Dux Bar

Dux Bar: Barcelona’s hidden gem

Down a narrow, twisted alley in Barcelona’s ancient and atmospheric El Born barrio, lies a little bar dedicated to all things gin. It’s hard to find if you don’t know where you’re going, but it’s well worth the effort once you find it. In the city that reinvented gin for the 21st century, Dux Bar was a pioneer. It was among the first cocktail bars to recognise the gin revolution that was coming.

All the best secrets are hard to find

Walk through the dark ancient streets of the old town and soak up the atmosphere before opening the doors to this vibrant little bar. They still take their gin here as seriously now as they did the first day they opened their doors. The atmosphere is convivial. Somewhere between the coziness of a pub and the cool buzz of a stylish cocktail bar. This place has got the balance just right.

Gins, cocktails (and much, much more…)

In addition to the wide selection of gins available behind the bar, they serve up signature cocktails with care and attention. Dux Bar even makes its own infused gins that can’t be found anywhere else. This is a classy place with classic gin drinks made to order with unusual creativity and flair. And if you’re not in the mood for gin then they have the standard range of inferior spirits available. They also have a decent selection of cold beers on tap.

Get in the swing – music to drink gin with

The other thing they’ve made a name for is their live music. More often than not, wander into this bar and relax to the sound of cool jazz. Or on another night, you might find a local DJ providing a relaxing and fun soundtrack to a memorable evening. This is a proper hidden gem and it’s hard-to-find location means that it is not over run with tourists in the way that some bars in the neighbouring Barrio Gotico can be.

Style, flair and imagination

This is a grown up place and the bartenders know their stuff.
Drinks are made with a certain style and flair that is common to Barcelona’s best bars. We think they are some of the very best cocktails in a town that’s already well known for its cocktails.
The vibe is nice, the crowd is fun and the cocktails are every bit as creative as the mixologists they employ.
The menu contains an entire page of infused gin and every drink is layered with several depths of hidden flavours and unexpected surprises such as gin cocktails infused with smoke, prepared at your table by Angel, the talented bartender and showman who runs the bar.

The decor is equally eclectic with everything from a working piano (for those impromptu jazz moments) to a beautiful collection of lead soldiers in an illuminated case. There’s even a welcoming fireplace complete with framed paintings of cartoon dogs. Another unique touch from this classy bar is that in addition to infusing their own gins, they offer personalised “gin boxes” and bespoke “gin packs”. These make ideal presents for your gin loving friends.

Classy (but affordable)

G&T lovers will be pleased to know that prices are in the 8-14 euro range, so there’s something for everyone. Given current restrictions, we’re not exactly sure what their opening hours are right now. But we definitely think this is one to put on your list for when things finally return to normal. We think it will be well worth the wait!

Saludos!

Dux Bar, C. dels Vigatans, 13, 08003, Barcelona, Spain


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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a martini glass with the james bond background

Dukes Bar, London: where James Bond would drink

There’s a little bar, very discreet, tucked away in a quiet corner of Mayfair. It sits inside a classic Mayfair Hotel. You’d probably never know it was there. Welcome to Dukes Bar.

This bar is famous for one very special thing, the simple classic drink that they do extremely well and that they make with proper old-fashioned style. Dukes Bar has been serving dry martinis for 112 years now, so the bartenders know their stuff. It’s the sort of place that James Bond would go to meet M for a quiet drink. In fact, it was the preferred haunt of Bond’s creator Ian Fleming, so no wonder his hero was partial to a dry Martini. And if the walls could speak, what stories we’d hear.

This is the perfect place to meet a lover or to seal a secret deal. The sort of place where the white-jacketed waiters see everything but say nothing. It’s a place that doesn’t need to advertise itself. It likes things just the way they are. This place has built its reputation over more than a century. And news of its delights has spread in the best way possible. By word of mouth.

Small, intimate and stylish, in a very British gentleman’s club kind of way, you can sit on small, round tables, overstuffed sofas or gorgeous leather armchairs.

Getting trollied

Spread over three rooms, Dukes Bar does things the way it has always done them: with oodles of crusty British style, discretion and just a modest touch of panache.

The main thing to know is that you should always order your Martinis from the trolley list. Someone will wheel a small trolley to your table. From it, you’ll be offered a selection of 2-3 spirits served from bottles so cold they could stick to your hands. Straight from the freezer to your table, the icy gin is poured directly into a Martini glass that has shared the freezer space to become equally cool.

Alongside your preferred gin, your bartender will offer you a choice of vermouth (made in house) or a selection of bitters along with a small bowl of fruit. Your drink will be stirred in front of you (no hurry here) and garnished from the fruit bowl.

