by Shaun Layton | A recent visit to Barcelona marked the only time in my life that I’ve ever said, “This place reminds me of New Orleans”. It bursts at the seams with world class food, culture, nightlife, art, and unique architecture. It also boasts a great cocktail scene. And, like NOLA, visitors can easily be led astray. To get the best out of Spain’s second biggest city, you need to know where to go and what to order.
Rule number one: stay away from Sangria. If you want something similar have a vermouth on the rocks — it’s all the rage. For me, it’s “Uno Gin Tonic, por favor!” In Barcelona, and all over Spain, the gin tonic (they omit the “and”) is its own category of cocktail; heaps of ice (like frozen liquid gold in most of Europe), a deep-bowled stemmed glass, a carefully selected gin poured table side, an equally important small batch tonic, and a garnish to compliment its counterparts.
Most bars will keep over two dozen gins, between 4 and 8 tonics, and goodness know how many garnishes. To watch the care and attention – not to mention the dance – that goes along with whipping these “highballs” up is as entertaining as it is – to me – inspiring. The bartenders also pass around tapas, carve jamon, and smile irrepressibly. Tongs and scoops are used with surgical precision throughout; nothing edible is touched with bare hands — a Euro thing for sure.
My go to gin is Gin Mare, which is thankfully available on our own shores. Mare is produced in a fishing village just south of Barcelona. Its botanicals play true to the region with rosemary, basil, juniper, olives, and citrus being the main distillates. In Barcelona, work up a thirst and head to Bobby Gin in the Gracia district. The barmen pair this particular gin masterfully with fragrant and spicy fresh basil, Scrappy’s cardamom bitters (a Seattle-based company), and a slightly bitter Spanish tonic. The balance of sweet, savoury, and citrus was so quenching that it was worth the 45 minute cross-city walk from the Raval district.