Drinking in Spain is perhaps one of my favorite pastimes. I find it incredibly relaxing to sit in a plaza and watch the world go by with a glass of wine in hand. Even better when it happens to only be noon and everyone else around is drinking as well!
Best Bars in Madrid
Best Restaurants in San Sebastián
Best Bars in San Sebastián
Most establishments in Madrid will have beer, wine and cocktails available for sale. However, I discovered that if you would like to have a good version of a particular drink, it is best to pick a bar or restaurant which specializes in that kind of drink.
So if you wanted some vermouth, for instance, you can definitely find it at every tapas restaurant around. But there are some places that are known for their vermouth, and I can personally attest that those places had better vermouth than the other spots I would just stop into.
As such, I will be breaking down bar recommendations by drink categories instead of providing a strict list of the best bars.
1. Wine: Casa Macareno
Every bar and restaurant in Madrid sells wine at amazingly low prices. A glass of house red will be about €1, while a bottle of wine starts from about €6. A good bottle of wine will be around €20 - €30, though of course you can also buy rare bottles at an astronomical price.
For red wines, Rioja and Ribera are perhaps the most popular varieties, though there are bottles of Tempranillo and Garnacha from the Madrid region available as well. For white wines, Airén and Malvar are some of the more local grapes.
Note that sangria, while available at most eateries, is actually not something that locals drink. As such, those who order sangria can stand out like a sore thumb. Locals drink a simpler version of sangria called tinto de verano instead, which is red wine with a soft drink mixed in, usually Sprite or Fanta. It is a surprisingly light and refreshing afternoon sip.
Because wine is so ubiquitous in Spain, I had a hard time picking just one spot to drink wine. Instead, I picked a place that has good food and wine, because nothing goes better with a glass of red than a couple of great tapas. So my pick once again goes to Casa Macareno purely because of its outstanding food.
2. Vermouth: Taberna La Concha
As I highlighted in my previous post, there are hours dedicated in the day to drink vermouth in Madrid. While vermouth used to be considered an old man’s beverage, there has been a recent resurgence amongst the younger communities. Almost every place has the drink available on tap these days, and if you like it is now available at all times of the day.
If you have never had vermouth before, it is a wine and brandy mix flavored with a variety of botanicals. Different manufacturers use alternative botanicals in order to give their version a unique flavor. In Spain all vermouth is sweet and brown in color, in contrast to the dry, colorless French version used in martinis.
In Madrid, most people drink vermouth with an olive and an orange or lemon peel. Bars will also add their own special touches, such as sparkling water or a large cube of ice. At Taberna La Concha, their vermouth starts with a spritz of gin followed by an orange peel rim sweep. It is then finished with an olive and orange garnish.
A perfectly balanced drink in a comfortably modern setting will set the mood right for any day in Madrid, so make sure to stop by for a drink here. Just as an FYI, La Concha have a large variety of cold and hot tapas available as well if you want some food.
3. Gin Tonic: El Jardin Secreto
If you are looking to go to Spain to have amazing cocktails, you may be slightly disappointed. Even in Madrid, there are very few true cocktail bars where mixologists craft custom drinks. Instead, expect pretty standard cocktail lists (mojito, caipirinha, aperol spritz) along with an extensive gin tonic selection at most spots.
Gin tonic - not called gin & tonic, despite having the same ingredients - is perhaps the most popular cocktail in Spain. In general, I realize it is a polarizing drink for many, but trust me in Spain it tastes really different. Better, I suppose, for those who do not generally enjoy a gin & tonic in the United States. Even my sister and brother-in-law, both of whom normally despise the drink, were ordering gin tonics every day after a while. Who knows? Maybe the water in Spain makes them taste better.
El Jardin Secreto is an Alice in Wonderland themed bar located a 15 minute walk away from the Royal Palace. As you would expect, it has a cool, funky interior design. It has a good number of gins to choose from for your gin tonic, as well as other previously mentioned standards. There are not many places overall in Madrid to just sit down in a calm place to have a drink, but this is one of them.
El Jardin Secreto is pretty small bar with a limited number of seats, so a reservation is recommended if you have a large group. In case you have the munchies, they also have a pretty extensive dessert menu. My sister felt they had the best chocolate cake amongst all the restaurants we went to in Spain.
4. Beer: Fogg Bar Birras & Cheese or The Stuyck Co
Craft beer has not historically been a thing in Madrid, with locals mostly choosing to drink the pilsen-style Mahou larger instead. Recently, however, the popularity of craft beer has infiltrated the city. Both Fogg Bar Birras and The Stuyck Co have over 12 barrels on tap. I have to admit I did not personally visit these establishments, but both come highly recommended by Devour Tours.
Up Next: Food Capital of Spain
Stay tuned for my favorite restaurants and bars in my favorite city in Spain - San Sebastián. The food was so good there that even the late, great Anthony Bourdain wanted to keep the place to himself.