This is cocktail heaven, the old fashioned way.

They source their lemons directly from a supplier on the Amalfi coast of Italy and if you’re looking for food, the dish of the day appears to be salty nuts. This is not a place to come to eat. You come here to drink.
Slowly.

There’s no music, no television and the crowd are engaged in a quiet conversational hum. Oil paintings hang on the walls. This is a 20th century bar oozing with 19th century atmosphere.

But those Martinis – I keep coming back to those Martinis

The real reason people in the know come to this bar is for those Martinis – rightly considered amongst the best in the world.

On their trolley, Plymouth Gin (paid link) is offered for the Martini base. They then wave a bottle of home made vermouth in the general direction of France and add three olives from Sicily or, if you prefer, a very thin slice of those Amalfi lemons. But they have others available too, including Sacred Gin (paid link), which they claim was Ian Fleming’s favourite.

As they say at Dukes: “One is alright, two are too many, three are not enough”.

The delicate dance of the Dry Martini

The making of the Martini here is a performance all of its own, more like a dance than a job. The white jacketed, black tied, mostly Italian waiters have it down to a fine art. After 112 years, Dukes has had plenty of practice.

So, if you’re looking for an intimate place with heritage and pedigree, if you want to spend the evening quietly sipping the best dry martini in the world while speculating which one of your fellow drinkers will be heading back to MI5 with a hangover in the morning, then this is the place.

You are going back to the source – and you won’t be disappointed.

Dukes Hotel, 35 St. James’ Place, London SW1A 1NY


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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A classic bartender shaking a cocktail behind the wooden bar counter in Dry Martini cocktail bar

Dry Martini: Barcelona’s cocktail HQ

In a year when we said goodbye to Sean Connery (arguably the greatest Bond ever to grace our screens) we thought we’d pay tribute to a Barcelona bar that has been honouring his favourite drink for more than 30 years. Welcome to the legendary Dry Martini bar in Barcelona.
From the outside, you might not notice it but this elegant and sophisticated bar will impress you once you enter the swing doors. Inside is a sophisticated space with high ceilings, impressionist artwork on the walls and banquette sofas to perch on as you order your drink. There’s a long bar to sit at if that’s your preference. Or you could pull up a chair at one of the elegant tables.

Jazzy vibe, elegant decor, classic artwork

Look around you at the walls bedecked in artwork. Survey the shelves of wine bottles protected behind their pristine glass cabinets. Take in the bartenders and wait people, all dressed up in white tunics and black bow ties, scurrying around making sure that everyone’s drinking and everyone’s happy. Soak up the warm colors of the paneled walls and listen to the chilled jazz soundtrack getting you into that mellow mood. Then, when you’re ready, order your drink. And really, there’s only one drink for you to start with in this cocktail palace. It’s the drink that gave the bar its name. Say these words, slowly: un Dry Martini, por favor.

The perfect Dry Martini

Your reward will be a classic Dry Martini, made to their exacting requirements with a strict formula that has stood the test of time. Their special combination: 1/2 London Dry gin (you can choose from their wide selection or let them decide). They then add an equal amount of French vermouth, before adding a dash of orange bitters and stirring it in an ice-filled beaker before decanting it elegantly into your Martini glass. The glass will then be garnished with either a squeezed lemon rind or a ripe, juicy olive, dependent on your taste. Then simply sit back and take a sip. Then another. And when the sipping’s done, order you’re second drink (since one of these is never enough). In fact, one of the distinguishing features of this classic cocktail bar is the incongruous digital counter that sits behind the bar.

Hitting the button, every time…

Every time a Dry Martini is ordered, the Martini button is pushed and the number goes up by one. At the last count, well over one million Dry Martinis had been ordered here since the bar was first opened. And with that sort of endorsement from your customers, it’s not surprising that this is one of only 6 bars in the world to have made it onto the world’s 50 best bar list, 7 times in a row. This is a tribute to the vision of Barcelona’s pioneering cocktail king, Javier de las Muelas who founded this legendary place back all those years ago.

And while this bar is all about the cocktails, they serve some decent tapas as well, served with panache to a well-heeled crowd of upmarket locals, cocktail fanatics and curious tourists.

A hidden speakeasy, a terrace and a cocktail school

Plus, hidden behind the panelled walls at the back of the bar is a secret door, leading to the clandestine Speakeasy restaurant, serving continental and Spanish fare in an atmosphere reminiscent of a gentleman’s club. Dry Martini serves a range of cocktails alongside its classic Dry Martinis and features all the standard classic gins such as Tanqueray 10, Bombay Sapphire’s Star of Bombay, Bloomsbury and Puerto de Indias for a blast of Spanish strawberries. Plus, the icing on the cake – these guys run a pretty decent cocktail school right next door where some of the best mixologists in Spain will share their tricks and tips – at a price.


