How SIPS is shaking up Barcelona's bar scene

Words by
Charlotte McManus

15th December 2021

Helmed by top mixologists Simone Caporale and Marc Alvarez, this new cocktail bar serves up innovative drinks crafted with a combination of art, science and know-how

Those familiar with the Catalan capital of Barcelona will know that the city is no stranger to hip watering holes. From cava joints and neighbourhood cafés to wine bars and classic cocktail specialists, there's a venue to suit every taste. And yet, the opening of new cocktail bar - or self-styled 'drinking house' - SIPS earlier this summer was the topic of much intrigue amongst Barcelona's locals. 

Helmed by two internationally renowned mixologists, SIPS aspires to sit somewhere between haute-couture and prêt-à-porter in its offering. This means crafting cocktails at the very highest levels of artistry, drawing on the latest cutting-edge technology and trends emerging in the mixology scene to produce, as I am told, "a disruptive cocktail experience that evolves with every sip". 

How SIPS is shaking up Barcelona's bar scene

Sounds ambitious? You bet. That said, the founders do have the chops to back it all up. Simone Caporale was previously the lead mixologist at the Artesian Bar of The Langham Hotel, which scooped top prize at The World's 50 Best Bars awards for four consecutive years under his tenure. Marc Alvarez, meanwhile, was Head of Mixology at Barcelona's renowned elBarri restaurant group. 

Having met in London, the pair hatched a plan to combine their 30-plus years of stellar experience into a new space for high-end cocktails. As Caporale puts it, "At Sips we apply the Spanish tapas concept to the world of liquids, with small portions at accessible prices, allowing our guests to explore and take the tasting experience to the next level”.

“We want to vindicate the concept of a “bar”, adds Marc, “as a place to gather or share in a relaxed atmosphere, giving equal importance to all drinks, be it a wine, a beer, spirits or a cocktail”.

Of course, as with any new drinks venture, the proof is in the drinking, as I discovered on a recent jaunt to Barcelona. Despite the somewhat highfalutin spiel, the atmosphere SIPS is agreeably relaxed, tuned to a soundtrack of funk and motown. The decor is knowingly cool - all dark tones, velvet seating and brass detailing, dim lighting creating a sense of intimacy - with tables clustered around the main event, the bar, allowing drinkers to witness the theatre of cocktail-making, though sometimes it feels more like witnessing laboratory experiments. At each table, something surprising is happening - bubbles being blown, dry ice smoking.

Caporale is there to greet us and is a delight, jocular and full of knowledge about his craft. He explains that the team work closely with local Barcelona artists Ferran Collado and José Piñero on the unusual hand-blown glasses lining the walls, each designed for a different drink. The Olfactory Chamber, for example, comes in an egg-shaped glass perched atop a stand, with a hole cut in one side. Liquid is gathered in the bottom, while the leaves of herbs and plants are suspended inside. The idea is to guide one's face into the opening and inhale the various aromas before sipping, thereby awakening the palate and enhancing the sensory experience.

It really is quite something. We also sample the Primordial, a blood-red cocktail of Macallan 12 whiskey, ruby port and nashi pear served in two intertwined metallic hands, and the wonderful Whisky Ume, a short drink crafted with plum and Japanese flavours. The menu features 29 drinks in all, a combination of signature serves and classics that have been revamped with a SIPS twist. Even if you order an old favourite, you're sure to be surprised. For instance, my Negroni comes bobbing with a spherical ice cube "that never melts" because it has been coated in cocoa butter, cleverly cooling the drink without watering it down. 

“Cocktails are like art”, says Caporale. “They express a language, transmit a sensation and create experiences thanks to each single element of which it is made." 

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