(Updated Jan 3, 2018)
A labour of love, I’ve been dedicated to this project on and off since 2009, since I first arrived in Barcelona as a young bon viveur in search of the good life.
It’s taken me countless hours of research, grilling bartenders and fellow bar flies about their favourite haunts. It’s taken many lonely nights of lingering and carousing, more blackouts and fuzzy mornings than I dare admit. I’ve loved every second.
So this is for you, my thirsty friend, these are my personal favourites – the very best cocktail bars in Barcelona.
Solange Cocktails and Luxury Spirits (Carrer Aribau, Eixample)
The Devil is in the Details… and the Martinis
Vintage sofas, the warm glow of gold on marble and a handsome seven-meter cherry-wood bar, Solange is pure decadence. The bar is named after Solange Demitrios, James Bond’s main love interest in Casino Royale, which was of course the first of Ian Fleming’s Bond novels. Owner Alfredo Pernía and head bartender Miguel Perez Muñoz look as if they’ve stepped straight off a filmset, dressed impeccably in tailored suits and crisp white shirts with silver cufflinks – suave as Waldorf doormen.
Every minuscule detail has been lovingly laboured over, resulting in an experience that oozes quality and sophistication. They have their own branded crystal-wear, 007 Bollinger champagne bottles adorn the walls, and the cocktail menu is gently scented with Tom Ford aftershave (as in Tom Ford the tailor who designed Daniel Craig’s debonaire suits for Casino Royale). It is unwaveringly perfect.
What to drink: For the ultimate Bond experience you simply can’t miss the house special Vesper Martini. This potent gin and vodka concoction is what Bond orders/invents during a high-stakes poker game in Casino Royale. I also highly recommend asking Miguel and Alfredo to surprise you with something customised to your taste. These are world-class mixologists, masters of the craft.
Address: Carrer Aribau, 143, 08036 (Eixample)
Nearest Metro: Universitat
Gimlet Cocktail Bar (Eixample/Sant Gervasi)
A Benchmark of Style and Seduction
Barcelona’s legendary mixologist Javier de las Muelas has built a global empire of industry-leading cocktail bars over the last few decades (including Dry Martini in this list), but Gimlet, which he founded in 1979, will always be the original.
With its smooth jazz soundtrack, sultry black and ruby-red décor and undulating mahogany bar, it exudes a sense of timeless style and sophistication. Located well off the tourist trail, it is most definitely a locals’ favourite. The vibe is casual and you don’t feel like you have to whisper or wear a tuxedo to get in.
Head barman Alex Rigol greets his guests with his perennial smile and, after a couple of visits, those heartwarming little words: “The usual?”
What to drink: All of the cocktails are beautifully prepared (one of the finest Old Fashioneds I’ve ever had), but you simply can’t leave without trying the house special Gimlet, which is a sweet but beautifully balanced fusion of premium quality gin and lime juice, with an emerald-green cherry glistening at the bottom.
Address: Carrer de Santaló, 46, 08021 (Galvany – on the border of Eixample and Sant Gervasi)
Nearest Metro: Muntaner (but probably worth jumping in a taxi)
Tandem Cocktail Bar (Carrer Aribau, Eixample)
Classic Style, Bespoke Creativity
Tandem holds a very special place in my heart. It was the first “proper” cocktail bar I went to in Barcelona, the place where I first understood the devotion, art and craft that goes into mixology. The space is long and narrow, with angular mirrored walls and a sprawling bar stocked with the very best of the best. It’s hushed and intimate and makes me feel like I’m supping drinks in the private captain’s lounge of a cruise ship.
What to drink: Owner Xavi Pernía is the brother of Aldredo Pernía, who owns Solange. He and his team put you, the customer, at the heart of the experience. There’s no menu (although there is talk of introducing one), with the idea is that your cocktail is crafted especially for you based on your specific tastes. Bartender Santiago shook up a beautiful concoction for me that he named “Ben’s Bitter” (pictured above), a refreshing blend of bourbon, Campari, grapefruit, orange, lemon, mint and a little hint of je ne sais quoi. So be sure to ask for something tailored to your tastes. They can also, of course, nail the classics, and I hear Italian bartender Laura is a master of all things bitter.
