Toto, our Barcelona gin joint of the month

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

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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GINRAW: Barcelona in a bottle

posted in: Gin of the month | 0

Barcelona: the capital of gin and one of the design centres of the world.

Think Gaudí, Miró, Picasso, Tàpies and more, Barcelona is a design classic. It’s so laid back, they even named a chair after it, so why wouldn’t they name a gin?

GINRAW

GINRAW (paid link) isn’t actually made in the city of Barcelona but in a little town down the coast called Vilafranca del Penedès by four avant garde, Barcelona-born entrepreneurs with a real passion for their city.

Either way, this gin is a design classic that deserves its place in your cocktail cabinet, for looks alone. This 42.3 ABV gin packs a reasonable punch and its bottle and label will make you look twice.

The striking design is a tall, thinnish bottle with a curved necknad a subtly frosted exterior. It is topped by an extra wide ash wood cap, covered by a subtle metal band. The label is a trendy sideways one . A little leather tag on the neck gives it that extra edge in the style stakes. But gin isn’t just for looking at, it’s for tasting as well, so what’s this one like?

Distilled at low temperature in a traditional copper still it’s made in small batches of 5000 (my bottle is labelled 953 out of the first batch they produced!)

Tasting notes:

The labels describes it as a gastronomic gin and claims a low temperature distillation process to make the most of the botanicals. Tasting notes  include lemon peel, kaffir lime, laurel leaves, black cardamon and coriander seeds. This mix delivers a citrus twang and the notes from the spices such as the smokey black cardamon and coriander lifts it from the ordinary.

How to serve it:

Serve this with some ground black pepper, a generous slice of lemon or maybe even some burned rosemary to give it an extra Mediterranean twist. Sit back, pour into a long glass, add your favourite tonic water and ice, garnish to taste – and drink. You’ll love this on a hot summer night in Barcelona – and it will add an extra element of style to your gin cabinet. Enjoy!!

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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’s cocktail corner: Dry Martini, Solange and Tandem

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

On Barcelona’s cocktail corner, 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).  The Dry Martini cocktail bar.

This is without doubt the high end of Barcelona’s cocktail scene 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

A Barcelona classic and often appearing in the top 10 lists of best bars in the world, this is like stepping back in time. The bar is a decent size with panelled walls, leather chairs and banquettes, 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 they even have a digital counter clocking up in real time every Dry Martini they have served.

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

All the G&Ts were bought to the table by the waiter and presented 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. Also, Tanqueray 10 was especially created as the perfect gin for a Dry Martini, so we were in the right place and were delighted with 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, and 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 and 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, was poured at the table with great fanfare and 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) and the overall impression was to make the drink taste like diet tonic had been added to it.

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’ve 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 small, but when added to the Schweppes tonic water, it became almost piny with a pleasant bitterness that lasted until the bottom of the glass.

No gin list.

Note: Dry Martini also run a cocktail school and have opened the Dry Martini terrace next door, so sign up 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 cocktail scene in Barcelona: 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 and 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 and it tasted like a proper gin. 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 die to its lack of depth and neutral flavour balance.


Tandem

Tandem was the last classic cocktail bar 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!) looked at each other and 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, their gin selection is extensive and they know their stuff.

Our waitress guided us to the gin wall where we selected 4 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 places to drink gin in Barcelona.

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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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The Cotton House Barcelona roofterrace

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

Following our colonial theme, try out the roof terrace at the Cotton House hotel 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.

Verdict: 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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Born again tasting walk

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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.

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

DuxBCB 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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The Aviation: a high-flying classic cocktail

posted in: Cocktail of the month | 0

The Aviation, a high-flying classic cocktail recipe – simple to prepare with complex flavours and an incredible glamour.

Created by Hugo Ensslin, head bartender at the Hotel Wallick in New York in the early 20th century, it was refined in the 1930s by Harry Craddock, head bartender of the Savoy (paid link).

This classic gin cocktail has stood the test of time. Try it out and let us know what you think…

The Aviation recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 30 ml of Old Tom Gin
  • 20 ml of Maraschino
  • 15 ml of fresh lemon juice

Method:

Shake all the ingredient together with ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Garnish with a cherry. 