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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A woman in a relaxing Spa room with a glass in her hand

Glasgow’s Gin Spa: the ultimate indulgence

Just when we thought we’d seen it all, we came across Glasgow’s amazing Gin Spa. We’ve seen gin bars, gin buses, gin cruises and gin hotels. But this is the first time that we’ve ever seen a Gin spa – and we want to book now. If you’re into massage and are partial to a G&T, then this stylish, gin-themed Scottish spa could be the place for you. Situated in glamorous surroundings right in the heart of Glasgow, this is a gin lovers dream.

Massage – with a twist.

As luxurious and professional as any other upmarket spa, this one has built its proposition squarely around the subject of gin. So, while all the usual treatments are in place – reflexology massages, couples massages, facials and the rest, this spa has a gin twist. You can indulge in amazing massages and treatments, before rounding off your experience with botanically infused chocolate. And as if it couldn’t get any better, the final indulgence is a beautifully crafted G&T.

What makes this spa different?

Anybody can add a G&T menu to a spa menu, so what makes this place different? Well, as far as we’re aware, this is the first ever gin inspired day spa. It taps into their intricate knowledge of botanicals to deliver a spa experience like no other. They provide exceptional massages and top levels of service to ensure that you have an experience you’ll never forget. Plus, their partner deals are great.

Botanical massage – yes, please.

You’re treated to an arrival tea before getting down to business. In the relaxing and soothing environment of the spa, you get to choose botanical based aromatherapy treatments. At this time, your consultant offers you inspiration cards to pick from which will help determine the course of your treatment. While sipping on a fragrant herbal tea, you can then discuss the full range of treatments, massages, facials and pedicures with your therapist before deciding on the one for you.

Anyone for tea?

The selections are comprehensive and many of them include afternoon tea with a glass of Prosecco as well as a tailor made gin and tonic – of course. They also have packages that pair their treatments with 5 course tasting menus at their partner restaurant Gin 71. Some of their gin highlights include juniper soaked foot baths and botanically infused aromatherapy oils – what’s not to like?

So, if you’re looking for the ultimate in gindulgence, look no further. Just head to Scotland’s Gin Spa and they’ll look after you in the way you like best.

www.ginspa.co.uk


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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A picture of the front door of Bobby Gin cocktail bar in Barcelona

Bobby Gin: a true Barcelona classic

Hopefully, one of these days this darned Coronavirus will leave us alone. And when we no longer live in fear of new pandemic outbreaks or unexpected travel restrictions, where should we go?
We think Barcelona should be top of the list for your next short gin break. 
Barcelona kicked off the reinvention of the gin scene back in the 2010s. It has quietly led the way ever since with a plethora of G&T combos to taste and innovations galore.  With gorgeous roof terraces to sip your gin on and a massive selection of exotic gins, gin bars and cocktails to enjoy one thing is for sure. Gin is in. 
Barcelona’s gins are always served large and made with loads of love. So, if (post-Covid) you want to escape to a happy gin place for a few days, then Barcelona is definitely the place for you. 

80 gins, bespoke cocktails (and tonics galore!)

Leading the charge since the early days is the pioneering gin bar Bobby Gin. This little bar is located on a side street in Barcelona’s bohemian Gracia barrio.  It is a true Barcelona classic. Bobby Gin’s was at the forefront of the Barcelona gin revolution. It is a tribute to the vision and skills of head bartender, Alberto Pizzaro, who is one of the best (and most respected) bartenders on the current Spanish gin scene.
This stylish and cool gin bar might be small but it features a massive gin collection. In fact, the menu lists well over 80 separate gins. Alberto has also created a further 11 gin based cocktails, especially for his customers. And of course, he stocks a bewildering collection of tonics to pour into those gins. Each of them adds a unique flavour edge to enhance and improve your gin’s character.  If in doubt, just ask – the bartender will recommend the perfect pour. 

