After learning that the much-hyped Inopia Classic Bar, owned by superstar chef Ferran Adrià’s brother, was closed for a private function earlier this week, we went across the road to what we thought was just an average neighbourhood bar in what is a fairly nondescript neighbourhood in Barcelona. Bueno, we were certainly in for a surprise with some of the best cocktails in Barcelona!
Xix, or ‘Chicks’, is a warm, dimly lit, little corner bar that artfully manages to be both super-casual and super-cool. A few locals were propped up at the illuminated bar, having an after-work drink before heading home. A young dad walked in with his handsome son clutching a football and there was a lot of rustling of the kid’s hair by all of Dad’s mates at the bar. One of the guys even took him outside for a few kicks of the ball.
While most of the blokes at the bar were sipping beer or red wine, we noticed several young hipsters with colossal balloon-like cocktails glasses, which turned out to be… gin and tonics! It was only then that we took in all the gin bottles lined up along and behind the bar.
“Serious behind the bar, less serious in front of it,” the bar’s owner, Mike, an expat Scotsman, explained to us when we got talking the next night. (Yes, we did return to Inopia but we’ll save that disappointing experience for another post).
Is there a better attitude than that for a local bar? A relaxed, unpretentious place that takes its drinks seriously is our kind of bar.
No recent arrival, Mike has been in Barcelona for 20 years — he remembers the days when he walked down the street and was stared at because he was foreign! Working first as a musician, then a DJ, and now a bar owner, Mike opened Xix four and a half years ago.
Xix has a regular clientele of locals as well as people popping in for a drink after putting their name on the list across the road at Inopia and being told they’re going to have an hour to wait — a rather odd concept in itself when it comes to tapas, but one that gives Mike plenty of passing trade. It’s a trade he seems kind of amused at being given considering there are plenty of great tapas bars in the surrounding streets.
After tip toeing around just how silly the notion of a ‘waiting list’ is for a tapas bar, I congratulate him on my gin martini. He acknowledges that it’s good, but says “I’ll make you a really great one”. He does. And it is, it’s one of the best cocktails in Barcelona.
Mike’s great martini is made with Blackwood’s Vintage Dry Gin, coming in at a lusty 60% alcohol. It’s so heady I resort to sipping Lara’s Gimlet as a chaser. It’s one that every serious martini fan should try once – but perhaps only try one a sitting. Don’t ask.
If you love gin and are visiting Barcelona, Xix is a bar you must visit. Maybe even pop across the road to have some tapas. Although we know which place we’d prefer to be on a waiting list for…
But what about a local bar recommendation in our neighbourhood Gràcia, you ask? That would be Sol de Nit. It’s tiny, dark, atmospheric, and pretty much locals-only, and they play a fun pop soundtrack. Apparently when the sun shines it’s also a great spot for drinks outside on Plaça del Sol, but sadly we haven’t seen much of that!
Rocafort 19, L’Esquerra de L’Eixample, 93 423 4314
Sol de Nit
Plaça del Sol 9-10, Gracia, 93 237 3937