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Ah, Mr Holbrook, We’ve Been Expecting You ~ Cocktail Bar Research in Barcelona

I’ve just got home from one of my sponsored nights of debauchery. Research for a guide book I’m currently writing.

Cocktail Bars Barcelona
Words & photos by Ben Holbrook

After eating dinner at a new restaurant that’s just opened in Barcelona, and being stuffed with more tapas at the owner’s sister restaurant next door, I headed to Solange, one of Europe’s most revered cocktail bars.

It’s named after James Bond’s main love interest in Casino Royal, the first of ‘Daniel Craig’s Bond’. I arrived an hour later than I was supposed to, sweating profusely because I’d cycled there on my bike in 27 degrees.

The barman, Miguel, who’d I’d been instructed to introduce myself to by owner Alfredo Pernía, was fully suited and booted: tailored jacket, crisp-white shirt with silver cufflinks and a burgundy tie – suave as a Waldorf doorman.

He said something across the room in a hushed voice and extended his hand out to greet me across the bar. I was relieved that he seemed to know who I was and why I was there. All too often I arrive at a restaurant, bar or hotel that I’m writing about and the manager, with whom I have previously arranged a comped meal/drink/stay in exchange for media coverage, has forgotten to tell the staff.

I sat at the cherry wood bar on a stool of gold, the room glowing from the candescent back shelf.

Miguel handed me a menu, which was scented with Tom Ford aftershave, and talked me through the various options: the ‘Romantic’ cocktails, the ‘Lady Killers’, the ‘Thrill Seekers’, the ‘Silk-Stockings’…

I ordered a ‘Vesper Martini’, the gin & vodka concoction that Bond orders (invents) during a high-stakes poker game in Casino Royal, which Miguel reminded me was Ian Fleming’s first Bond novel. It wasn’t on the menu, but I’d done my research before arranging a recce of the bar and knew that it was the signature cocktail.

Cocktail Bars BarcelonaMiguel shook it up. Huge rocks of steaming cold ice, a flick of lemon over the glass. It looked like a chilled martini glass full of ice cold water, not much more. But it packed a punch. A subtle hint of lemon on the nose, a peppery burn in the back of the throat as it went down.

I supped it slowly, placing it down gently on the bar so that I could move around the room with my camera as people left various nooks. Discreet. Professional. I needed photos for the book I am writing, but I didn’t want to disturb anyone. I want to be invisible in these situations.

Once I finished my Vesper I shook Miguel’s hand, thanked him for his time, and left.

Cocktail Bars BarcelonaI strolled down Carrer Aribau past the gaggles of beautiful people that huddled around doorways of trendy bars. I felt like a million dollars.

I unlocked my muddy mountain bike, which I’d left chained to a lamppost down the street with three locks, and cycled home in a state of delirium.

At home I stripped off my clothes, sank a pint of water and washed the film of sweat off my face. And as I ran my toothbrush over my teeth, which were still completely numb from the cocktail, I suddenly realised what it was that Miguel had said to me as I walked in through the door…

“Mr Holbrook. We’ve been expecting you.”

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