Barcelona Cocktail Bars
Who’s causing a stir on the scene?
By Duncan Rhodes
Where can you find the best-mixed mojitos and Mai Tais in the Catalan capital? We take a look at some of our favourite coctelerias for all styles and budgets.
Beer drinkers and wine lovers for most of their history, the Catalans were slow to embrace the delights of spirits – and the art of mixing them together. However in recent years cocktails have been coming to the fore, with a rush of bars and lounges opening up around Barcelona, serving a vast and tasty array of concoctions to excite the most discerning of palates.
This being Spain, where the precise measuring of alcohol is considered uncouth, drinks are mixed as strong as you like, so be warned before you set off on that epic bar crawl or order one too many mojitos with your dinner.
Below is by no means an exhaustive list, but it features some of my favourite cocktail bars in the city. And, this being Barcelona, there’s plenty of differing styles on offer. From upscale lobbies in 5-star hotels, where you can mingle with polite company, to homely haunts around the Old Town where your well-mixed Margarita comes with eulogies about Barça FC and worn-out sofas… the Catalan capital has the perfect sipping spot for you.
Mojitos and caipirinhas are the people’s choice, but you’ll be able to find anything from ‘Porn Star Martinis’ to ‘Panther’s Milk’… whilst a new generation of ambitious mixologists are being celebrated for their innovative libations.
When it comes to the cocktails themselves, mojitos and caipirinhas are the people’s choice, but shop around and you’ll be able to find anything from ‘Porn Star Martinis’ to ‘Panther’s Milk’ on the drinks menu, whilst a new generation of ambitious mixologists are being celebrated for their innovative libations. This being Cava country you’ll also find some sinfully sparkling Champagne cocktails!
Recommended Cocktail Bars
You can find 13 of my favourite places to wet the whistle below. If you click on their names you will find a more detailed review, photos, website link and individual location.
Smooth, low-lit and plenty of well-dressed good-lookers loafing around – Marmalade is your archetypal cocktail lounge, thankfully without ever delving into the realms of pretentiousness. As well as traditional combinations, you’ll find a hit-list of original mixes such as ‘La Cucaracha’ (The Cockroach), Champagne Charlies and yes the Porn Star Martini. A fantastic food menu, and a crimson-topped pool table, round off a great bar.
Signature Cocktail: 12 Monkeys
Smirfnoff Vodka, Frangelico, Disaronno Amaretto, pineapple juice, lemon juice and coffee bitters
For a classy cocktail experience it’s hard to beat a night at Slow, where celebrated bartender Fran Mekk performs liquid alchemy as he rustles together some of the most mouthwatering concoctions in town – try their Capitan Barbarroja, firebird or Spiced Margarita. The bar is located in the Zona Alta, and as such is patronised by well-dressed Catalan crowd, who meet and chat in the front bar earlier on in the evening, while later at night Slow’s intimate upstairs disco rocks to an eclectic mix of dancefloor-friendly tracks. There’s also live music every Friday and Saturday night from 9:30pm. A great option if you want to experience the real nightlife, outside of the touristy old town.
Signature Cocktail: Capitan Barbarroja
Scotch, Laphroaig Whisky, Carpano Formula Antica Vermouth, maple syrup, Pedro Ximénez, roasted apple purée and smoke. €12.
3. La Whiskeria
Opened way back in 1969, as a sort of exclusive after hour club by Boadas (see below!), La Whiskeria oozes old school elegance and charm, a laidback and lowkey venue just a minute’s walk from the madness of Las Ramblas. Connoisseurs can choose from between over 250 whiskeys, from premium brands to hard-to-find independent distillers, while cocktail lovers can savour the house’s savvy takes on classic concoctions. Try a Kentucky Mule (“a bourbon twist on a Russian classic”), a Camomile Highball, or a glass of Pencillin… a deliciously smokey and sharp potion that will perk up body and soul.
Signature Cocktail: New York Sour
Bulleit Bourbon, fresh lemon, homemade chai syrup, topped with red wine. €9.
A perfectly preserved slice of the 1930s, this legendary watering hole is the oldest cocteleria not just in the city – but in the country! Founded by the eponymous Boadas after he returned from mixing Cuba Libre’s in the world famous La Floridita in Havana. If you like your Martinis mixed by a tuxedo-wearing pro be sure to sidle through their red door on La Rambla.
The little sister of the aforementioned Marmalade bar, this cute and cosy bistro has won a place in the heart of many a visitor to Barcelona, many of whom return again for another shot at the venue’s tantalising drinks menu. The Revolver and Whiskey Savage are two editorial faves. Find in Gotico, near the Post Office. If you’re feeling hungover the next day, they are also one of the city’s best brunch spots.
Signature Cocktail: La Leche (Expresso Martini)
Smirnoff Vodka, Baileys, Kahlua, expresso. €8.50.
