasseig de Gràcia, one of Barcelona’s busiest areas. The short blocks change the vibe of the area completely. Garage’s patio is quiet and relaxing, the perfect place to take a break from exploring the city.