One of Spain’s destination cocktail bars, Collage Barcelona has garnered quite the reputation for experimental mixology.
It’s no secret that craft cocktails are a global phenomenon (as is a passion for gin), and few countries serve as a better testament to this fact than Spain. For an insider perspective on the thriving Spanish scene, we caught up with Fernando Requena and Lorenzo Meini of Collage Barcelona, one of the city’s best cocktail bars. The bar first opened its doors more than three years ago and, thanks to its adventurous mixology programme and laidback demeanour, has become a favourite of the city’s tippling set. Read on for a behind-the-scenes look at the city’s cocktail culture – plus four drinks recipes you can try out yourself.
I love the idea of thinking that I can make a person’s life better for that brief moment…
How did you come to bartending, and what’s your ethos when it comes to making drinks?
Lorenzo: “I actually first started as a sommelier in Tuscany (my region) before being offered a job at a cocktail bar – that’s where I discovered my passion for spirits and mixes. I moved to London for a while, because for me it’s a world capital for mixology. There I moved to Menorca where I met [co-owner] Fernando, and we finally decided to open our own bar in Barcelona: and that’s how The Collage was born. My curiosity and ability to always experiment with new products, combinations and techniques are definitely the reasons why I love my job.”
Fernando: “I studied journalism in Venezuela and came to Spain for a masters degree. Ten years ago, just by chance, I ended up behind a bar and discovered my passion: cocktails. I started as a bar back and did my own research. After doing some bartending courses in Barcelona I went to Menorca to work – and now I’m back. I love my job – not only for the creative process of making new recipes or researching books for lost classics, but also for the satisfaction it gives me to see the happy faces of customers when they’re enjoying their drinks … I love the idea of thinking that I can make a person’s life better for that brief moment.”
What’s your approach when it comes to crafting new cocktails? How do you experiment with flavour?
Lorenzo and Fernando: “We experiment every day with new techniques, new recipes and new combinations of flavours, looking for forgotten recipes and creating our own using seasonal ingredients or ingredients found while travelling…or just at the market. Usually, when we create a new cocktail, we start from the base: either a specific flavour or a particular product, and from there we play with the techniques and how to present it. For us, cocktails aren’t just drinks, they’re also an expressive form of modern culinary art.”
Which cocktail trends are you seeing this year, and how do the drinks at Collage Barcelona reflect current customer tastes?
Lorenzo and Fernando: “Of course there’s a general trend towards rediscovering the old school, like pre-Prohibition recipes. Increasingly customers are more informed about cocktails and we notice that they gradually become more daring when ordering, as well as willing to take advice from us instead of just asking for the typical mojito.”
Increasingly customers are more informed about cocktails and we notice that they gradually become more daring when ordering..
50ml Sipsmith VJOP
30ml Carpano Antica Formula
20ml Sipsmith Sloe Gin
Dash of chocolate bitters
Stir. Garnish with a cherry.
20ml Tio Pepe
5ml Saint Germain
A dash of Spanish bitters
Thrown. Perfume the glass with a lemon twist. Garnish with an olive.
Negroni in Bianco
30ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
15ml Cocci Bianco
15ml Noilly Prat
1 dash of cardamom bitters
Thrown. Garnish with a grapefruit twist.
Collage’s Dry Martini
50ml Sipsmith London Dry Gin
5ml Tio Pepe
5ml Noilly Prat
5ml caper brine
Stir. Garnish with a caper.
Visiting Barcelona? Find Collage Bar at Carrer dels Consellers, 4, 08003 Barcelona.
Images © Collage Barcelona, Kondor83/iStock/Thinkstock