God Save the Gin! (Fonk)

But the real star of the show here (and its most famous innovation) is Bobby Gin’s Gin Fonk – a delightfully easy to drink gin concoction that comes in 5 deliciously different varieties. 
So, what exactly is a Gin Fonk? It’s a new and refreshing way to drink your gin, invented right here in this bar – and it’s absolutely delicious! The bartending team smoke, age, infuse, macerate or flavour their chosen base gins with plants, flowers, fruits or spices. The secret is in the preparation and Bobby Gin has 5 different versions available right now.  My particular favourite is the Roku Gin Fonk with its light citrus and herbal notes.
They’ve infused a base of Roku gin with Oolong tea, Umeshu, lemon juice and topped it up with Schweppes Matcha tonic.  Sipped slowly, with loads of ice from a large copa glas, this is a gin drink to be savoured at any time of year. And don’t be deceived by its light, citrus taste. These ginfonks can be deceptively strong. And no stress. If a Gin Fonk’s not your thing, at Bobby Gin’s you have another 80 gins to choose from!

Retro vibe, modern drinks, fun people

So, what about the bar itself? Bobby Gin’s has a kind of retro, 1960s living room feel, with witty gin slogans decorating the tastefully wallpapered walls and funky coasters featuring their critical mission: “God Save the Gin”. They’re open until 2.00am (subject to the latest Covid restrictions) and they also do great bar food. They have everything from guacamole to nachos and from mini-burgers to pulled pork sandwiches. Plus a wider range of well cooked snacks and tasty and affordable street food.  
Bartenders cheerfully mix all the drinks individually with love and care (and extreme professionalism). Snacks start from as little as 4 euros. And while the Gin Fonks weigh in at between 10-12 euros each, they are made with exquisite care. The cocktails are delicious and they are deceptively strong. So, who drinks at Bobby Gin’? Well, it is a mixed crowd with just the right amount of casual style. At the front of the bar, it’s a bit younger with drinkers in their 20s and upwards. Around the back, it’s a bit quieter with a slightly older crowd mostly in their 30s to 40s. The vibe is casual and funky. The soundtrack to Bobby Gin seems to be a mix of rock, jazz and underground music. But the real star of the show is undoubtedly the gin.

 


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Toto, our Barcelona gin joint of the month

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

Update: Toto closed in 2019. See our gin bar reviews for other great bars in Barcelona.

Imagine if you could click those ruby slippers and transport yourself to a classic cocktail bar, with a great bartender, a nice selection of gins and the best almonds in town.
You’ve just landed at Toto – one of my favourite places to sip on a gin in Barcelona (and a great place to eat as well!).
Nestled on the corner of Valencia and Balmes (in Barcelona’s elegant Eixample district) and only a block away from Barcelona’s iconic Rambla Catalunya, this is one of the classiest bars in Barcelona. Inside, it’s all art deco and modernism with a classic bar with half a dozen barstools, a stunning and well stocked selection of bottles, antique mirrors and a fab wine and cocktail list.
But the king here is Mathias, their Argentinean bartender, who will mix you up a fabulous drink of your choice. Gins behind the bar include some of the classics – Monkey 47, Gin Mare, G-Vine, Beefeater and Bombay Sapphire.

They also have a delightful little gin trolley that they can wheel out to your table and mix right in front of you. G&Ts are served in giant Barcelona style Copas, ice cubes are round and large and you can choose from Schweppes or Fever Tree tonic to give it that extra fizz. But the star of the show here is the presentation – a beautiful selection of small glass jars adorn the bar and Mathias plunders these regularly to make sure that the ingredients – from dried rosemary to chili peppers, to burned orange peel adorn your drink in the prettiest way possible while adding a unique flavour and character to each drink.

It can take a bit of time to mix one of these babies up, but it’s well worth the wait. Order up a G&T, soak up a little of that fabulous classic cocktail bar atmosphere, listen to the jazzy soundtrack and order a little plate of snacks. Their almonds are delicious, but then so is their cheese, locally sourced dried sausage and giant, juicy olives (in a jar the size of a small child, tantalisingly perched on the edge of the bar).
If you don’t fancy a G&T, then there’s a nice selection of cocktails on offer here – some gin-based and some not, but all good. Ask Mathias for a Lost in Caribbean Sea – they are to die for.  Officially, this is a vodka based drink, but ask him to substitute gin and it becomes the perfect gin cocktail. Spiced up with ginger and dried chilli peppers, it has a lovely sweet/spicy kick that’s a great way to start or end the evening.

This is a great place to sit at the bar and soak up a little classic 1920’s ambiance.
It must be good, since I sat next to Bono at the bar after a U2 gig last year. If it’s good enough for him, it’s good enough for me.

For more information about Toto, click here:


Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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rooftop bar

A stairway to heaven: our favourite rooftop bar in Barcelona!

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

Last week we paid a visit to one of our favourite rooftop bar in Barcelona. Hidden on the top floor of the stylish 3* Hotel Yurbban on Carrer Trafalgar, just tucked away at the back of Plaça Urquinaona, is one of Barcelona’s hidden gems.

