People who live in Spain are certainly no stranger to day drinking. Between a midday caña or a Spanish sangria, there are plenty of alcoholic beverages that go hand-in-hand with the Spanish lifestyle. When it comes to Catalonia, however, vermouth (Catalan vermut) is the traditional go-to beverage that no trip to Barcelona is complete without.
What, exactly, is vermouth?
You’re probably already familiar with dry vermouth, a staple ingredient of the classic Martini and Manhattan cocktails. It’s a fortified wine that’s flavored and aromatized with herbs, roots, bark flowers, and other botanicals. Besides being a quintessential ingredient of any well-stocked bar, it’s also served as a standalone beverage in Catalonia.
In Spain’s northeastern province, locals have developed a version of vermouth that’s completely their own. It’s here where you can embrace the bittersweet charms of vermouth with notes of herbs and spices, chilled with a couple of ice cubes, seltzer, and garnished with an anchovy-stuffed olive and either an orange slice (red vermouth) or a lemon slice (white vermouth).
Vermouth is traditionally seen as a drink your grandfather would sip on from his recliner as he watches the local football team take the pitch. However, the elegant aperitif has made a serious comeback in just the last few years among Barcelona youth and the trendy crowd.
This renaissance could be due to several factors, such as its delicious pairing next to bite-sized snacks, low alcohol content, inexpensive pricing, or spike in Catalan heritage. No matter what the reason, it’s understood that vermouth is more than simply an alcoholic beverage. Much like tapas, fer el vermut (to go for vermouth) is a ritual that is as much an interpersonal experience as anything else. It’s become synonymous with catching up with friends and family.
It’s vermouth o’clock somewhere
La hora de vermut begins anytime past noon, and it’s typically enjoyed as a pre-lunch aperitif. The drink is meant to arouse an appetite for a long, late lunch, and it must be accompanied by salty snacks to nibble on such as almonds, crisps, anchovies, sardines, olives, cured meats, tuna, or berberechos.
While vermouth hour traditionally starts after noon and stretches well into the afternoon, in reality it’s consumed at all hours of the day, which is why sipping vermouth is one of the top things to do in Spain. Stroll through any neighborhood in Barcelona during these hours (especially on Sundays when most stores are closed) and you’ll witness this traditional gathering of friends and family.
Whether you’re looking for a boozy brunch, a little relief before some sightseeing, or wanting to immerse yourself in the local culture, vermouth is the perfect way to enliven any afternoon in Barcelona. Vermouth is served in traditional bodegues (catalan tabernas) where it’s stored in wooden barrels, however, nowadays you can definitely find it in cocktail bars and restaurants. From the centuries-old establishments to the trendy spots that are breathing life into this revived tradition, here are a few popular spots to enjoy vermouth in Barcelona:
One of the quintessential spots in Barcelona to vermut, Quimet & Quimet has been run by the family of the same name for over four generations now. The establishment first opened in 1914, before the Spanish Civil War and Franco dictatorship, and the walls have seen countless stories. Barcelona today is a much different city than it was when Quimet & Quimet first opened, but the vermouth is not. Add an innovative menu of bite-sized tapas and you cannot go wrong with this charming establishment.
Situated just outside of the Mercat del Born in the heart of one of the most picturesque areas in all of Barcelona, Bormuth epitomizes the old-meets-new elegance of El Born barrio. Besides the clever name (Born + Vermouth = Bormuth), the bar boasts a delectable menu of snacks and warm atmosphere.
At Bodega 1900, the award-winning Chef Albert Adrià goes for a traditional vermuteria flair with a delicious in-house recipe and heavenly tapas. Prompted by childhood memories alongside his parents and brother, Adrià conceived the charming space in Eixample. This is a culinary temple where vermouth takes the front row accompanied by gourmet pickles, cured meats, local cheeses, and his own personal take on time-honored recipes.
The spirit of this former motorcycle workshop lives on as a chic bar for drinks and tapas around the clock. Located in the trendy area of Sant Antoni, surrounded by cozy cafes and brunch spots, Els Sortidors del Parlament is an old-fashioned bodega and tapas bar. The street is lively during the weekends, making it a fun place to sip away with friends and enjoy the atmosphere.
What initially began as a beloved hole-in-the-wall joint only a few years ago, Morro Fi is now the cool vermouth bar that offers a modern and fresh twist. This place boasts its own secret recipe with a menu concept that consists of few options at excellent quality, staying true to the principles of this local ritual. There are only a few tables and a standing bar at Morro Fi, making it the perfect spot to stop for a quick vermouth or two before heading on to lunch.
Perhaps the most authentic bodega in all of Barcelona, Bodega Ca’l Pep seems as if it hasn’t changed in centuries. The dusty wine barrels, time-stained vintage posters, and standing tables only add to the charm, so it’s worth heading to Gràcia to see why this is a mainstay among locals and old-timers.