Where Cocktails and Art Collide
Discover Barcelona’s P41 & Coctelarium, a cosmopolitan lounge that serves cocktail masterpieces as beautiful at the setting’s art and design.
The inimitable Ernest Hemingway said it best: "Don't bother with churches, government buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars." The literary icon, who was nearly as famous for his love of a good drink, might have been on to something. Nowadays, bars around the world are celebrated and ranked with the same fervor as the Michelin guide. Top hotels earn their cachet as much from amenties and top chefs as they do from the reputations of their head bartenders —the A-list clientele they've served over the years, the awards they’ve won, their signature drinks. And the stakes are higher than ever. In an era of constant social media, every masterpiece created by the world’s best bartenders are not only judged for taste, quality and inventiveness, but also, Instagram-worthiness.
The new P41 Bar & Coctelarium at Hotel Arts Barcelona checks all the boxes. Award-winning head mixologist Diego Baud (he won the Essence Century Cocktail Competition in 2015 and has also landed on lists touting Spain’s top negronis and gin and tonics) oversees an ambitious and highly creative drinks program, which he likes to call “liquid journeys.” And in keeping to Hemingway’s words of advice, P41 aims to truly be a multicultural experience. The bar’s name comes from the 41st parallel, the circle of latitude that crosses such countries and cities as Spain, Italy, Beijing, New York, and Japan. As a result, the menu (which is presented in the form of a boarding pass) features drinks that have been crafted using at least one ingredient from each of the selected points on the 41st parallel. Their unique presentation, on the other hand, can really only be found in a city like Barcelona.
Some tasty examples: Baud’s twist on a Bloody Mary, called the Bloody Raw, is made with locally distilled gin, enhanced with Fino sherry, and paired with Manchego cheese, chorizo Iberico, an anchovy-stuffed olive and a piparra, a Spanish pickled pepper. The Besito Picante has coffee-infused Campari, chili-infused tequila and vermouth that have all been barrel-aged for one month. The refreshing Summer Lovin’ makes use of seasonal ingredients: fresh fruit, edible flowers and organic basil from the garden. His most Instagrammable concoction, though, might be the Honey Bee, which is meant to bring awareness to the plight of the insects. Made with white tea-infused tequila, fresh lime, egg white, organic local honey, chocolate mole bitters and bee pollen, it’s served in a sculptural bee-shaped vessel. He also creates various one-of-a-kind drinks that he’ll serve in tiny shopping carts. Of course, it also goes without saying that all ingredients are top-notch: premium liquor, house-made syrups, and spices collected from P41’s very own orchards. Biodegradable straws and coasters made of ginger help the bar do its part for the environment. And the tapas menu is equally transporting with options, including Asian-inspired vegetable gyoza with creamy soy sauce, all-American cheeseburgers and fresh oysters.
At the end of the bar is the Coctelarium, a little haven for the most devoted cocktail aficionados. It’s both a laboratory and playground for Baud and his co-creator Paul Marie, P41’s head bartender. Here, visitors must surrender to the experience. A central table boasting a sprawling array of bottles, spirits, spices, aromas and books are proof of Baud and Marie’s serious expertise. Those who choose to enter this sacred space (and it’s open to anyone) are simply asked to be open-minded and willing to experiment—and be surprised.
In both P41 and throughout the hotel, a strong emphasis on art rounds out the guest’s multisensory journey (it’s called Hotel Arts for a reason). The stunning glass structure overlooks the iconic Frank Gehry’s goldfish sculpture, while inside walls are adorned with original works by Spanish artists. For P41, Barcelona-born artist Inocuo was commissioned to create a piece that conveys the bar’s internationally-minded ethos. Using ceramic, which, much like cocktail flavors, will wax and wane depending on the temperature, Inocuo created what he calls a “liquid mapping of the 41st parallel.” The copper-toned mural evokes the varied terrain of the world’s peninsulas, islands, and continents, all branching out from the center point that symbolizes Barcelona. It’s the final piece in the puzzle that makes this bar worthy of more than one visit. Hemingway would surely approve.