Javier de las Muelas and the success of Spanish cocktails
Spain has become a force in the international drinks industry. Accredited professionals, prestigious cocktail bars, Spanish bartenders with international reach and the perfect ingredients “made in Spain” for making amazing cocktails: Spanish wines, liquors and vermouths. Javier de las Muelas, the most famous of Spain’s mixologists, shares the secrets to the success of Spanish cocktails.
Text: Rodrigo García Fernández/@ICEX.
Who doesn't love the idea of enjoying a cocktail as an aperitif, before dinner or during a night out on the town? The cocktail trend is booming and Spain has turned into a focal point for this industry thanks to its professionals, its excellent establishments, and the Spanish wines and liquors that are perfect for making mixed drinks.
We talked about all these things with one of the most recognized Spanish bartenders in the world. His name is Javier de las Muelas, and he is the force behind mythical bars Gimlet and Dry Martini in Barcelona, as well as one of the best bartenders in the business according to Tyler Brûlé, the founding editor of Wallpaper and Monocle magazines.
He is also the brains behind a business model based on partnerships with important hotel chains, which has led him to open cocktail bars in Barcelona, San Sebastián, Palma de Mallorca, Prague, Munich, London, Sorrento (Italy), Chiang Mai (Thailand), Hongzhou (China), Jimbaran Bay (Bali), Singapore and San Luis Potosí (Mexico).
Javier de las Muelas also has various book credits to his name. We spoke with him after the lauchment of his latest book, Cócteles para Dummies (Planeta), about how the wines and brandies of Jerez, as well as cavas, vermouths and Spanish liquors are making roads in the sophisticated international cocktail scene.
What role does Spain play in the world of international cocktails?
Without a doubt, Spain has a presence on the international cocktail scene, in terms of both establishments and professionals. It’s a fact that cocktail-making, or mixology today, has been built on an international stage that reaches beyond any border. It is a profession that speaks English and can be found, understood and related to through platforms like Bar Shows, competitions that are carried out on a global level, international challenges and, of course, the inevitable social networks.
The great professionals in this industry are used to working in multiple countries, and there are very few bartenders that don’t leave their home towns. Our Dry Martini bar in Barcelona has been featured on the list of “The World's 50 Best Bars" for six years in a row, and there are various Spanish projects featured among the top 100.
We can therefore claim to have created a niche for ourselves in this widespread and competitive world. Today you can find excellent Spanish bartenders working in the best bars all over the world. Additionally, my own project serves as an example of expansion. Its objective is to replicate the success of my Barcelona establishments in luxury hotels throughout Europe, Asia and the Americas.
How would you define the national liquor production (gins, vodkas...) that has emerged as a result of this cocktail fever?
It’s true that the current industry is much more dynamic than in previous years, launching well-made products accompanied by carefully curated images and stories. Some of these products have made a name for themselves in the international market, which is not an easy task. It appears to be a very healthy industry.
Are cava, Sherry wines and Spanish vermouth in a position to become the ambassadors of Spanish mixology?
They are. There is an infinity of new cocktails – creations from prestigious competitions – made by both Spanish bartenders and those from other countries, that tap into the great potential of these drinks; to such an extent that we can pretty much say that they are currently very trendy. They have a fantastic image, are synonymous with quality – with a guarantee of provenance – and serve as excellent ambassadors. One of our most successful collections, “The Black Cocktail Collection,” made with Freixenet Cordón Negro cava, has been available in numerous countries.
Name 2–3 of your favorite cocktails made using Spanish ingredients?
Here are three of them, two creations and a classic favorite – all of which reflects this spirit perfectly:
Sherry Martini: The most Spanish version of our beloved Dry Martini, which, instead of vermouth, is made with a dash of very dry Sherry.
Noche Jerezana (Jerez Night): A very seductive cocktail that captures the aromas of a nighttime stroll through Jerez during which the aromas of wine, ancient wine casks and orange blossoms mingle together. A mature, toasted and creamy flavor made with Mahou Negra (beer), 30-year-old Pedro Ximénez, mixed pepper, and orange blossom perfume.
Agua de Valencia: A well-known classic that, in addition to cava, boasts the unmistakable aromas of Spanish oranges.
Translation: Adrienne Smith/@ICEX