Could 2018 be lining up to emerge as the year of the Latin American cocktail? The Barcelona Cocktail Art convention is certainly going all in to create a network between the Spanish scene and the country’s former colonies. MIXOLOGY ONLINE met with George Restrepo and Antonio Valls, the organizers of Barcelona’s first cocktail convention, to talk about on the trends on display at the beginning of 2018.
“Having visited several cocktail trade shows in recent years, I noticed that most of the speakers from Spain had one thing in common: they lived in Barcelona,” says George Restrepo. The next step for Restrepo, a Spanish bar book author and authority on the Catalan scene, seemed obvious enough: starting his own trade show.
Barcelona Cocktail Art still needed a partner though, and Alimentaria was quickly found. Southern Europe’s largest food products fair plays in a league of its own, hosting some 140 000 attendees last year. When the gates at Recinto Gran Via open this coming April 16 to 19, guests arriving from 150 countries will be eager to follow all the latest bar-related developments. Spain’s wine fair “Intervin” has reserved Hall 3 to house the country’s bar scene.
Barcelona Cocktail Art: Catalan capital Coctelería
For Alimentaria General Director Antonio Valls, this new focus is a result of “the current market significance of the cocktail,” a trending platform his convention could not afford to neglect. “We’re seeing an enormous level of professionalization in this sector. This is creating a bar scene and products in Spain and Barcelona that are very different from what you see in mixology centers like New York or London,” says Valls. Barcelona Cocktail Art organizer George Restrepo maintains that the last five years in particular have witnessed a massive shift. “If we’re only talking about Barcelona, in almost 30 cocktail bars the ‘Star’ bartenders are also the owners or investors.”
The transition from employee to self-employment also means more precise control over quality, which is reflected in the awards presented to Barcelona’s bar community. “Places like Boadas, Dry Martini, Solange, Dr. Stravinsky (Ed: Named “Best New European Bar” at the MIXOLOGY BAR AWARDS 2018) and Paradiso are already attracting professional visitors from all over the world.”
Alimentaria featuring Barcelona Cocktail Art: The Amazon as inspiration and cocktails from Cali
Restrepo is also determined to offer a program of presentations and speeches highlighting the importance both of the local bartenders and Spain’s role as a European conduit for the South American cocktail scene. The luminaries scheduled to head up the 14 Master Classes include Luis Flóres, a bartender at Amaz in Lima, Peru and a specialist for drinks featuring ingredients from the Amazon; Lucas Groglio, the founder of the Argentinean sustainability initiative “Lo Hacemos Bien” who will illustrate how this affects today’s bar business; and Carlos Gaitán, the mastermind at Columbia’s acclaimed Pica bar in Cali, who will present cocktails made with the local sugarcane distillate Viche.
Further highlights include an appearance by Joan Carbó, drink magician at one of the world’s very best restaurants, El Celler de Can Roca in the Catalan town of Girona. He and spirits expert Miguel Ángel Gómez González, author of “Spirits. History of their origins and evolution,” will represent the original Catalan part of the program, named by Restrepo with the intriguing question, “What’s ours?”
The South American connection is sure to bring some exciting ideas from a region that has been known up to now more for its distillates than its cocktail tradition. But why should bartenders from Germany or elsewhere attend the Alimentaria and Barcelona Cocktail Art? “The gin-&-tonic as we know and drink it around the world today comes from Spain: a balloon glass, spices, lots of ice and served by an elegant barman,” says Restrepo. As if that’s not reason enough, the man who first brought molecular cocktails to the world was expert chef and Catalonian, Ferran Adrià. In any case, both of these examples underscore the fact that Spain has plenty to offer indeed.
A Message in a Bottle
At present 60 liquor brands have registered for this new bar trade show according to the man behind Alimentaria, Antonio Valls. But this figure is sure to rise given the appeal of the setting. “For the Intervin section we’re anticipating 32,000 industry pros in attendance,” Valls says.
“Similar to the BCB, Barcelona Cocktail Art will not simply be restricted to the convention center site. Along with the local products and speakers, plus the most successful Spanish bars, our messaging teams will also be energizing the city’s cocktail culture. Normal visitors will be kept up-to-date in the city’s bars about what’s going on at the convention by our messaging service.”
Specific trends to come under focus in 2018 include sustainability and the guidelines from the World Health Organization of “Reducing salt, sugar and fat, and how bars can achieve this.” Or in George Restrepo’s words, “We want to start a revolution that allows us to return to a Golden Age of cocktails, only this time with a more humane and responsible face.”
You can attend Barcelona Cocktail Art if you have a normal visitor admission ticket for Alimentaria. Advance tickets are €30, available on the Alimentaria website.