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!)

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