The best cocktail bar in the world opens a secret venue

Feb 27 2024, 14:32
In Barcelona, there's a new secret bar: Esencia is the exclusive new cocktail bar within Sips, owned by Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez

The best cocktail bar in the world opens a secret venue. It happens in Barcelona, "a city worthy of acknowledgment for being a place where one lives well and is excellent for investments," said Simone Caporale following the victory at the 50 Best Bar for Sips, a brand founded in the L'antiga Esquerra de L'eixample district along with Marc Álvarez. This victory once again projected Barcelona among the capitals of good drinking, boasting a rich gastronomic culture, a curious audience, and a deeply rooted tradition, with centennial bars like Boadas (recently acquired by Caporale himself) and younger, influential establishments. However, the ranking also certified another thing: the value of Italian bartenders, many of whom are shaker expats, such as Caporale and Giacomo Giannotti from Paradiso (also in Barcelona), who topped the list last year. This trend extends to others like Agostino Perrone, Giorgio Bargiani, and Maura Milia from the Connaught Bar in London, another Best Bar from a few years ago. In short: Italians are thriving abroad, and the most evident proof is found in the Catalan city where they work and invest, multiplying signs or creating nesting doll-like venues. If last year saw Giannotti create an inner bar in his speakeasy (a secret bar within the secret bar, practically), this year Caporale has diversified the offering.

Sips by Simone Caporale and Marc Álvarez

The address remains the same, in the heart of Barcelona, where Sips opened its doors in 2021, immediately attracting a dedicated audience of enthusiasts. The credit? Classic technique, integrated with processes derived from gastronomy (with inevitable references to molecular techniques, as Álvarez was a long-time bar manager at elBarri under the Adrià brothers) and pastry according to the principles of liquid cuisine. Attention to service objects – not just accessories but complementary elements – meticulous work on textures, starting with those of the fruit to give density and diverse structures to the drinks (a very Spanish approach to working on textures), and ending with the flavor: recognizable, straightforward, balancing a consistently surprising service that transforms each drink into an experience lived through hand molds instead of glasses and live-operated machinery in favor of the guest. Seated at one of the tables (Sips has no counters but a station in the room where bartenders work closely with customers), you also go for the service: "Treat people like kings, and treat kings like people" is the motto of what the two bartenders call Drinkery House, emphasizing its uniqueness. What is offered is a comprehensive experience, starting with the creative reinterpretation of classics and moving on to the signatures. The wow effect is guaranteed upon the arrival of the drinks, but it is even more pronounced with the discovery of the new space born a few weeks ago.

Esencia, the other face of Sips

A curtain separates a small green and pink lounge from a lunar, fluid, and aquatic space, reminiscent of Albert Adrià's Enigma. It's not a coincidence: the architect Pau Llimona is the same. Two tables on which the light reflects like on a water mirror welcome guests (up to 14 at most) and bartenders for an even more exclusive and engaging experience. The menu is a sequence of drinks served one after the other, like a true tasting menu (9 courses for 65 euros) that intercepts and elaborates on the suggestions that inspired the cocktails, suggesting a drink sip by sip – that is, sip after sip – enjoyable, surprising, and reflective. It's a further dive into author mixology, a bar within the bar that offers a new way of interpreting hospitality, adopting the principles of omakase, freeing mixology from the constraints of ingredients and established recipes. Sea, mountain, undergrowth, snow: everything is processed from the counter into highly original drinks. For example, Neu celebrates ice: "it is to the bartender what fire is to the kitchen," says Álvarez, placing spruce honey and memories of pine needles. Porcini and undergrowth notes, sea urchins and pigeon – the cocktails blur the line with cuisine, offering a daring drink that appeals to the most adventurous customers. Soon, the menu will expand with a proposal of 14 tastings.

Sips - Barcellona - Spagna - C/ Muntaner 108 (Tienda 2) -

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