What do London’s Connaught Bar, Singapore’s Jigger & Pony and legendary Buenos Aires speakeasy Florería Atlántico have in common? Other than featuring in the top 10 of The World’s 50 Best Bars list, they all understand that in order to catch the eye of today’s discerning drinkers, you need an identity (and I’m not talking about putting a sparkler in a martini).
Take Two Schmucks, for example. The charming, irreverent hangout in Barcelona’s El Raval neighbourhood has won acclaim for melding the fun-loving features of a dive bar (think happy hours, late-night cheese toasties and grungy decor) with a spectacularly inventive cocktail menu that could go toe-to-toe with any drinking den in the world. It’s a beguiling dichotomy that has put Two Schmucks in 11th place on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, as voted for last year by more than 650 drink aficionados.
“It’s really pleasing for us to see so many different bars with completely varied identities getting to both the top of the list and entering into the list for the first time,” Mark Sansom, content director at The World’s 50 Best Bars, tells us. “It’s about what underlies that identity. It’s the skill of the drinks programme, the staff and their attitude toward each of their guests that makes a bar sing.”
Since the world reopened after the pandemic, bars have been crooning louder than ever, though few cities have attracted the cocktail world’s spotlight quite like Barcelona. In recent years the Catalan capital has become one of the most exciting cities to order a drink in, and like an expletive mural on the wall, its blend of gastronomy, culture and nightlife has made a statement that’s impossible to ignore. So much so that on 4 October, Barcelona will become the first city outside of London to host The World’s 50 Best Bars Ceremony. With the event now in its 10th year, Mark says the time was nigh to shine the light on another cosmopolitan cocktail capital.
“Last year was the first time Barcelona had three bars on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, which is quite rare for a city outside of London, New York or Singapore. Everyone seems to congregate here because they love the city. [The locals] are open to global tastes and because they’re so used to varied gastronomical influences, they’re equally accepting of new cocktails and styles.”
Last year was the first time Barcelona had three bars on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, which is quite rare for a city outside of London, New York or Singapore
One of the many things that has distinguished Barcelona’s bar scene over the years is its relationship with gastronomy, and food continues to have an influence on the city’s drinking culture today. Indeed, hop from one bar to another and you’ll find it almost impossible to complete the journey without stopping by one of the infinite number of tapas spots for a plate of creamy croquetas or charred padron peppers. As a result, Barcelona’s most popular cocktails tend to be punctuated with savoury and bitter notes, which means you’ll never be far from an outstanding martini. And if you’re looking to enjoy this classic mix of vermouth and vodka (depending on how you enjoy it) on your next visit, the list’s three Catalonian venues are as good a place to start as any.
With showstopping cocktails throughout the menu and interiors that range from kick-back boozer to spaceage speakeasy, each bar proves yet again that having an identity can turn a good drinking experience into a great one. Take Paradiso, for example, which is sitting pretty at number three on the list. At first, you’re greeted by an old-fashioned pastrami bar, but swing open the retro fridge door and you’re suddenly inside an otherworldly watering hole, with curvaceous wooden beams and glowing menus that advertise the coldest martini on the planet. Then there’s Sips, a newcomer which entered the list for the first time last year at number 37 having won critics over for its elaborate glassware, refreshing takes on classic drinks and relaxing open plan layout. Sandwiched between them both is Two Schmucks, the rough-around-the-edges locale everyone wants to end their night in.
And they undoubtedly will when the world’s leading mixologists and drinks industry bigwigs come to Barcelona next month to see the unveiling of The World’s 50 Best Bars 2022 hotlist. As new, rambunctious venues enter for the first time with a view to dislodging the heavy hitters at the top, it’ll be the ones with that magic ingredient that have the power to truly elevate their city’s cocktail culture. As Mark says: “A bar needs to find what it does well and really focus on that. Bars that don’t tend to fall by the wayside pretty quickly.”
What cocktails to order in Barcelona according to the experts
“For sure the Mediterranean Treasure, because of its surprising presentation. The cocktail is smoked with Mediterranean flavours and all the aromas come rushing out of a treasure box. The flavour is a mix of sea and land thanks to the unique oyster leaf and it’s served in a seashell shaped glass.” Giacomo Giannotti, owner, Paradiso.
“THE KRYPTA is a cocktail you can drink and inhale and is made with kiwi, gin and Armagnac. Meanwhile, the COMPRESSED is a mix of sherry with jasmine and peach flavours, while the MOSAIC is inspired by Barcelona’s most famous architect, Antoni Gaudí.” Simone Caporale, co-owner, Sips.
“The head bartender at Two Schmucks used to be a chef at a very high level so all the drinks on the current list are influenced by food. There’s a curry colada which is one of the best drinks I’ve ever had.” Mark Sansom, content director, The World’s 50 Best Bars.