Take the lift from the lobby to the 8th floor (you’ll need to ask the concierge to swipe his card) and follow the small sign on the door that says: “Stairway to Heaven” and you’ll emerge at one of the best rooftop bars in Barcelona, with a stunning view and drinks at a price you can afford.

The spectacular 360º panorama take in the whole city, with no obstructions.

In front of you, gaze over the medieval patchwork  of roofs that make up the Gothic Quarter and El Born and look out at the beautiful Mediterranean sea and the boats and ferries heading slowly out to Mallorca, Ibiza and beyond. Pan left and watch the Torre Mapfre all lit up for the evening and over your shoulder, gaze at the stunning spires of the Sagrada Familia. Keep your gaze rolling and watch the sun setting over the stunning monastery of Tibidabo on the top of Barcelona’s majestic mountain.

Then, take in the Ramblas, the rooftops of Raval and St. Antoni and Poble Sec and spot tthe Olympic stadium and the imposing castle of Montjuic, guarding the city for hundreds of years.

Quite a view – and if you get there at sunset when the sky explodes into a riot of dramatic orange you’ll realise you’re in a very special place.

And what’s the bar like? Very nice indeed!

There’s a small rooftop pool (roped off for hotel guests only) and al selection of cabanas, couches and tabletops to perch on as you sip your drinks.  

While not a specialist gin bar, there are plenty of gin drinks available for your drinking pleasure including (on our visit) Tanqueray Ten, Hendricks and Gin Mare.

Several interesting looking gin cocktails also appear on the list including a suspicious looking plastic bag, all wrapped up with a ribbon and containing a red concoction that tasted truly delicious. It was called a Barcelona Iced Tea – and if memory serves me correctly it was made of gin, ginger, elderflower. A truly scrumptious cocktail with a nice fiery kick (in all senses of the word!) Tonic water was standard Schweppes and the service was a bit slow and chaotic, but all in all, one of our favourite spots in Barcelona. Small, intimate, casual and unpretentious. With views to die for!

But please, don’t tell anyone. It’s our secret, right?

Guardar

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Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


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Barcelona cocktail bars

Barcelona cocktail bars: Dry Martini, Solange and Tandem

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

Looking for Barcelona cocktail bars? Then head to the city’s cocktail corner, on the corner of Aribau and Corcega, and enjoy the best Barcelona has to offer without moving a block. For starters, head to the king of Barcelona cocktail bars, the Dry Martini. There you could be forgiven for think you’ve just entered a time machine and ended up in the sophisticated 1930s (with the occasional time warp nod to the 1970s).  

This is without doubt the high end of Barcelona’s cocktail scene. It comes complete with white jacketed waiters, sophisticated cocktail bars and even a hidden Speakeasy.

Within a few hundred feet, you will find easy access to some of the coolest places in town for a quiet drink, a romantic liaison or just a casual encounter over your favourite gin-based beverage.

So, purely in the interests of science, we thought we’d try them out and let you know what we think.


Dry Martini, the king of Barcelona cocktail bars

A classic among Barcelona cocktail bars, often appearing in the top 10 lists of best bars in the world, Dry Martini is like stepping back in time. The bar is a decent size with panelled walls, leather chairs and banquettes. It has a long bar, retro and classic artwork and a jazzy, 1930s vibe. As the name suggests, it has become famous because of its excellent Dry Martinis (gin is best, obviously). And it even has a digital counter clocking up in real time every Dry Martini served.

Waiters are in white jackets, food is of the elegant tapas variety and prices match the salubrious atmosphere. In addition to classic martinis, they have a good selection of gins served up in classic tumblers. Schweppes Premium tonic water (paid link) is standard.

The clientele is generally well heeled. But on the night of our visit, there was a mixture of affluent locals, curious tourists and cocktail fanatics sitting at the bar.

This place gets busy, especially later, so get there early for a seat. Service can be a bit patchy. But if you’re patient, you’ll get a well-made gin and tonic, a classic evening and a great cocktail. And if you’re in the mood and can get a table, try out the Speakeasy restaurant. It’s hidden behind a door in the panelled wall. Another connection to the 1930s.

Tanqueray 10

We started off the evening with a round of Tanqueray 10s (paid link). The drinks came with tonic, garnished modestly with a thinly sliced lemon wheel and poured down a “gin spoon” over large lumps of cocktail ice.

This seemed like a good choice to start off with at Dry Martini, since it was specifically blended to go into one. But we thought we’d see what it works like in a normal G&T. And we all thought they were excellent and set a good benchmark.

