On a recent trip to Spain I wanted to take my drinking sensibilities somewhere different. Typically while traveling I like to seek out the best bars for cocktails or the regional drink. Once I hit Barcelona I dedicated my palate to the refresher that reigns supreme throughout Spain, the Gin & Tonic.
This article will not talk about the long history of gin and the fabulous story of how tonic became its go-to mixer. Or how tonic became the answer to years of healthy leaps of faith by drinkers with ailments reaching for a medicinal cocktail – you can read that story here. This article is about finding the best Gin Tonic in Barcelona with a bit of research and a lot of luck.
The criteria: I walk into bars and order 1 Gin & Tonic. Dealers choice was ordered every time. Some bartenders don’t like playing that game so I opted for a local gin if they were reluctant. Some picked for me. Others picked from carefully curated menus that paired a gin with a tonic and possibly a special garnish. These are the stand out combinations and the bars serving them.
Gimlet is a modest mid-century style bespoke cocktail bar. In the middle of the El Born neighborhood. There is a frosted glass window with the word “Gimlet” painted on it along with the bars version of the recipe. I had to go in and see what this place was all about. A no frills approach to making classic cocktails my dealer’s choice Gin & Tonic was served up quickly. A pint-sized cocktail with an entire bottle of Schweppes Tonic mixed with three fingers of Martin Miller’s gin. Citrus, refreshing and delicious.
Translating in English to grocery store. This corner bar caught my attention while exploring the city when I saw its ‘house vermouth’ sign in the window. Thinking I was going to enjoy something other than a gin & tonic, I was very wrong. When I entered Colmado I found they had a gin & tonic menu with some interesting combinations.
Casa Delphin sits on the edge of a historic square in the El Born section of Barcelona. It caught my attention with its beautiful back bar so I poked my head in to take a look. I asked the server to pick me their favorite gin & tonic and she brought me Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin with Schweppes Tonic in a balloon glass with a single dried chili pepper. This is a perfect example of the thoughtful combinations of gin, tonic and a complimentary garnish to set the flavors off.
Old Fashioned was the 4th bar on my list with a classic cocktail name. I figured with a name like that it was worth a try. When I entered Old Fashioned the staff in this little tucked away bar instantly greeted me. The extremely friendly staff was prompt to ask me how I was doing while I was taking in my surroundings. When I asked for a gin & tonic the barman cracked a smile and on the journey to satisfy my palate we went.
I requested he pick a gin for me but he wanted me to try something new. After a comical back and forth of about a half-dozen gins, finally he suggested Bulldog Gin which I had never tried. Once the gin was settled I figured that was it, but he had more questions and was pulling out small vials of aromatics to compliment the gin. He opened one and let me smell the contents and asked if I liked it. I did. He quickly took out a pinch of the contents and poured the gin over it in a small tin and lit it on fire creating an instant infusion.
While the gin was cooling he explained it was a Japanese tea. Paired with Fever Tree tonic in a balloon glass this made a delicious combination heavy on the herbaceous notes in the gin and tea. They also had one of the most impressive American whiskey selections I’ve seen in Europe.
Dry Martini – Eixample Neighborhood
Dry Martini was on many of my lists and came highly recommended from people who know the cocktail scene in Barcelona. It was the first bar I checked out when I arrived in the city and was everything I had expected. Dry Martini is a shrine to its namesake and to cocktails in general. With over a million Martinis sold since 1978 this place takes their drinks seriously. They give you a tag when you order a martini to tell you what number yours is. (Mine was 1,048,573)
In a classic setting with an “all vintage everything” vibe right down to the barmen wearing white jackets and writing orders on pads of paper. The Gin & Tonic was a perfect drink to watch being executed, as they spared no details in this simple classic.
Chilling the glass, seasoning the ice, and slowing adding the tonic was so great to watch in this throwback setting. Cerefino, the gentleman who made my gin & tonic chose Nordes Gin, a Galician inspired gin made from an Albariño grape based spirit. Paired with classic Schweppes Tonic and a simple lime wheel in a beautiful cut glass double old-fashioned glass. This visit was a special experience to say the least.
I don’t know a lot about Ideal but it’s a great little bar. Comfortable and cozy with a hell of a scotch selection. This family owned bar has been here since 1931 and is keeping up with the times with a great gin & tonic selection.
They house their 98 gins in a stand up freezer and have a whopping 22 tonics to pair with those.
They were happy to accommodate my dealer’s choice and picked Bayswater London Dry Gin and paired it with Indi tonic. The tonic choice was spot on giving the cocktail a huge citrus flavor with a nice balance in botanicals. Garnished with a simple lemon twist and served in a balloon glass Ideal is keeping things simple in the best ways possible.
Bobby Gin was by far my favorite bar in BCN. Very chill vibe in this hidden gem, I was greeted by bar manager Alberto Pizarro who explained his bars obsession with Gin. As I took in the space after arriving I noticed that gin was the focus here by far.
With witty signs around the bar adorned with text such as “The Perfect Gin Tonic Does Not Exist” and “You are the gin of my tonic”. The menu had a lengthy gin & tonic list, the food menu had gin & tonic inspired dishes and they even had a separate menu called “Gin Fonk” that explored gin as a category and had some special hard to find gins and creative cocktails pushing the boundaries of the classic gin tonic. Alberto suggested I try Gin Mare as my base and added Fentiman’s herbal tonic, a dash of cardamom bitters and a sprig of basil. A very thoughtful addition to this cocktail was the basil, playing with this gins unusual savory flavors. Gin Mare is a Spanish gin with four added botanicals you typically don’t find in your average spirit, olives, thyme, rosemary and basil.
Alberto was very proud to share some other local gins he is excited about along with some exclusive Schweppes flavors only found in Spain. I tried Modernessia Gin (made with distilled honey in Tarragona) with Schweppes hibiscus tonic. Bobby Gin is Barcelona’s shrine to this simple cocktail. If you want to geek out on gin, this is your place.