Vermouth hour has never fallen out of fashion in Barcelona, but in recent years the tradition of gathering with friends to share an afternoon aperitif, and the usual side dishes, has garnered a new generation of devotees and plenty of proprietors only too happy to accommodate. Time Out brings you the modern, as well as the classic, temples of vermouth.
You don’t have to go down to Barceloneta for good fish tapas. On the corner of Sants market, the tiny bar Bodegueta de Cal Pep offers a range of marine snacks that you just can’t refuse: sea snails, crab, razor clams, goose barnacles, dried tuna and other delicacies such as peperini (peppers stuffed with anchovies or cheese) and Torta del Casar soft cheese. Àngel has kept the spirit of this place alive while still adapting it to modern times. For gourmets of the aperitif.
Packed to the rafters with dusty bottles of wine, this classic but minuscule bar makes up for in tapas what it lacks in space. The specialities are 'conservas' (shellfish preserved in tins), which aren't always to non-Spanish tastes, but the 'montaditos' (sculpted tapas served on bread) are spectacular. Try salmon sashimi with cream cheese, honey and soy, or cod, passata and black olive pâté. Get there early for any chance of a surface to put your drink on.
It's worth getting to know Balius, a cocktail bar that specialises in top vermouth and cocktails made with vermouth, and when you're feeling peckish you can order from a repertoire of cured foods, tapas and small dishes that have their origins mainly in Aragon and Castilla. For example, the 'lomo de orza' is finely cut pork loin marinated with 'alioli' (garlic mayonnaise) and lemon, and the 'atascaburras' is a salted cod dish that has the fame of being mentioned in 'Don Quijote'. During its operating hours, the kitchen is open non-stop, and they use quality local products that are organic whenever possible. They're also specialists in sustainable fish.
At the Casa Mariol Wine Bar, which is part of the bodega of the same name, you'll have the chance to get to know Suau, which is a version of a drink (a blend of soda and coffee) that was popular in the Ribera de l'Ebre region decades ago. You can also taste cask wines from the Ebre, accompanied by a nice 'clotxa' (bread stuffed with herring, onions, tomatoes and garlic) and then top it all off with delicious cakes from Batea (a town also in the Ebre).
Lo Pinyol is a beautiful spot, with high ceilings, colourful tiled floors, a lovely marble sink, and wine and vermouth barrels suspended over a made-to-measure wooden bar. There are three cosy spaces: the traditional bar at the front, an interior room filled with books, and a dining area at the back for more private meals. Barcelona is chock-full with bars and restaurants. It's up to you to choose where to go. And I'm starting to make my choices based on treatment by the staff – if they're friendly and pleasant to be around, I'll be back, I'll bring my friends, and I might even become a regular. And that's exactly my experience with Lo Pinyol.
For some time now, the Morro Fi blog has been considered an essential website for those who aspire to keeping their stomachs happy. These one-time explorers of anchovy and secallona havens have set up their own oasis. Working in a tiny space, Marcel serves the aperitifs that he has always wished he could have found in bars. Marcel’s draught beers hide a secret that only you can see if you pay close attention to the hands of this man who is known as the Rimbaud of the beer tap. Two fingers of poetic justice, that’s what I find in each glass.
Tarannà is not only a place for vermouth and all its accompaniments, although they do have quite the variety of tempting tinned foods and small dishes. Here you can have breakfast or lunch and, above all, sit back and chat. Designed in the style of a cosy European café, with brick and wood, and with a traditional door and hanging plants in a pure Provençal style, this is a magnificent spot, whether you're going to hang out with friends, or toting your laptop along to get a bit of work done.
When Albert Adrià left his tapas bar Inopia, his partner Joan Martínez turned it into the Lolita tapas bar. Safe to say, everything changes, and yet it stays the same. This crowded bar serves eggplant with cane molasses, all kinds of edible delights with the vermouth, and delicious treats such as squid croquettes and chicken strips in breadcrumbs. They led the tapas revolution in Sant Antoni, and they're still at the top of their game.
For all Pere Calders fans – God has heard your prayers. The cul-de-sac named after the writer has recently become home to one of the loveliest spots in Sant Antoni. They have books by the Catalan author, the draught beer flows freely and there’s a selection of tapas that sends shivers of pleasure through the district. Obviously, the best thing to try is the vermouth. They stock four brands, but if you want to try a Priorat, then you should go for the one from Falset. Incidentally, the outdoor terrace is one of the district’s best kept secrets: You’ll just keep coming back.
Bar Chiqui is an atypical yet traditional bar, a place where they only serve 'conserves' (tinned delicacies), sandwiches, wine from the barrel, and the jewel in Chiqui's crown, the house vermouth. This vermouth is very popular among fans of the drink, whether they've been drinking it for five months or 50 years; and you will see newbies and lifelong aficionados enjoying a glass at the same time on a relaxing Sunday. And their love is for a vermouth that is prepared as it once was – without ice, without a slice of orange and with a spray from the siphon. Let's see if that catches on next.