Cocktails in the heart of Barcelona
On this most recent trip (2003) to Barcelona, I tried to make it a point to track down some of the best bars that I could find in the short time that I was in town. So far, the bartenders at both of the other bars I had visited had highly recommended to me that I check out Boadas, and so on one of my last days in Barcelona I did some searching on the internet in order to find out where it was located. I was surprised to discover that I must have walked right by it several times already as I was scouting about the city.
Boadas is the oldest cocktail bar in Barcelona. The walls of this snug and authentic feeling bar are filled with various artworks and memorabilia of their founder, Miguel Boadas, who opened the bar in 1933 after previously working at the famous Floridita bar in Cuba. This small and quaint little bar is located just off of the bustling Rambla. Thusly it is well situated in the heart of Barcelona, and makes it easy to retire to after a long day of scouting about the town, or a great place to start out from if you are getting a late start on the day.
The crowd at Boadas can often be talkative and expressive, with an equally energetic discussion coming from the other side of the bar. And while you will hear many different languages coming from the customers, including English, don't expect to be able to get too far speaking anything but Spanish with the staff. Like all of the "good" bars in Barcelona, they cater to the native crowd instead of the foreign tourists. Fortunately, most cocktails are all known by the same name, so it is easy to place your orders.
The night I was there a charming older lady was working behind the bar, I would guess from her dress and attitude, that she was the owner, which I was later to find out was the case. She was Maria Dolores Boadas who is Miguel Boadas daughter. She can often be seen working behind the bar mixing up a mean Martini with a unique and entertaining flair that I haven't (yet) seen used elsewhere. The process begins with combining the ingredients, along with ice, in a large cocktail pitcher. After a few quick stirs, they then place a julep strainer over the top and with a long arching motion roll the contents into a pint glass that they hold in the other hand (similar in style to how a blue blazer is done). They then pour the contents of the pint glass back in to the pitcher, and then perform another long roll into the pint glass. They do this three or four time, and then strain the drink into your glass.
For my first cocktail, I of course ordered my traditional Old Fashioned. The bartender serving me was Jeronimo, who I believe is also Maria's younger brother. Just like all of the other Old Fashioneds that I had had so far on my visit, it was mixed up perfectly. A far cry from the dismal versions I find back in the US.
As I drank my first cocktail, I noticed a small reader board that they had on the back wall. It listed their "Cocktail del dia" (Cocktail of the Day), a useful feature that helps to not only introduce customers to new drinks that they might not otherwise know of, but also provides assistance to the tongue-tied customer who can't think of what they want to drink at the spur of the moment. Today, the cocktail listed was the Liberal, a fairly rare drink to find since it uses Amer Picon, which is a French ingredient that is no longer being imported to the US. Since Jeronimo was busy with another customer, I asked the other bartender working that night, José Antonio, to mix it up for me. He happened to be the only bartender there who even understood a smattering of English, and so it was in talking with him that I was able to work out some of the names and details surrounding the bar and its history.
- 1 1/2 ounce rye whiskey
- 1/2 ounce sweet vermouth
- 1/4 ounce Amer Picon
- dash orange bitters
Stir with ice. Strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with an orange twist.
I would definitely recommend that anybody visiting Barcelona give Boadas a try. In fact, if you are looking for a centrally located place to stay in Barcelona, you would be well advised to try to find a hotel within close distance to the Boadas since this area is right in the center of town and it is just a short walk to almost anywhere else you might want to visit.