While the holy trinity of sun, sand, and sangria reliably attracts millions to Barcelona every year, the city is also home to a budding craft distilling movement. The last few years have seen a rise in interest and ingenuity surrounding one spirit in particular: gin.
These days, a new crop of serious and seriously fun gin bars distill their own spirits and essential oils to create compelling, original cocktails. Test tubes and stills on display bring an almost scientific nerdiness to the affair — but don’t fret, this is Barcelona, so it’s going to be cool.
The following is an indispensable guide to some of the most creative bars and straight-up delicious drinks that go far beyond classic gintonics. Drinking them was easy. Selecting them was not.
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When co-owners Alex and Fede opened this spot in 2010, their mission was to make everything from scratch. Well, they do. Their proprietary London dry distilled gin label, which they call Moonshiner, is produced in small batches of 3,000 bottles. (They also stock 65 other gins.) Even the syrups, from clove to blackcurrant to vanilla, are distilled from pure alcohol instead of infused — the latter, according to Paolo, barman extraordinaire, “is the easy way out.” My personal favorite is Moonshiner with Jamaican cracked pepper & lemon. Priced at €8, it’s the real thing.
Address: Carrer de Sant Pau, 126 (Raval). Hours: Tues.-Sat., 8:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Bitter Cocktail Bar
If you’re lucky, co-owner Nacho from Sevilla will serve you from behind the bar. A self-proclaimed “rigorous but relaxed” guy, Nacho imbues all of Bitter Cocktail Bar with his ethos. A warm, neighborhood vibe emanates throughout, and, like everyone else, you’re likely to stay all night. Nacho’s fave is The Estela (€8-€10), featuring gin, Campari, maracuyá extract, cardamom and pineapple juice.
Address: Carrer de Viladomat, 17 (St. Antoni). Hours: Tues.-Sun., 7:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.
Pronounced “Sheesh,” this bar pioneered Barcelona’s gin revival, opening aaaaall the way back in 2005. It continues to be highly creative and uber-friendly. Gin maestro Mike Cruickshan claims to have brought back more than 280 gin varieties to his Barcelona lab before launching this G&T mecca. It doesn’t hurt that they have some of the best live jazz in the city several nights a week. My pick is The Sloane, made with Sloane gin, distilled lime, cardamom infusion, raspberry, vermouth and orange zest.
Address: Carrer de Rocafort, 19 (L’Eixample). Hours: Mon.-Thurs., 6:00 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.; Sat.-Sun., 5:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Entering Dr. Stravinsky feels like being transported to a mad scientist’s pharmacy. The latest and most daring gin bar to grace Barcelona, everything in this place oozes creativity, passion, and craft. They distill their house gin in a bain-marie in order to best capture all aromas, perfumes, and essential oils. Walk upstairs and you’re greeted by stills, transparent test tubes, old spice canisters, and distorted mirrors. I recommend the Camp Nou (“New Field” in Catalan), a reference to the FC Barça stadium and to the qualities of the earthy, grassy flavors of the drink. It is made with house-distilled gin, Manzanilla de Sanlúcar, dill, thyme, and cilantro syrup. Best of all, at €8, they’re practically giveaways.
Address: Carrer dels Mirallers, 5 (La Ribera). Hours: 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. daily
Don’t be intimidated by the name, or the fact that this place is always filled with beautiful people. Tucked away on a narrow side street in the trendy Born District, Disset Graus, meaning “17 degrees,” or the ideal centigrade temperature to serve wine, this place offers much more than wine. Pouring more than 20 gins, including one standout version with raspberry and basil, this is a wonderful place to start a big night. It has a fantastic ambiance and super-friendly staff.
Address: Carrer Antic de Sant Joan, 3 (Born). Hours: Mon.-Fri., 7:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.; Sat. and Sun., 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Sol y Sombra
Venezuelan-born new-kid-on-the-block Jordi Baqués kicks it (real) old-school, chiseling ice from a huge block as was done in the 1920s, and salvaging original recipes from old books. Not only does this bar ensconce you in a beautifully dim yellow light; not only does it host some of the city’s coolest live jazz Thursdays and Fridays; but Baqués offers tastings, workshops, and even cocktail courses from beginner to master class. He also makes a damn tasty drink. My favorite is Soleá, which combines Opihr gin, green apple, natural lime & orange juices, egg white, floral bitters, and tonic.
Address: Rambla del Raval, 39 (Raval). Hours: Wed.-Sun.: 8:00 p.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Bypass the front room, where pickled herring and hot pastrami on rye are served, and make your way through an old-school wooden freezer door. Voilà, you’ve entered Paradiso. One of Barcelona’s trendiest speakeasy-style drinking establishments, these guys and gals are nothing short of magicians. Meticulously crafted long drinks and sophisticated gin-based cocktails make this place worth your while. Try the “Supercool Martini,” featuring redistilled Sipsmith gin, Paradiso Mediterranean vermouth, Gordal olive, and distilled lemon oil.
(The name is not a Dante or John Milton reference, but rather an homage to Italian owner Giacomo Giannotti’s family’s gelato store, Il Paradiso. According to Giacomo, it was there that as a child he first “learned the beauty of mixing flavors.”)
Address: Carrer de Rera Palau, 4 (Born). Hours: 7:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. daily
Jon Lerner is originally from New Jersey and has lived in Barcelona for over 10 years. He is the founder of Tailored Tours Barcelona, which curates unique gastronomic, cultural, and historical itineraries in and around Barcelona.