The waiter brought all the G&Ts to the table and presented them on a small tray, free poured direct to the glass. And with a decent measure of gin in each.

We all agreed that it was a great way to start the evening. Tanqueray 10 was especially created as the perfect gin for a Dry Martini, so we were in the right place. We enjoyed the citrus notes, the lime and grapefruit and the heavy juniper, all balanced nicely with the creaminess of the chamomile and the savoury notes from the coriander.

Afterwards, we ordered a round of different gin cocktails, some of which we had never tried or heard of before. Here are our thoughts:

The Foxtrot 

The Foxtrot  was the most refreshing and aromatic of our drinks. What made it special was the roof of frozen tonic and lime that brought out the citrus notes of orange and grapefruit and the powerful lime zestiness.

As we drank it, the lime came through loud and clear. For some of us it had notes of mojito. For others it was a bigger hit of lime, similar to a gimlet, which receded after the ice had started to melt, resulting in a better balanced and blended drink that retained its characteristic citrus sharpness.

Either way, it was delicious and one of our favourites of the evening.

Star of Bombay 

Bombay Sapphire’s flagship gin, Star of Bombay, like the others, arrived at the table with great fanfare. It ended up being one of our favourites of the evening.

Served in the standard Dry Martini tumblers with plenty of ice, it was also (bizarrely) served with a single chocolate (courtesy of the marketing team at Bombay Sapphire). This was a mistake and didn’t seem to go with the gin at all. We picked up a saltiness to this gin (alongside the citrussy taste) which just didn’t work with the gimmicky chocolate. But we concluded that this gin would be delicious on a hot summers day, sipping slowly at a little chiringuito or beach bar on the nearby Med.

Porte des Indes

This was the most disappointing of the gins we tried at Dry Martini.

While it received the same presentational treatment as the others, it lacked any distinctive flavour and competed with the Schweppes tonic water for taste. It was also slightly less carbonated than the other drinks (maybe a result of the stirring at the table). The overall impression was to make the drink taste like diet tonic.

Won’t be rushing back for this one (but their strawberry version is delicious).

Bloomsbury 

Bloomsbury gin was not bad at all, but definitely not the best that we had this evening.

Made by Tanqueray, it is the latest of their Limited-Edition gins. And to us it felt like it was tangy, dry, citrussy with floral notes that smelled almost like lavender. The angelica bark, cassia and juniper add some woody notes to the smell. But when added to Schweppes tonic water, it became almost piny with a pleasant bitterness that lasted until the bottom of the glass.

Note: Dry Martini also runs a cocktail school. Plus it has opened a Dry Martini terrace next door. Sign up to our blogs if you’re interested in knowing their tricks and secrets.


Solange

Right across the street from Dry Martini is one of the latest additions to the Barcelona cocktail bars scene: Solange.

Solange sits on the opposite corner, looking out at its more well-known neighbour. But this place is cosy, intimate, jazzy and sophisticated (in a sort of 1970s, chicken Kiev kind of way).

The gin selection is awesome. It features prominently on their bar display with some established brands and some more unusual ones all waiting there, tempting you to try them out.

Speak to the head bartender and you’ll find he has history: some of the Savoy bar staff popped in to check things out on my last visit there. This is a classic place with a growing reputation. And while it might be trying too hard for some people’s tastes, it’s ideal for a pre-dinner drink or a post-dinner nightcap. Or, frankly, anything in between. One thing is for sure. This is a place that takes real pride in every drink they pour. And it shows.

Talk to the knowledgeable staff about any cocktail and they’ll happily share their insight and knowledge with you while offering handy tips about things to do in Barcelona.

This is probably my favourite bar in town. It’s not cheap, but worth every penny if you want a sophisticated haven to escape the Barcelona heat in the Summer or for a warming drink in the winter.

Il Gin del Professore

Monsieur The Professor gin was dry, citrussy with notes of lemon peel. It tasted like a proper gin. Plus it had a slightly bitter edge, which reminded us of lime marmalade or bitter orange. It was Juniper dominant. And after a few sips, its spicy, aromatic side came through which worked well with the cardamom camomile, cinnamon and vanilla. Soft, with jammy feel in the mouth. We loved it

Delicious!

Old Raj 

Old Raj gin was a classic gin with loads of botanicals, including juniper, citrus, coriander, cassia. It had a slight golden tint delivered by a hint of saffron.

Served with a twist of lemon rind, it was slightly bitter. But we felt it lacked some of the structure and complexity of other gins available.

All in all, it was a bit disappointing bitter due to its lack of depth and neutral flavour balance.


