Typical nights out in Kansas start and end relatively early, since bars close around 2 a.m. Typical nights out in Spain are the opposite and took some getting used to. We stayed in the Gran Via area, known as “Spanish Broadway.” This area is vibrant, bustling, and teeming with great bars serving up everything from two euro sangria to finely-crafted cocktails.
Here’s where we went in our two days:
Tanq and tonic? Jack and coke? Not here. Macera Tallerbar sets itself apart by macerating its own spirits in-house to create unique flavors. Like infusion, maceration is a way to flavor alcohol, but it goes one step further by dicing up botanicals and using heat or motion to better pick-up flavor. The result: flavorful spirits that can’t be found anywhere else. We chose three different varieties of gin tonics–one with a berry-heavy gin, another with a spice-heavy gin, and the last with a cucumber-based gin. Each had its own distinct flavor and cost only seven euro. At that price tag, I was ready to try them all.
1862 Dry Bar
Just a short walk from Macera, in the Malasaña area of Madrid is 1862 Dry Bar. The interior is reminiscent of a classic speakeasy, and the menu features a mix of both classic cocktails and its own creations for about eight euro. Of the three we tried, the standout was the Dragon Amarillo. A spicy tequila base is balanced out by light, fluffy apricot foam filled with hints of grapefruit and passion fruit. Most of the cocktails I’ve had that use foam, use a light and airy foam, but this foam was thick and made up half of the drink. It’s served with a plate and spoon to spoon off the foam to avoid a foam mustache. While the flavors were well balanced, the texture and thickness of the foam was too much for me. Madeline and her sweet tooth loved it and chose to spoon it off her cocktail and eat it after as dessert.
Azotea Rooftop Bar
As far as drinks go, this place was simple and straight-forward. The menu featured staples like light beer, sangria, vermouth, and mojitos. The concept of drinking straight vermouth was a bit odd to me initially, but Spain converted me. Vermouth is an easy drink, and when served on tap, it tastes a bit like a very light cola. The main draw of Azotea is the atmosphere. It is located on the 8th floor, overlooking the bustling streets below and offering a beautiful view of the city. The big white sofas and other comfortable seating look like they belong on the beach, not in the middle of the city. The lights were low and the music relaxed. It costs four euro to get into this bar, but if atmosphere is what you want, it’s worth it.
La Tita Rivera
We stumbled upon this quaint microbrewery in the heart of Madrid one day while we exploring the neighborhood around our Airbnb. The menu enticed us to stop our exploration and give the beer and cider a try. After walking in, we were totally shocked by what we saw through the back of the restaurant: a large patio area covered with lime trees, adorned with adorable seating options and trendy lighting. We opted for a couple beers and a cider–all crafted in-house, all very refreshing on a hot Madrid afternoon. The dry cider was true to its description, mildly sweet, and very light. While we enjoyed both the Lemon Beer and the Trigo Belga, these two varied greatly from their description on La Tita Rivera’s beer list. IBU was nowhere to be found, so we relied on the written descriptions, which included a list of specific Galician hop styles used in each beer. The Lemon Beer, which was described as having “moderate and persistent bitterness,” lacked any noticeable edge. Instead, it was sweet and reminiscent of a cyclist style brew. The Trigo Bella boasted “smooth bitterness” and “mild astringency” on the menu, neither of which were present to our palate. The ambiance of La Tita Rivera was wonderful, and their beers were incredibly refreshing. However, take the menu descriptions with a grain of salt. As we’ve often found, Europe’s take on bitter hops is hardly the same as America’s.
Tips for going out in Spain
- We ran into some barriers because of the shift in drinking culture. First, online hours are rarely accurate. We tried to go to some of other Madrid’s popular cocktail bars, only to find them closed.
- Ready for day drinking? Pick a cafe and make sure to start before siesta (a customary two to three hour slot built into the day for relaxation). Unfortunately most cocktail bars don’t open until later–anywhere from 6 p.m.-9 p.m. Most cafes also close during siesta. You have two choices: buy a cheap bottle and head to the park, or put the drinking on hold and take part in this Spanish tradition. We chose the latter, and our bodies thanked us.