Challenge: these are delicious. See if you can stop at one…

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Gin is in the air – Gintastic terraces of Barcelona

posted in: Gin and Juniper | 0

Where better to spend a summer’s day or evening than sitting in the open air on a roof terrace sipping your favourite gin concoction. And there’s no better place to do that than right here in Barcelona – justly famous for its stylish, cocktail swigging rooftop terraces. We promise to leave no stone unturned in our quest for the best (this research thing is so difficult!).

We’ll dedicate ourselves single mindedly to find the best places in Barcelona (and beyond) to sample your gins al fresco and report back to you every month with the best places to sip on a gin while taking in an extraordinary view of this stunning city.

Stay tuned, this could turn your entire summer around!

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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

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WE LOVE GIN. WE ARE WARRIORS IN THE GIN REVOLUTION. GIN LOVERS OF THE WORLD UNITE!

Silent Pool Gin

posted in: Gin of the month, Ginspiration | 0

Silent Pool Gin – April’s Legendary Gin of the Month

Hand made in small batches in the beautiful Surrey Hills, south of London, Silent Pool Gin (paid link) is not only one of the tastiest gins we’ve tried recently, but it comes in one of the prettiest bottles we’ve ever seen.

It even has a 600 year old legend attached.

The legend

Named after a local beauty spot near Guildford known as the Silent Pool, legend has it that some time in the 14th century, wicked King John of England was passing by the pool on his horse when he spotted the local woodcutter’s daughter, the most beautiful woman he had ever seen, bathing in the crystal clear water.

He wanted his wicked way with her and she refused to yield her honour to the evil monarch and waded backwards into the water to escape him, when she stumbled and drowned.

Even now, her ghost is said to be seen at midnight in the reflections of the dark water of The Silent Pool.

And now for the legendary gin itself – the bottle is stunning, with an unusual glass stopper and a beautifully intricate design of autumn colours set against an aqua tinted bottle reminiscent of the pool itself.

The bottle features scenes illustrating the legend (including tiny figures of the King and the Maiden hidden among the leaves).

The gin is made on site by Master Distiller Cory Mason who uses a copper pot still heated by steam from local wood, burned in its wood fired burner.

The result is a delicious full-bodied, fresh gin full of complex flavours derived from its blend of 24 specially chosen botanicals including local lavender and honey. These well chosen ingredients enliven the senses and play tricks on the mind, but the result is a taste sensation that is sure to get people talking. Its dominant botanicals include locally sourced chamomile, kaffir lime, elderflower, coriander, lavender, orange and pear (amongst others).

It tastes of the English countryside and is fed from the same spring that feeds the legendary pool itself. Mix it with a decent tonic water such as Fever Tree (paid link) and garnish it with a thin orange wheel or a wedge of lime (to bring out the citrus notes). You could even add a mint sprig (or two) to give it a fresh twist and wait for the honey and lavender to come through on your tongue. You’ll love it.

ABV 43%

Gin tours available by arrangement

Other products available (including seasonal gins)

 

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

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RECENT POSTS

  • The Ruddles Report: notes from a gin dog
    Today is Ruddles’ first day on the job in his new role as Barcelona Gin’s chief newshound. Our gallant Gin Dog has been busy all week, sniffing out the best gin news stories for your reading pleasure. We already know he has a great nose for a story, so we are expecting great things from … Continued
  • Introducing our newshound, Ruddles – the ultimate gin dog!
    Introducing our gorgeous newshound, Ruddles. Or Señor Ruddles if you prefer. This shaggy, laid back bundle of love is a vital part of our team here at Barcelona Gin.  We recruited him from a local refuge a few years ago.  He had spent much of his early life living outdoors in a huge field. It … Continued
  • 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 … Continued
  • Gin fit for a Queen (and a Prince!)
    You may or not be a fan of The Crown, the latest must see hit mini-series from Netflix. We already know that the Queen is a big gin fan. According to inside reports, Her Maj is partial to a little sharpener of gin and dubonnet before lunch. Her eldest son, Prince Charles on the other … Continued