Spain, home to our Gin of the Month, Siderit, is very serious about gin and tonic – or as the Spanish would say, el gin tonic. The country has (sensibly) fallen hard for this drink and is in fact the largest consumer of gin in Europe. Its drinking habits are even having an influence over here; you know those lovely big balloon glasses that we all like to drink out of nowadays? Well, those originated in Spain, where they’re known as copa de balóns.
The ritual of building the perfect G&T is taken very seriously, with bars offering a wide range of gins, each paired with carefully chosen botanical garnishes, tonics and bitters. Whereas gin and tonic is traditionally a pre-dinner tipple here in the UK, for the Spanish it’s more of a late night thing, and is often also paired with tapas. And these globed beauties tend to be strong – typically a 50:50 ratio of gin to tonic.
The gin trend is rapidly catching on all over the country, but is most established in Madrid, Barcelona and some areas in the north, not least in the foodie paradise of San Sebastián. Here’s our pick of some top places in these gin hot-spots that are well worth making a trip to sunny Spain...
Spain’s capital has a vibrant bar culture and, perhaps more than anywhere, has embraced the gin tonic as its very own. Indeed, it was on the mean streets of Madrid that our very own founders, Jon and John, were first inspired to create Craft Gin Club while sampling the city’s ginny delights during their time together there at business school.
One of their favourite haunts was Casa del Pez (Calle Jesús del Valle, 1; +34 674 784 636). According to Jon, you can expect: “An auténtico Madrid bar experience, with a buzzy but laid back crowd that are as serious about their gin tonics as they are about having fun. Located in a cool neighbourhood, a little off the beaten tourist path, but definitely one to seek out!”
At the other end of the ‘slick’ scale, and slap-bang on the tourist path, is The Gin Club in trendy restaurant El Mercado de la Reina (Calle Reina, 16; +34 915 213 198). In the ten years since its opening, this sophisticated, chilled-out bar has helped pioneer Spain’s G&T scene. With a large selection of perfectly served gin tonics, this is a great place to kick off any gin-based evening in Madrid.
San Sebastián, on the Bay of Biscay in Spain’s mountainous northern Basque Country, has a reputation as a top culinary destination. In fact, this small, elegant city has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world. It can also lay claim to being the source of the country’s present-day gin tonic revival, which is reputed to have started when local bar Coctelería Dickens (Alameda del Boulevard, 27; +34 943 427 233) began serving the drinks in long-stemmed glasses with botanical garnishes for its clientele of celebrated chefs.
The bar itself offers proper old-school glamour, with attentive and accomplished bar staff making wonderful, classic drinks. But be warned: this taste of gin history doesn't come cheap – expect to pay upwards of €15 for a G&T.
For a more contemporary (and less pricey) interpretation of Spain’s gin tonic love affair, head to La Gintonería (Zabaleta, 6; +34 943 021 956) in the city’s Gros district, which boasts more than 100 different gins, all of which are customised to your demands using an array of different tonics, garnishes and exciting modern techniques, such as using dry ice pellets to infuse gin with different spices.
If you’re a gin fan in Barcelona and glamour is your thing, then head to Boca Chica (Passatge de la Concepció, 12; +34 934 67 51 49) the bar attached to one of the city’s chicest restaurants, Boca Grande. With sumptuous yet quirky décor, celeb clientele and a lovely terrace, not to mention some pretty magical toilets (yes, really), this is also the place to enjoy some of Barcelona’s finest gin tonics.
For a more down-to-earth (but equally delicious) experience, head to XIX Bar (pronounced ‘chicks’) in the Poble Sec district (Rocafort, 19; +34 934 234 314). An early adopter of the now ubiquitous copa de balón G&T glasses, this cosy, unconventional, candlelit bar is housed in a former milk bar – or granja – and retains some of the pretty original tilework. The team also run regular tasting events and there is a little gin shop attached, The Gin Corner, so you can pick up a bottle (or two) of the tipples you’ve enjoyed in the bar.