Clubhaus is effectively three venues rolled into one, starting with bar and restaurant Showroom on the ground floor and then descending into Jungle Room, a play room full of adult toys like karaoke, ping pong and arcade games, before you’re invited to end your night in the club-like Galaxy Room. You can find different cocktail menus at each step of your way through nightlife nirvana, such as the For Tiki’s Sake, made with Santa Teresa rum and green tea sake and served in a Polynesian-style pot with flowers and fronds, or an IPA Mule, served down in the Jungle Room… a classic take on the Moscow Mule with IPA Lagunitas and spiced pumpkin.
Signature Cocktail: For Tiki’s Sake
Santa Teresa rum, green tea sake, Martini Rubino, orgeat, pineapple, passionfruit lassi. €10.
7. Betty Ford’s
Surreptitiously positioned on the top of Joaquin Costa in Raval, this Australian-run bar is far from your typically Ozzie spit and sawdust pub. You’ll find projections, murals and a Boho crowd to go with your cocktails. The Daiquiri is a winner.
Buzzing onto the booze’n’schmooze scene in recent years, Firebug is a fun little bar and bistro with some great decorative touches (like the mural made of decapitated suitcases) and expertly mixed drinks, mostly priced around the €6-7 mark. Their street terrace on the broad and leafy Passeig Sant Joan is a lovely locale to sip a Cava sangria, and a refreshing change from the charismatic but clogged streets of El Gotico and Born. Upstairs you can enjoy casual fingerfood with friends.
Signature Cocktail: Diaveletta
José Cuervo Especial, Passoa, tabasco, ginger ale, homemade ginger syrup and fresh lime juice. €6.25.
Remember those Cava cocktails we just mentioned? Here’s where you can get them, courtesy of Le Pop’s celebrated barman, Juan Jose. His ‘Sparkling Menu’ contains the likes of the Catalan Bellini, made with Gin Mare and Cava, whilst you can also choose eccentric offerings like ‘Cat Food’, made from tequila, vanilla, coriander, passion fruit, and topped with beer and served in a can. One to get your paws on for sure! Nestled in the five star folds of Le Méridien Hotel, you can expect great service and a sophisticated after work ambience.
10. El Rouge Bar
It’s hard to beat this hidden gem in Poble Sec, if it’s atmosphere you’re after. Red lights, cherubs, erotic artwork – you’ll feel like you’re in a Parisian bordello. The drinks ain’t bad either, and there’s a large menu of gin and tonics. The occasional live DJ or band drops by, from time to time.
11. Gigi Von Tapas
For sophisticated sipping, outside of touristville, commandeer a stool at this bar-restaurant’s elegant counter and ogle at the house’s extensive drinks menu. Signature cocktails go by the names of el torero, bumblebee, sheikh le beet, 2001: Space Odyssey, and Pep Dali, while you can also order a fine selection of the classics, like penicilin, sidecar and dark and stormy. All are reasonably priced, as is the quality tapas if you do decide to stay for dinner.
Signature Cocktail: El Torero
EL Jimador Silver tequila, Punt e Mes red vermouth, passion fruit puree, agave syrup, lime juice and egg white. €7.25.
12. Pipa Club
This one time secret after hours bar for round-the-clock drinkers (yes, I was a regular) has cleaned up its act in recent years to become a private cocktail club. In fact it’s relatively easy to get in, especially if you speak a bit of castellano. Just ring the buzzer, ascend and expect to be seated and served.
Cocktail Experiences & Activities
Perhaps you’ve watched one too many 80s movies featuring Tom Cruise, or perhaps you’ve simply always wanted to know how to mix a mean-@ss Margarita without spilling ice all over the table top… whatever your motivation a session with one of Barcelona’s finest mixologists is an activity that always goes down a treat. For just €35 you learn how to mix four famous cocktails, while nibbling on some top Spanish tapas (to prevent you from keeling over). The activity takes place at a bar downtown, every Sunday to Thursday at 7pm. Click on the link above, or request more info via firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re on a hen weekend, this group activity is a great way to start any night out! For just 30 euros per person (based on a minimum of 8 people) you get to learn how to make some of the world’s classic cocktails and of course taste them afterwards – you’ll drink your money’s worth back no problems! Click on the link above for more info, or email email@example.com to book.
Barcelona Cocktail Bars Map
Our complete guide to Barcelona’s nonstop nightlife can be found here.
Finally, if you’re more of a pint (wo)man than a cocktail quaffer, then why not head over to our guide to Irish pubs, or better still our A-Z list of all the best bars, pubs and clubs in town.
About the Author
Duncan established Barcelona Life in 2009, whilst freelancing for the likes of Conde Nast, The Guardian, Easyjet Magazine, CNN Traveller and many more. From interviews with Ferran Adria to revealing the secrets of the city’s poetry brothels, he knows the city inside out… and shares all his best tips right here.