It’s no secret that my husband and I are cocktail fans. It was here in Barcelona at cocktail bar Boadas, where we were first introduced to the perfect 3 ounce martini and realized that up until that point we were doing it wrong. When we returned to the states, we began an exhaustive search to find smaller martini glasses, eventually finding them through a restaurant supply company, and purged the 9 ounce martini glasses we had been accustomed to drinking from. Cocktails are a hobby for us. My husband makes them and I drink them!
However this post is not about cocktails, but vermut or as Andie MacDowell likes to call her favorite drink in the movie Groundhog Day, “sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist, please”. Through my extensive research on Barcelona, vermouth bodegas kept popping up here and there and they weren’t serving up Martini & Rossi, but their own special house blends that are often well kept secrets. Annnnddd, even better, a glass usually costs around 2 euros. We were somewhat skeptical as vermouth in the US is generally not a drink of choice but an ingredient to a Manhattan or a Martinez or that this could be a bust and we wouldn’t like it, but our curiosities were intrigued.
What I’ve observed is that this is often a post-siesta, pre-dinner beverage. I also do not see many locals drinking it. My take on this is that it could be more of a cold weather drink like a port, or it could be a tourist attraction! I have waited to create this post since I needed to visit multiple vermouth bars in order to make a proper conclusion on drinking vermouth in Barcelona. Below are 4 places that serve vermut de la casa all worth trying. The tables will have different siphons filled with soda water, which we’ll usually add after the first sip. It comes out like a fire hose which is why we take a sip before adding. (One quick note is that this doesn’t really photograph well due to the deep red color.)
Bodega del Born: This is the first place we tried and there is also the least amount of info on this place. It’s hidden down one of the skinny alleys of the Born district on Carrer dels Mirallers. There are no hours posted and only a small sign that says Bodega. It’s super small and ultimately this is where people come for vermut de la casa and upon my first sip of this herby wine concoction, I can understand why! It’s a perfect late afternoon drink. The twist is an orange and an anchovy stuffed olive. It makes me think of drinking one of those winter simmer pots filled with different herbs and spices that intensifies as it sits.
Zona d’Ombra: My initial reason for visiting this place was that it is a wine shop that offers small wine flights and cheeses but when we noticed they had a house vermouth, we switched gears. (Update: This place offers vermut casero, which means a local vermut not brewed on site.) This vermouth is lighter in taste but still full of herbal flavors. The twist is an orange slice. The vibe of this place is so relaxing. It’s tucked away in the Jewish quarter and there are a few outdoor tables where people are reading, relaxing and my husband can smoke his pipe.
Bar Bodega Quimet: This one I found by accident. I was researching the famous Quimet & Quimet restaurant (there is no relation) and this appeared as a local joint in Gracia where you fer al vermut, or “do the vermouth” by enjoying a small snack to go with it. In this case, the snack is conservas. Conservas, for those that do not know, is basically canned food; canned anchovies, mussels, clams, sardines that is so amazing, I will miss eating this when we leave. It may not sound appealing but that’s because we have ruined it in the US by selling “chicken of the sea”, and for that, I do not see this making its way to the states. The vibe here is super chill and super local. They also make their own cava and when you’ve finished your vermouth, definitely move along to their bottle of Bar Bodega Cava. I’d also suggest this place as an alternative to the famed El Xampanyet in the Born, which can be very busy.
Cala del Vermut: This is the last one we tried. As most places go in Barcelona, opening hours are a suggestion so don’t let that deter you from making a second attempt. There are a few Cala del Vermouth bodegas within 2 blocks of each other at the top of the Gothic quarter but this one has proven to be full of history and an excellent vermut de la casa. The walls are covered with photos of the Costa Brava, old conservas cans and you feel like you are standing in an old garage, it’s excellent!
To say I have a favorite of the four is impossible. Each of these places is situated in a different barrio so we’ll pop in to any one of these depending on where we are walking that day. It’s a fun thing to do early afternoon and each one of these cost 2 euros, so you can’t beat that!
We are both very curious if this is something that we can attempt to recreate when we get home but for now, we’re going to make the rounds at these places just in case.