Where to Find the Best Gin-Tonic in San Sebastián

A meal in San Sebastián isn’t over til the gin-tonic is poured. No, not a gin and tonic, but a gin-tonic. This cocktail leaves familiar territory and gets a makeover in the hands of San Sebastián’s barmen, with the ratios and preparation very different from the familiar 5 o’clock cocktail. The best gin-tonics are super-refreshing and more likely to be fish-bowl size than served in a tumbler, so make like a local and sit back, relax, and sip to the scenery of San Sebastián’s streets.

Everyone knows a pintxo hop is a must-do in San Sebastián. What everyone doesn’t know is that Atari Gastroteka, located in the shadows of the old town’s beautiful Santa Maria church, is the perfect last stop on the tour. Their artisan foie is slightly sweet and incredibly flavorful, lightly sprinkled with cracked black pepper and sea salt, and served on raisin toast. Paired with a gin and tonic (some of the city’s best), it’s your ideal transition into postprandial nightlife. And Atari also has dessert pintxos for those in your group who want to end on a sweet note.
Zabaleta Kalea, 6, 20002 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
La Gintonería, in the less-traversed neighborhood of Gros, could very well be the best gin-tonic in San Sebastián. With two shelves laden with premium and hard-to-find gins, it’s a gintonaholic’s dream. They have a selection of premium tonics and an arsenal of techniques to match. Watch as they instantaneously infuse your gin with cardamom using a pellet of dry ice. Or inhale as they drip just a few drops of bitters into your fishbowl glass. Whatever gin you choose, you are in for one of the best mixed drinks of your life.
35 Calle San Bartolome
La Madame is one of the most forward-facing dining spots in San Sebastián. It’s one of the only place in the city where you can find well-executed fusion cuisine, with touches of American, Japanese, French and Basque cuisine and perhaps THE only that has a real cocktail program in place. It’s a dark, vibey spot. Call ahead for reservations and go hungry. Mondays are special menu days, each with a different theme.
Paseo, República Argentina Kalea, 4, 20004 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Inaugurated in 1912 by its namesake, the Spanish regent Maria Cristina, this belle epoque landmark has welcomed international elite to its gilded halls from day one. Designed by the same architect behind the Ritz in Paris, the hotel has long been a favorite of celebrities during the San Sebastián Film Festival (Bette Davis was, notably, a fan). A $25 million renovation in 2012 only cemented its status as the city’s most luxurious hotel. With three of the city’s most elegant eateries (including a favorite see-and-be-seen bar), panoramic views of iconic belle epoque buildings and the Urumea River from the many terraces, and signature Luxury Collection concierge service, the Maria Cristina still feels fit for the aristocracy who frequented it in the city’s beach-destination heyday. Spacious and decadent rooms with an updated belle epoque style, as well as a central location within walking distance of many of San Sebastián’s Michelin-starred restaurants, only sweeten the deal.
Fermin Calbeton Kalea, 48, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Cote, apart from dishing up delicious gin-tonics and (gasp!) frozen daiquiris, is one of those spots to see and be seen. There’s always ambience, even midweek, and the bartenders are friendly. And I’m not just saying that because of their habit of putting out chocolate-dipped strawberries.
5 Alameda del Boulevard
What happens in the Museo del Whisky stays in the Museo del Whisky. And in this institution of Donosti, you never know what will happen. With a wild selection of whiskeys (as the name suggests) and an equally impressive gamut of cocktails, Museo de Whisky is full of surprises. Then there are the characters that visit this spot on a regular basis. The bottom floor is a piano bar with no holds barred.
27 Del Boulevard Aldapa
I don’t want to use the word overrated. Many people rave about Coctelería Dickens, but I stopped going there after I paid five euros for a coffee. However, those who are loyal to the bar manage to see past the exorbitant prices to the man behind the bar. Joaquín Fernandez is at the helm, and he is a regular feature in the local press for his cocktail knowledge. He stands definitively in the old-school corner, which means he fits perfectly in this classic San Sebastián bar.
Plaza Constitución, 5, 20003 Donostia, Gipuzkoa, Spain
Most of the great cocktails and gin-tonics of the city don’t come with a view. When you just have to be sitting outside, enjoying the setting sun and the evening ambience, Gott is a good bet. Discriminating tastes will find a wide variety of well-executed cocktails, right in the middle of of the Old Part’s Plaza de Constitución.
More from AFAR
Sign up for our newsletter
Join more than a million of the world’s best travelers. Subscribe to the Daily Wander newsletter.
AFAR Journeys
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
Journeys: Africa + Middle East
National Parks