I don’t know about you but when I visit a big city in a new country I tend to come down with a serious ailment called Giganto FOMO. Also called the fear of missing out in giant proportions.
Am I seeing the important things? Which hip neighbourhoods should I visit? Am I eating the good stuff? How do I avoid the touristy Indians who have no indoor voice?
These decisions are usually so overwhelming that I end up snoozing the afternoon away in panic.
So before my trip to Madrid I decided to fix this issue once and for all. I found a fantastic solution called Daniel Welsch – an American who gave up everything and moved to Spain about 13 years ago. He found fame writing The Chorizo Chronicles, authoring books and being an English teaching Ninja.
The best part about Daniel? He’s funny, super knowledgeable AND tall enough to hold an umbrella while you click pictures of Madrid. Did I mention he brings the umbrella?
I met Daniel on a cold and rainy Madrid afternoon with a broken foot and an appetite larger than his favourite Hindu deity, Ganesha. We grabbed lunch at his favourite place – Casa Toni, which was just about to close down so we decided to help them by finishing a LOT of food.
What’s the best way to eat like a local? Daniel shares his secret “The best places to visit are the ones that are ugly with paper napkins on the floor and lots of old people eating with gusto.” I glance around the restaurant we’re at, the old people clearly know the best food in town.
Now we all know, two travel & food bloggers getting together can’t ever result in anything sane or healthy. Case in point, my visit to Granada.
And while I swear on Chorizo, we were meant to simply eat our way around like locals, I very unintentionally asked Daniel about the craft cocktail scene in Madrid.
Daniel recounted a time Madrid was famous for its Gin & Tonics. At most, honest folks would grab a traditional vermut for lunch. “Everything’s changing now”, he says in earnest. “Madrilio tippling is taking a serious turn and it’s our civic duty to bring you all the juice.” Wait, those were my words.
That leads us to the great Madrid Bar Crawl of 2017
We sacrificed limb and liver (pun intended) to bring you our three favourite bars among the hundreds dotting Madridscape. Let the games begin!
I’ll be very honest with you. In the 4 days I was in Madrid, I visited Salman Guru two times – that is a higher batting average than my local watering hole back in Delhi. That’s also double the commitment I have to Instagramming.
The bar looks like a classy New York Speakeasy that visited Amsterdam’s Red Light District for a nightcap. At the entrance are apothecary styled shelves with bottles and vintage cocktail shakers (drool). The inside is an eclectic mix of art deco, neon comic signs and a cow skull. Ask the staff about the meaning behind the name and you’ll get a different story from each one. Feel free to invent one of your own.
The bar menu is an interesting mix of reversioned classics and original cocktails. I loved that the menu featured several spicy drink options that played with chilli and peppers apart from the usual chocolate and fruit flavours.
I had a ‘Chipotle Chillona’ which was a Mezcal & Chipotle syrup cocktail served in a skull glass and was accompanied by a shot each of mint and ginger lemonade. Daniel, who was a little alarmed by all the fanfare stuck to a traditional Dark & Stormy. Both drinks were robust and well made while erring on the sweeter side. I would highly recommend their Whisky and Mezcal based cocktails. Speak with the bartenders who have a good grasp on cocktailing to whip up a drink best suited to your palate.
Location: Calle Echegaray, 21
Insider Tip: Call ahead if you’re planning to visit on a weekend. Seating is limited and fills up fast.
Take a minute to laugh at that name. Go on, get it out of your system.
Now, this is a very serious bar for people who like serious drinks. The minute you step in you’ll notice a mile high ceiling, a debonair bar area with waitstaff in suits and ties. This bar has been operational since 1921! Modeled after an English Salon, the place is filled with ‘cock’ artwork (the fowl variety), heavy red curtains and a secret basement. Bar Cock has hosted everyone from Hemingway to Sinatra and more recently George Clooney. It was only time that they added us to that star-studded list.
The drinks menu is simple and covers all the classics you’d expect from a good bar. There’s the Old Fashioneds, Sours, Daiquiris and even Margaritas. I tried an old fashioned Martini and Daniel had an excellent Rusty Nail. Both our drinks literally hit the nail on the head. Highly recommended for a no-nonsense tipple, celebrity watching and Godfather style meetings.
Location : Reina, 16
Insider Tip: Apart from cocktails, this is also a great place to Gin & Tonic with flair
1892 Dry Bar
One of Malasana’s most hip cocktail havens, this bar is anything but ‘Dry’. Named after the year that published the world’s first known cocktail guide, you’ll find a loving frame of Jerry Thomas on the bar counter along with an extensive drinks menu that reimagines classic cocktails with a special spin.
There’s an ample selection of prohibition era cocktails and their own creations that feature innovative house syrups and cordials. I tried a spicy cocktail called Dragon Amarillo – tequila based with notes of yellow pepper and passion fruit topped with an apricot foam. It’s been one of the most well-structured cocktails I’ve tried in all of Spain! Daniel tried a classic Whisky Sour which was extremely well balanced and satisfying.
The bar itself is a cozy mix of sofas and chairs with mood lighting and a relaxing atmosphere. It’s pet-friendly too, so your cat can join you for a cocktail after a hard day of scratching stuff.
Location : Pez, 27
Insider Tip: Can’t decide what to order off the menu? Chat with the bartenders who are knowledgeable and speak excellent English.
So those are my favourite three bars to get a taste of Madrid’s cocktail culture. And while these spots are a great way to acquaint yourself with a modern Madrid, Daniel recommends sampling traditional vermut and wine at your neighbourhood Bodega for a feel of ‘Real’ Madrid.
Check out Daniel’s website for everything local : http://www.expatmadrid.com/
Don’t forget to check out his youtube channel : https://goo.gl/cyv94U
Happy Crawlin’ Ya’ll!