El Paradiso – Barcelona, Spain
The Takeaway: Made for the ‘gram (how the young whippersnappers say “instagram”). Thumping music, glowing cocktail menu, and an enthusiastic set of young bartenders.
“Thank you!” yells an American while he enthusiastically pumps the hands of the bartenders across the bar as he exits. I can only surmise that he is a visiting bartender, based on the interaction that indicates that he’s both a comrade and stranger to the young moustached bartenders slinging cocktails. The music is thumping – loud, but not too loud, and there’s a moderate buzz of the reasonable crowd at 12am on a Monday evening.
We are promptly perched at a set of seats near the bar (not at – but in a line parallel to the action) and a glowing menu is set before us. It is cool, as is the entire interior of the dream-like bar.
Nevermind that you enter through a meat shop in a classic speakeasy style. The rest of the bar seems to pay homage to Gaudi (Barcelona’s illustrious architect) with wood and flowers surrounding it, as if you were drinking in a faerie cave under the roots of a tree.
The scene itself on a Monday night is filled with young couples (many Americans – I assume it is because it’s a Sunday night and most Spaniards needs to resume work the next day). We ended up striking up a brief conversation with an elderly Danish gentleman drinking out of a magic hat.
Their current menu is clearly inspired by magic and showmanship. Some drinks come out glowing, some in a grape container, and others are “cut in half” before your eyes. Although we found their cocktails relatively low ABV (this is a highly slanted view, because we now have graduated onto cask-strength whisky as a standard “with dinner” drink and wine tends to taste “watery” now matter how bold it is), the range of taste profiles is large and definitely not one-note. There was clearly an effort to make a drink for everyone.
What ended up having were:
The guillotina: 2 person minima, with Maker’s Mark bourbon, PX sherry, pisco el gobernador, lemon, vanilla, watermelon, hibiscus, tea, and clarified milk. To us, it tasted like pleasant watermelon juice without a trace of alcohol.
We also had the Great Gatsby: Auchentoshan American Oak, white truffle honey, amaro, essence of lavender, and smoked with vanilla and chocolate tobacco. This was stronger – and the cheese garnish was excellent. It starts out great and impactful – but I must admit I was a bit taste fatigued by the end of it…
The night-cap was the Caballo de Troya (Trojan Horse), which came out almost as soon as we ordered it because it was batched and ready to go. Johnny Walker Gold macerated with baklava, calvados, liqueur of figs, Sherry oloroso, and amaro Averna. It was excellent – extremely sherry and prune-like with a medicinal aftertaste. We joked that it was probably just straight-up Montenegro. Again, the presentation was fun, as you can see in the video below.
All in all – the bar is great (service is astoundingly quick), the drinks are creative and it’s fun to see what others get… and for the price of 10-11 Euros per drink, you’re getting the drinking equivalent of a “dinner and a show”. It’s a great tourist destination, but I am not sure how well it’d hold up as a regular watering hole.