There are many craft cocktail bars that have been designed to feel old. Pre-Prohibition gaslights, Prohibition-era speakeasies, and mid-century tiki have been design cues for many a modern cocktail bar. Dry Martini Bar in Barcelona achieves a holistic authenticity unlike any modern bar I’ve ever visited. In fact, only now as I began to write this post did I learn that it opened only in 1996. Based on its appearance, with dark, warm wood, green tufted leather seating, and shelves of vintage vermouths and spirits, I had assumed that Dry Martini had been a fixture since at least the 1930s or 1940s.
Such was the class conveyed upon entry that I knew, immediately, that we were in for a great experience (never mind that we were there on recommendation from Derek Brown). The lighting was perfect and the music was soft. The bartenders wore tidy white jackets. Their movements were as precise as any I’ve ever seen behind the stick, save for Japanese masters like Hidetsugu Ueno and Kazuo Uyeda.
Naturally I started with a Dry Martini. Though the central mirror on the back bar advertised a 1:1: Dry Martini with orange bitters, the house version being served that night was not, in point of fact, anywhere near 1:1, but instead a very modern Dry Martini that I would guess was on the order of 16:1. It’s not anywhere near my preferred ratio, but I was nonetheless happy to enjoy it, while watching their digital Martini counter tick up one (they are well over one million Dry Martinis served).
The most innovative drink of the night was essentially a frozen Gin and Tonic. Barcelona is a city in love with the Gin and Tonic. Countless bars and restaurants we visited had multiple G&T variations with different gins and tonics to pair, as well as lots of customization on the ingredients and garnishes. But this was truly special. Served in a large tumbler, the bottom half of the drink was built on ice and tonic water, then the top had a gin and lime cordial slush poured on top. It was crisp, cold and delightful. The concept was original and one that I plan on being experimenting with extensively at home to see if I can replicate.
I don’t have detailed notes but other cocktails included a delicious and surprisingly light coconut liquor and coconut cream cocktail, as well as a Negroni variation.
We actually visited Dry Martini twice in the same evening – before dinner and then as a night cap. Both times the service and drinks were outstanding. I’ve been to scores of cocktail bars and restaurants with outstanding cocktail programs, but Dry Martini was easily one of the best bar experiences I’ve ever had, from the quality of the drinks, the gorgeous atmosphere and the outstanding bar staff. It will remain one of my core recommendations to travelers in Barcelona and will certainly be a bar I visit again in future travels.