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."
For more details, visit sips.barcelona or @sips.barcelona