Being a bartender in London has its fair share of shortcomings. From cleaning blood and vomit to being told you can’t pour by some asshole who’s probably never made a drink before. Why would someone order a pint with no head? Your boss doesn’t appreciate you and the punters don’t either because in the city bartenders are like condoms – disposable.
But in Barcelona bartenders aren’t expendable. They’re the star attraction.
Dry Martini is home to allegedly one of the best bartenders in the world, Javier De Las Muelas. As well as having a bad-ass name Javier is known for making bad-ass cocktails too. After the success of his first bar Gimlet, he took over what was just a simple Martini bar and turned it into a clandestine cocktail establishment. With a new Prohibition style and Javier’s knowledge of drink, the bar has stayed open for 30 years. Over this time, Javier has expanded the space by turning the wine cellar into a restaurant and adding another bar space for his “experiments” with his team. Tucked near the kitchen is also a private space for 10 people to eat. I envision that if this were the twenties, this room would be used for a “higher” purpose than just alcohol.
Though nothing of that nature would be seen going on in this bar. Scotch bottles line the mahogany shelves at just an arms reach. This confirms to me that the type of clientèle Dry Martini attracts is classy, otherwise those bottles would be long gone. This type of class is reflected in the prices of the drinks, only suitable for those with deep pockets.
The bar looks as thought it has been sealed in a time capsule from the late twenties in Upper East Side New York. Clean, classy and plush. I spy a man who’s down on his knees scrubbing the shoes of a suited man whilst the bartender fixes him up a cocktail in a traditional tin shaker.
There is a back room called The Academy where Javier makes all his cocktails and it’s catered more to a younger audience with slightly lighter wallets. This room is only open from Thursday to Sunday evenings to serve cocktails and light food in a slightly less formal manner. Javier sometimes hosts mixology classes for the customers but also uses it for his personal space to concoct new drinks and menus. There is more natural light in this room, illuminating a dusty bookshelf behind the bar. It is Javier’s personal collection of cocktail books that he has collected over the years. I guess that this is how he has gained the knowledge to become one of the most sought after bartenders in Spain.
I am politely given a book that Javier has written himself on cocktails and drinks, containing all his collective knowledge and extracts from his library. It lists in detail about the history of the cocktail and what it means to him. The book really showcases his dedication and has some enlightening information on spirits.
As the grandiose tour comes to an end it is time for me to try the goods and see why this man has became a rock star in the world of bartending. I pester for ingredients to some fabulous cocktail called The Foxtrot, which Javier’s personal assistant tells me is “very innovating”. It is made with his signature gimlet (gin and lime cocktail) which sinks underneath tonic water. It’s hydrating like water with a sweet kick. I can see why it is so popular as it goes down quicker than a cloaked Madonna. There is also a number of fresh fruit Martinis for €8.50 to compliment the bar’s namesake so I grab a cherry and lychee Martini. It’s very sweet and makes one of my eyes twitch. I probably should have known it would be this sweet going by the flavours. I try another, in the form of chocolate and mint. This one is more smooth and indulgent than the latter and I quite enjoy it.
I pause for a moment to think about cocktails. Many think they’re feminine, too classy and a sign of sophistication. But they are merely innovative ways of mixing alcohol so that it’s more enjoyable to drink. Javier does exactly that with a library full of knowledge and a lot of practised skill. I’m told it can take a long time before they decide on the perfect ingredients for his cocktails and this is why he seems to flourish in the bartending world. He knows his shit.
The hospitality in Dry Martini is undeniable with bartenders and staff going that extra mile to make sure all the customers are comfortable. This speak-easy is a step into a world of dedication to cocktails. And I think everyone should drink fine liquor whilst having their shoes shined at least once in their life, even if that means you’re just a London bartender hoping to get that Javier De Las Muelas factor.