Tandem

Tandem was the last of the classic Barcelona cocktail bars on our list. But it was definitely last but not least. In fact, all four of us (and I swear it wasn’t just the gin kicking in) said it was our favourite.

With some of the classic pedigree of Dry Martini, but less of the slightly tourist touristy vibe of Solange, this felt like it was an old school cocktail bar that has got it just about right.

A long bar, 1930s artwork and atmospheric lighting add to the art deco mood. And while we weren’t able to access a menu, the gin selection is extensive. And they know their stuff.

All the range

Our waitress guided us to the gin wall where we selected four gins that we had never tried before and we were delighted with the results. The crowd was low key and happy and it felt like this was tapping into the local neighbourhood for many of its customers. Classy and full of charm, this is the bee’s knees, the top banana and the dog’s bollocks all rolled into one.

You get the feeling that this place is the sort of place you stumble across once and then make a pilgrimage time and time again to get more. The music was low key, the crowd were chilled out and the bar staff were the most knowledgeable.

While Dry Martini felt like it had become a bit of a business and might be resting on its reputation, and Solange looks like it’s parked its tanks on the lawn opposite to stake its claim and build its reputation, the easy ambiance and relaxed vibe of Tandem felt like we’d discovered the real deal. Definitely our top pick for a classic cocktail bar and one of the best Barcelona cocktail bars to drink gin in.

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Written by Steve (with a little help from Ruddles, the gin dog!)

Don’t forget to follow us on our facebook community page to join in the gin discussion.


RECENT POSTS

  • Hot gin toddy: cold comfort from an old friend
    The seasons are changing.  The summer heat is now well and truly behind us and we are now in that lovely space where the last of the summer sun still occasionally breaks through. It is a time to hear the leaves crunch beneath your feet, to watch the colors change from green to brown and … Continued
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    Autumn is always a strange time of year.  The weather lurches from warm autumn sunshine to wet winter winds in what seems like the blink of an eye.  The leaves turn to a golden brown and deliver a satisfying crunch under foot as we try to make the most of what’s left of the summer … Continued
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Cotton House Hotel roof terrace

The Cotton House roof terrace in Barcelona

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

Following our colonial theme, try out the Cotton House Hotel roof terrace for a classic colonial vibe, sipping a nice G&T looking up at the rooftops of Barcelona.

We went there on a recent early Summer evening and swept up the grand staircase towards the lift, which whisked us up to their classic roof terrace where we ordered a round of classic and unusual gins and soaked up the atmosphere…

Despite a slow start to service, the terrace itself is a hidden treasure, full of colonial ambiance with cane chairs and hanging flowers. We went in for dinner (the most amazing pop up Indian restaurant by Atul Kulchar) before returning after dinner to try another round of G&Ts chosen from their reasonable selection of gins.

Cotton House Hotel roof terraceVerdict: the Cotton House Hotel roof terrace has lovely atmosphere and ambiance in a stunning hotel. Only let down by confused and disorganised service and very expensive drinks (although I guess that should be expected at a 5 star hotel on one of the main streets in Barcelona).
We would return, for the atmosphere, not for the service.

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gin bars born barcelona

Born again tasting walk

posted in: Gin and Juniper, Gin bar reviews | 0

El Born is one of the most interesting areas of Barcelona. Originally an extension of the more famous Barrio Gotico next door, it is a maze of twisty atmospheric medieval streets and alleys reeking with atmosphere (like its cousin next door) but with less tourists and shops and more bars and restaurants. The perfect place for a short gin walk as it is full of little gems.

Tha Barcelon Gin dream team tried 4 bars on a Friday night, all within a few minutes walk of each other and all with a completely different vibe.

DuxBCN

Dux cocktail  bar is tucked away on a side street in El Born, very close to Jaume I metro station and just off the busy Via Laietana.

The place is a modern twist on an old school cocktail bar and serves a good range of standard and hard to find gins at reasonable prices. It also has a range of interesting infused gins and (perhaps with a nod to the Roca brothers or Heston Blumenthal), even serves some gins infused with smoke at the table under glass jars.

A comfortable, civilised, stylish bar with excellent and helpful bar staff, this one is well worth a try (and a great place to start your evening).

Most gins were in the 8-14 euro range.

The vibe was cozy, vintage modern, quirky, jazzy with nice details such as a working piano (for their regular jazz evenings), a beautiful collection of lead soldiers in an illuminated case, and a fireplace with framed paintings of cartoon dogs.

Drinks were strong, well presented and served in large “copa” style balon glasses with 4 big ice cubes and well garnished to enhance the botanicals of each gin.

