Food & Wine

City of cocktails

Barcelona has the first (Paradiso), third (Sips) and seventh (Two Schmucks) best cocktail bars in the world, while Raval is home to historic bars like Boadas

Barcelona’s cocktail bars are valued not only for the end product, but for the atmosphere and even the glasses in which the drinks are served

Barcelona has the best cocktail bars in the world. According to the World’s 50 Best Bars ranking, the first, third and seventh best cocktail bars are in the Catalan capital. Paradiso run by Giacomo Giannotti on Carrer Rere Palau in the Born neighbourhood, Sips, founded by Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez, on Carrer Muntaner, and Two Schmucks, on Carrer Joaquim Costa, in the heart of Raval, the neighbourhood with the most bars in the city.

Elsewhere in Spain, only Madrid has a cocktail bar on the world’s best ranking, Salmon Guru (15th), which indicates that the Catalan capital is also the city in Spain with the best bars. This explains why the last edition of The World’s 50 Best Bars award ceremony, in October, was held in Barcelona, in Les Arenas former bullring.

Paradiso came out top as number one in the World’s Best ranking, which values the Barcelona cocktail bars not only for the end product, but also for the sophisticated, intimate atmosphere of the premises, their integration in their local neighbourhoods, and even the glasses in which the drinks are served. Every small detail counts when it comes to ranking such elite establishments.

Among Paradiso’s star cocktails is Roots (made with Seedlip Garden, peas, verbena, lemon, roses and earth), and also noteworthy is the Evolution Negroni (with bourbon, mango and vanilla, among other ingredients), a cocktail invented in Florence in 1919 but strongly associated with the city of Barcelona. In fact, it was with a Negroni cocktail that the Catalan Manel Vehí, from Boia in Cadaqués and the now closed Doble in Barcelona, won the bartenders world championship in 2015.

As for third-place Sips, which is in the Eixample neighbourhood, the World’s 50 Best describes it as a bar where “spectacular cocktails are served in elaborate glassware that is causing a sensation around the world”. One of those spectacular cocktails is Walking through the neighbourhood of Havana (Diplomatic Rum, fine sherry, saffron and pineapple, served with shaved ice infused with grapefruit).

The other Barcelona bar in the top ten is Two Schmucks, a youthful cocktail bar that is the seventh best in the world, according to the ranking. Shmucks Vesper (gin, vodka, Whiskey Nebula, and pieces of pecorino) is the star cocktail at this bar located in heart of the Raval, the down-to-earth neighbourhood in the city centre that has the most, and the most diverse, bars in all of Barcelona. And Raval not only boasts new fancy bars like Two Schmucks, but it is also home to Boadas, the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona, on the corner of La Rambla and Carrer Tallers. The bar was founded in 1933 by Miguel Boadas Parera, a cousin of Narcís Sala Parera, who founded the legendary El Floridita cocktail bar in La Habana which Hemingway frequented. And very close to Boadas is the also historic Caribbean Club, on Carrer Sitges, which has long been popular for both its cocktails and its atmosphere.

Also in Raval, on Carrer Valldonzella, the enterprising Lebanese bartender Jad Ballout, whose Dead End Paradise in Beirut made the list of the hundred best bars in the world, has recently opened a branch of the iconic bar in Lebanon that was destroyed in an explosion in the port of Beirut in 2020. The Catalan capital is now the city from which Ballout offers his cocktails with their distinctive Mediterranean character.

Outside the central Ciutat Vella district there are even more cocktail bars to be found that are also part of the history of the city, such as Javier de las Muelas’ Dry Martini on Carrer Aribau, or The Alchemix, on Carrer València, which is also popular for its food.

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And the oldest bars

The Raval neighbourhood is where the city’s oldest bars are to be found: Almirall, Marsella, London Bar or Bar Muy Buenas, which opened in 1928 but today is a restaurant. Almirall is on the same street as Two Schmucks, Negroni Cocktail Bar, Olímpic, Bodega Berlanga, La Parra, Mambo and Betty Ford’s: Carrer Joaquim Costa. Almirall, founded in 1860, still has the century-old decoration that evokes the bohemian atmosphere of the 19th century.

Even older than Almirall is Marsella, which is also located in the heart of the Raval neighbourhood on Carrer Sant Pau, and which opened in 1820. It was a bar frequented by Picasso, Dalí and Hemingway and it has changed little since then, including its bohemian spirit. This iconic bar, which was threatened with closure in 2013, was also chosen by Rosalía and Rauw Alejandro to record their latest music video, Vampiros.

And let’s not forget London Bar, on Carrer Nou de la Rambla. It opened in 1910 and has been a place of pilgrimage for such artists such as Dalí, Picasso and Antonio Gades, a gem that has managed to maintain its identity all these years and that survived a financial crisis a few years ago to continue as usual with the jazz and blues concerts that have always been held there.

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