BARCELONA VERMOUTH BAR LIST – THE CATALAN VERSION OF TAPAS
Do you want to know a secret? Tapas aren’t really a Barcelona thing. Other cities like Seville, Madrid or Bilbao have entire neighborhoods full of tapas bars, and their locals hop from bar to bar enjoying a tapa here and another tapa there. That doesn’t happen in Barcelona, even if we’ve lately adopted this fun way of eating and adapted it to our (healthier and more Mediterranean) taste. BTW, don’t know what a tapa is? Check this other post before you continue reading.
However, there is one similar food tradition that could be considered the “Catalan” tapa equivalent: going for a vermut. And despite what it might sound like, it’s not just about drinking Martini (not about Martini at all, actually). I grew up in a Catalan family where every Sunday we had a vermut before a big family lunch. My grandfather prepared a few snacks that were served on a small table by the terrace, and we all nibbled some potato chips, olives, canned cockles with lemon juice and paprika, anchovies, almonds, Spanish ham shavings or salchichon sausage slices and small cubes of cheese. Most adults would drink beer, my grandfather would serve himself a glass of whisky and my grandmother preferred cherry wine. Kids were given a soda or fruit juice.
Some other times we’d have our vermut at some local bar, but then we wouldn’t order such a large variety: just two or three different things. And some adults would then order a vermouth. That’s what having a vermouth in Barcelona means. By the way, it’s a pre-lunch thing: people wouldn’t do that before dinner. And on days off, not something you have the time to do on week days, as the socializing around the table is an important part of the ritual and for that you can’t be rushed.
The good news is that the Barcelona vermouth is becoming a trend: oldfashioned bars are becoming new meeting points, and young cooks are opening specialized venues welcomed by both foodies and hipsters. Don’t want to miss this very authentic experience? Come with us discovering our favorite spots today!
This where to go for a vermouth in Barcelona:
La Cala del Vermut
It’s probably not the best food of all the options I’m giving you today, but I like the setting, its location (they have actually 2 venues in the same street, plus one more around the corner) is quite central and easy to find near the Gothic Quarter and I love that when they serve your vermouth they bring an oldfashion siphon bottle of soda to add to your drink. It’s lots of fun to do it! Besides that they have an assortment of fried tapas: Padron green peppers, fried eggplant slices, chorizo sausages… Make sure to order a “tigre”: stuffed musles are one of their specialties. And their cheese cubes macerated in cheese are lovely too. By the way, their staff is said to be a bit unfriendly (but that’s not always been the case when I’ve been there). So if they seem a bit rude just relax and think… it’s part of the experience! LOL
To get here you’ll have to venture into the “real” Eixample, a few blocks away from the crowded Passeig de Gràcia. But it’ll be rewarding. The name of this bar translates as “fine snout”, and in Catalan we say that somebody has a fine snout when they have a strong preference for high quality foods and know how to appreciate them. The three guys at Morro Fi started out with a blog about food and wine in Barcelona back in 2007, and eventually decided to open their own venue three years later – which was an immediate success. Vermouth is a classic of the house and they sell their own brand of red and white (their recipes are secret) and also canned appetizers that can even be bought online. Try their unusual olives stuffed with artichokes, their mojama (tuna jerky) and their canned razor clams.
The Sant Antoni district has become the new destination for hip foodies in town, and Bar Calders is one of its not-to-miss tapas bars. Arrive early because they don’t take reservations and their outdoor terrace gets quickly packed. They have their own house Vermut, plus 6 more vermouth brands: a paradise for vermouth lovers! And besides the usual canned foods and pickles we’ve already seen that usually go with vermouth in Barcelona, they also serve more elaborated tapas, some with an exotic (Asian or Mexican) touch, wonderful croquettes of different flavors, salads and toasts, and their famous “platillos” ranging from hummus, to veggies, to egg casseroles, to burgers to codfish stews. A great place if your plan is to stay for lunch rather than just having your vermut and move on somewhere else for lunch.
People staying at the Duquesa de Cardona or The Serras hotels by the Port Vell couldn’t be happier: they have an old favorite around the corner (if you are staying somewhere else you’ll have a harder time finding it hidden in an alley between the port and the Cathedral). Famous for their only three tapas (spectacular fried sardines, butifarra pork sausage and a lovely tomato and onion salad, all three served in tiny dishes), many people love ordering wine there to drink as they serve it in a traditional porró (Catalan glass recipient that will challenge your target practice). But vermouth lovers will also find here the oldest Catalan vermouth brand (and maybe oldest in Spain too): Perucchi, made since 1876 with wine aged with over 50 different macerated herbs. Good to know: they won the Award to the Best Vermouth Spot in Barcelona 2010 by the Time Out Magazine.
Vermuteria del Tano
Our guide Miriam loved coming here when she lived in the Gracia district, and she still recommends it to anyone wanting to go off the beaten path and mingle with the locals. Originally a small farmhouse, then a traditional bodega wine bar, after changing owners a few times it was finally christened after the current patron, Mr. Cayetano – “Tano” to his friends and bar regulars, many of them gypsies members of a well integrated community of the neighborhood (and gypsies love giving nicknames to their friends and relatives). You’ll love its old-fashined decoration with aged barrels, marble tables and vintage ads. Do like locals do and arrive on a weekend around 1PM, squeeze between the crowd to find a place to stand by the counter and order a glass of vermouth, some potato chips with their home-made dressing, a plate of stuffed olives and some canned clams. Yum and fun!
And BONUS! Here is a vermouth that reaches Michelin-star level
After closing their mythic El Bulli, the Adrià brothers Ferran and Albert started opening a collection of specialty restaurants in Barcelona, and Bodega 1900 was Albert’s dream to pay tribute to the old good vermuterías, recovering traditional recipes and serving them with a contemporary touch. However, don’t expect it to be another bar where you can go, have a drink and a bite and leave: that’s not how they work. You first need to book your table online (upto 3 months in advance – good news, it’s way easier to find a table here than at their other Michelin-Star Tickets), then seat down for a 2-hour meal where you’ll be able to create your own selection of appetizers (vermut-style canned food and iberico ham and cheese with tomato bread, but also luxurious oysters and caviar), then starters that they call “intermediate dishes” or “classics” (including seafood tapas recipes, a couple of veggie options, and some meats), and ending with their main courses (fish or meat recipes – but they can also offer vegetarian options on request upon booking). They have one vermouth option, their house vermouth coupage, plus an exciting selection of wines and sparklings. And sweet-teeth will be happy to read their enticing desert menu, too!
So what about you? Head to the comments below and tells us: what would be your favorite place to try vermouth in Barcelona?