Where to Drink in Madrid
Spanish wines, gin and tonics, cerveza, vermut: Everything gets the Spanish treatment, whether you’re drinking in a fine cocktail lounge or in a neighborhood bodega. Try them all—the flamenco joints with live gypsy music, the pulsating dance clubs of Madrid’s youth culture, and the elegant hotel bars.
Calle de la Reina, 16, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Despite its location in Chueca, to say nothing of its name, Bar Cock is not a gay bar. Rather, it is one of Madrid‘s oldest--and coolest--gin joints. Opened in 1921 by legendary barman Perico Chicote, it managed to stay open during the Civil War, and was a late-night hangout for Pedro Almodóvar and other creative young rebels during the 1970s movida. Today, there’s no better place in town for a classic cocktail and a little ambiance.
Plaza de la Independencia, 4, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Easy to find and hard to leave, Ramses is modern but ultra comfortable. They managed to create a completely differente atmosphere in each room—from romantic dining to a bubbly champagne bar—but the outdoor lounge was my favorite. When traveling I typically won’t visit a place twice but, while sipping sangria outside surrounded by locals, I knew I’d come back to Ramses.
Calle de la Palma, 49, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Though toma means “take it” in Spanish, this intimate cafe offers far more than takeaway service. Toma’s staff are able to interact with customers while showing off their impressive coffee knowledge (as well as English language prowess). Homemade pastries, cookies, and cakes are available, with some gluten-free options. The current consensus around town is that Toma Café has the best staff, bean sourcing, and know-how on pulling a proper shot. Best coffee in a city of coffee drinkers is a mighty statement, but I’ll stand behind it.
Calle de Goya, 57A, 28001 Madrid, Spain
This tavern-based tapas bar in Madrid was founded in 1906 and fiercely carries out the tapas tradition. It has had many famous patrons, including Andy Warhol, and has a great wine selection as well as beers to go along with the famous garlic prawns and langoustines.
Calle Alfolí, 11, 28280 Madrid, Spain
Tapas in Madrid are usually eaten before lunch, at “vermut” or “aperitivo” time. This can be done before lunch or after work. Apart from eating the Madrid tapas and drinking sangria or beer, these bars are a good place to watch football games and people get together for the occasion; specially when there is a FC Madrid vs Real Madrid game. It is also quite popular to have tapas in Madrid for dinner. Groups of friends like getting together and sharing some tapas at a good price. It’s a budget dinner and it is fun to choose which tapas to eat and taste different Madrid tapas.
Calle de Echegaray, 7, 28014 Madrid, Spain
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.