Address: Carrer Aribau, 86, 08036 (Eixample – close to Solange)
Nearest Metro: Universitat
Dry Martini by Javier De Las Muelas (Carrer Aribau, Eixample)
Speakeasy Vibes and Proper Gin Martinis
Arguably the best known bar from Javier de las Muelas, this cardinal cocteleria is a Prohibition-style speakeasy that’s been raising the standards in Barcelona since 1978. Situated in a quiet locale on the cocktail-centric street of Carrer Aribau, this is where well-heeled locals come to relax and while away an evening with masterful creations from the crew of white-coated bartenders.
What to drink: Dry Martini was originally set up as a martinería ( exclusively serving dry martinis) so it’s no surprise that this old gin and dry white vermouth chestnut remains the house special.
Address: Carrer d’Aribau, 162-166, 08036 (Eixample – close to Tandem and Solange)
Nearest Metro: Universitat
Collage Cocktail Bar (Born)
Young, Vibrant, Exciting Mixology
This hidden speakeasy-cum-art gallery is where Barcelona’s bartenders go for after work drinks. The bar glows fuchsia and green under antique lamps, where local hero Fernando Requena and his team of alchemists shake up ultra creative house cocktails.
Collage Bar feels much younger and hipper than the other places I’ve listed here. As Fernando explained to me over the bar: “Eixample, around Aribau and streets like that, is the ‘classic cocktail’ area, but Born is the new place for cocktails.”
Upstairs is a cosy mezzanine level where you can sink into one of the antique sofas and study the colourful paintings (all by local artists) that cover every square inch of the walls.
What to drink: These guys really bring out the big guns when mixing their own creations. “What do you normally like?” Fernando asked me. “Bitter or sweet? Whisky? Rum? Vodka?” And after flicking through a mental rolodex of options, he presented me with a few tailored suggestions to choose from. Spectacular stuff indeed.
Hemingway Cocktail Bar (Carrer Muntaner, Eixample)
Small, Cosy, Classic, Creative
This intimate basement bar is a shrine not only to Ernest Hemingway’s work, but also to the way he liked to live his life. “I wanted to create a place where Hemingway would be happy to drink – where he could sit and relax at the bar and talk to the bartender,” explained owner Luca. It’s a great idea. I mean, let’s face it, who doesn’t want to live like Hemingway lived?
Green leather stools line an elegant copper bar, while dark wood panelling etched with the names of the master’s iconic novels provide an aristocratic flare. A lusty lickerish library. These guys have such a passion for the world of mixology and everything is approached with great affection. They don’t buy in commercial bitters, for example, but perfect their own artisanal ingredients in-house. It’s all about the finer details. Even their lavender-infused tequila is perfected in vessels that look like slow drip coffee makers.
What to drink: Bar manager Dani and his team offer all of Hemingway’s favourite tipples, from simple scotch and sodas to gimlets and martinis, but I suggest starting with a punchy ‘Papa Doble Daiquiri’, just like Papa liked his, before moving on to the ultra creative house concoctions. This is the place to have and have another.
Boadas Cocktail Bar (Las Ramblas, City Centre)
Barcelona’s First Ever Cocktail Bar – And Still One of the Very Best
Dating back to 1933, Boadas is the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona. It was opened by Miguel Boadas on his return from Cuba, where he honed his bartending skills at the iconic El Floridita, of which Hemingway famously wrote: “My Mojito in La Bodeguita, my Daiquiri in El Floridita.”
But though this little Art Deco nook is squirrelled away just off the touristy boulevard of Las Ramblas, it goes completely unnoticed by most visitors to the city thanks to its unassuming facade. Step inside, however, and it’s like being transported back in time to the Dirty Thirties.
It’s popular with Barcelona’s glitterati and you’re quite likely to find yourself in the company of local politicians, glamorous media types and, well, carousers like me.
What to drink: There isn’t a cocktail list but the bartenders will happily offer recommendations. Fernando explained to me that, “We can make any kind of cocktail, but really we are experts in the classics.” And of course, with its links to Hemingway and El Floridita, you’d be a fool not to try one of their Daiquiris. Also check out the daily special board behind the bar. The ‘Cocktail del Dia’ (cocktail of the day) is usually around €8, while most of the cocktails typically hover around €12.
Address: Carrer dels Tallers, 1, 08001 (Just off Las Ramblas – blink and you’ll miss it)
Nearest Metro: Catalunya
Negroni Cocktail Bar (Carrer de Joaquín Costa, Raval)
A Modern Classic
A modern-day speakeasy tucked away on the bustling Carrer Joaquín Costa, this dark and moody space is like nowhere else in Barcelona. It’s all black leather and neon red lighting, stripped back in a way that puts the emphasis on the cocktails.