Service was good (and prompt). Our bartender, Angel was charming and explained all the options, made the drinks and even served them at our table.

They also organise regular live jazz/swing music evenings, guest bartenders, themed events and have daily/weekly specials.

Rubi Bar

Just a few blocks down the road is Rubi, unassuming from the outside but this place picks up once you get inside with a long crowded bar, exposed brick walls draped with red velvet curtains and ambient lighting to give it a clubby feel. We got there at 10pm on a Friday night and it was already packed (but it was pouring with rain outside which might have had something to do with it)

Gins were between 7 and 9 euros, the place was loud and filled with a young crowd (early 30s) and mostly English speakers ex-pats and a few visiting tourists and some cozy couples.

Vibe, buzzy, pre-club atmosphere, more girls than guys – more like a party bar that serves gin than a specialist gin bar.

They offered between 30 and 50 different gins ranging from exotic foreign gins to locally produced brands – they also have their own Rubi gin brand available for only 7 euros a glass.

The busy staff behind the bar did the best to keep up with the crowds  demands

Other – loud and crowded, 70s R&B pumping out from the speakers at volume. A great place to go for a late night drink or to top up before hitting the clubs. They also serve a limited range of basic tapas to help to soak up the booze. Not really a gin bar (despite the vast range of gins, most people were drinking something else). Also, please note that at the time of our visit, they did not accept credit cards, so bring cash.

Paradiso

Stagger a few blocks down the road to find Paradiso, a cool and stylish bar with a modernist “speakeasy” vibe and a sophisticated but quirky style.

The front of the bar is a small tiled pastrami shop with a few stools at the counter. But  look to your left and you’ll see a closed door and if the doorman lets you in, you enter another world. A stunning curved wooden ceiling pays homage to modernism and the place is buzzing with an eclectic mix of customers in their 30s and 40s all obviously having a great time.

The soundtrack is sexy laidback house music and the vibe is buzzy but chilled.

Plus, you can get their delicious pastrami sandwiches (served on rye bread with mustard and sauerkraut or if you prefer you could try their delicious pulled pork bagel) brought to your table. The pastrami is amazing, hand-smoked by local artisans direct from the Barcelona-based Rooftop Smokehouse – absolutely delicious.

The vibe here is cool, buzzy, sexy, sophisticated.

While they had a decent selection of gins it was nothing exceptional. Also a vast range of quirky cocktails served in teapots, jam jars, glass pipes and other unusual vessels.

Our gins were served in beautiful, large, vintage tumblers made of old fashioned cut glass to add a little extra style to our evening

Service was amazing. We were seated within 5 minutes, everyone was charming, helpful and attentive and we were even brought glasses of water before they took our order. They discreetly manage the steadily increasing volume of a group of guys seated next to us and despite bringing our food at different times (they were busy) they apologised to us twice and were instantly forgiven when the food arrived!

This has quickly become one of my favorite bars in Barcelona and I’ll be going back soon. I loved everything about it from the decor to the service to the drinks – and my pastrami sandwich was one of the best things I’ve eaten in a bar for years.

Collage

Collage cocktail bar is a quirky, cool, old style drinking bar with a sexy twist, we really like this place.

Converted from what looks like two shops, its walls are filled with vintage 60s wallpaper, interesting wall art (for sale) and a cozy atmosphere created by clever use of indirect light.

The bar serves standard gins such as Sipsmith, Citadelle, Bombay Sapphire (paid links)  and BCN Raw Gin (a delicious Catalan gin made locally), but they only had one tonic water available when we were there.

The crowd were mostly in their 30s and were a bit more casual and laid back than at the other bars – you got the sense that for many of them this was a regular hangout. Despite this, we were able to quickly get a table for 4 on the mezzanine upstairs, with a view of the hipster bartenders doing their thing downstairs.

The vibe was quirky hipster, casual and laid back “vintage” style (with a dash of irony). Groovy elevator music was playing in the background (but this got more appealing as we drank our gins). It was quite loud and not easy to have a conversation but everybody seemed to be having a good time. Water was brought to our table when we sat down and while the waitress was polite and charming, she wasn’t that knowledgeable about gin and she couldn’t remember the name of the tonic water they served.

Drinks were served in IKEA style tumblers and garnished appropriately with fruits and spices. Well organised and the perfect place to end our evening. We’ll definitely be going back

Service was good, friendly, efficient. This is not technically a “specialist”gin bar and that was reflected in the service and product knowledge of the servers.

This place could be dangerous. I could see myself popping in and staying for a while or extending my evening with a nightcap or two. Felt like a local place with an honest approach and its “shabby chic” vibe felt instantly comfortable.

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