They say Hemingway used to drink at La Venencia. If that’s true, you wouldn’t know it: there are no photos of Don Ernesto on its walls, no placards identifying Papa’s favorite table. La Venencia isn’t the kind of establishment to talk about its clientele; rather it holds their confidences tightly in its faded brown folds like any good bar should.
The amber glow emanating into Calle Echegaray attracts you to La Venencia, much like a moth to a flame or perhaps, more appropriately, like a barfly to good sherry and sherry is all they serve. Posters of jerez festivals from the 1930’s paper the walls and share that same brown patina of the background as if to say that these aren’t replicas, they are originals with the scars of time to prove it. There are no menus. If you ask for one, the bartender will point to a listing hung over a table or one behind the bar.
La Venencia is a wonderful place to enjoy a drink if you follow a few rules. Squeeze into the bar top. The bartender will jot in white chalk figures as you order. Order a copa of manzanilla fine and a tapa of queso and of chorizo. The bartender will slide you a small bowl of olives. Try them. Don’t take pictures inside; remember, the confidences described above. Pet the black cat sleeping on the table. When you ask for the cuenta the bartender will tally your order and then after you pay he will then wipe away your chalky notation with a quick swipe of his hand. I always found that very moment left me a little saddened.
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Do as Hemingway Did: Sherry Tasting
Seek out La Venencia, on Calle de Echegaray. Step back in time and relive history. Understand the difference between Amontillado, Fino and Oloroso. Learn to hold your glass the right way. Eat olives. Throw your napkins on the floor. Be Spanish!