What to drink: There’s no menu to order from but owner and head bartender Daniel Gómez will join you at your table for a brief moment to give you a mini quiz about your preferences. He has a way of making you feel like the most important customer he’s ever had, a feeling that is intensified when your fully bespoke cocktail arrives in front of you. And then of course there are always the eponymous Negronis.
Address: Carrer de Joaquín Costa, 46, 08001 (Raval)
Nearest Metro: Universitat
Artte Bar & Restaurant (Eixample)
This cavernous 400 m2 cocktail bar and restaurant used to be a luxury tearoom (Art + Tea = Artte). As a tribute, chief mixologist Pablo Pelatt even serves some of his highly imaginative concoctions in oriental teapots. The neon-lit space hosts sultry live jazz performances and DJ sets and it all feels like being, at least to me, at a glitzy New York loft party in the late 1980s.
I also recommend eating here. The menu features Mediterranean-Asian fusion dishes are excellent. A seriously cool spot.
What to drink: This is the place to explore new flavours. Though not my usual sort of cocktail, I loved the ‘Hombre Lobo’ (Werewolf), an interesting mix of single malt whisky with a sake and marigold infusion, shiitake-spiced tea and beetroot. In general I would suggest just going wild and trying whatever captures your imagination.
Luxury to Linger Over
Opened in 2008, this sleek 50s style bar quickly became one of the hottest watering holes in Barcelona. It’s the brainchild of Irish couple Rebecca and Paul McNally, who mastered the art of mixology while working in the bars of New York and San Francisco. The vibe is cool but casual – the kind of place you might pop into “for one or two before dinner” and end up stumbling out of at 3am.
As Paul told me, they want their “clients and staff to be comfortable and willing to let go because they feel they are in an extension of their home.” They also do a mean brunch!
What to drink: Purists in terms of their tastes, Paul and Rebecca are firm believers that “the classics will always stand the test of time,” a theory evident in fusions such as the Nicky Lauda Saua, which is their zesty, rum-fuelled take on the iconic Caipirinha. Though I must add, all of the cocktails at Marmalade are made with heart and soul.
Address: Carrer Riera Alta, 4-6, 08001 (Raval – just off the main artery of Rambla del Raval)
Nearest Metro: Sant Antoni
Bitter Cocktail Bar (Just off Carrer Parlament, Sant Antoni)
Hipster Vibes, Punchy Cocktails
Located just a couple of steps off the ultra-hip Carrer Parlament, this modern but cosy little cocktail bar always has an upbeat energy about it. I figure it must be because it’s so clearly the best cocktail bar in Sant Antoni (not that there are many of them). This is one of my regular haunts after visiting my friends down the road at Barna Brew brewpub.
What to drink: This is not a place where they scrimp on the good stuff – whatever you order will be good and punchy. Ask for a recommendation or do as my friends and I do and order a bunch of Old Fashioneds.
Address: Carrer de Viladomat, 17, 08015 (Sant Antoni – footsteps off the trendy Carrer Parlament)
Nearest Metro: Poble Sec
Balius Bar (Poblenou)
Prohibition Style, Live Jazz
You may have heard about the neighbourhood of Poblenou, about how hip it is and about how it’s where all the cool kids hang out. Well Balius is one of the reasons why. Balius was originally a chain of pharmacy stores in Barcelona and this sleek Prohibition-style speakeasy occupies the former Poblenou branch.
Inside, it’s a visual feast of red velvet, retro furniture and gilded detailing, combining to create a chic yet cosy ambience. Visit at the weekend for live jazz and see what all the fuss is about.
What to drink: I love the vintage glassware they use, especially when its filled with classics like Margaritas, Piña Coladas and Compolitans. I also recommend anything with vermouth in it as this is a bit of a speciality here, although their gin and tonics are rather special too. Maybe one of each?
Address: Carrer de Pujades, 196, 08005 (Poblenou – on the main drag where all the best bars are)
Nearest Metro: Llacuna
What’s your favourite cocktail bar in Barcelona? Please leave me a comment below and let me know.
I’ll continue my “research” and keep adding to this list as I discover new favourites, don’t you worry.