Palma's cocktail bars light up a trail that exudes a festive scent. Palma is ripe with the scent of mixology. After dark, the city's bars get dressed for the evening and scents, flavours and textures are transformed into works of art.
It's cold and the Christmas lights are an invitation to let the city's mixologists be your guide. First stop: Calle Fábrica (Santa Catalina), where a bar that used to be the Hemingway extends a welcome. Different, surprising, reborn and renamed Etoh, from the industry shorthand for ethyl alcohol. Italian bartender Sergio Toffoli greets us with a friendly smile and suggests we try his signature cocktail of the season, Santa Doesn't Want to Drink Milk. Muscovado sugar, Angostura bitters and Sailor Jerry Spiced Rum, served in a glass smoked with burnt cinnamon, give this cocktail a scent of Christmas that makes Toffoli a persuasive mixologist. Etoh's new owner, Bogdan Tataru, appreciates art in all of its disciplines. His dream was to create "the perfect combination of good spirits and innovation with the purest essence of mixology", and he has done just that.
With that hint of spice lingering on the palate, we head for the Plaza Weyler. Until recently, the expertise of another of mixology's greats could be enjoyed here at the Weyler Cocktail Bar: Juan Antonio García Cabado, otherwise known as Juanan of Drinksmotion, the academy he has directed for the last five years. With his measured, didactic tones and a twinkle in his eye that betrays a passion for spirits, he recalls his days of mixing classic cocktails at the Gibson, before the existence of rival bar Nicolás next door. "Nicolás was a florist's at that time, before it changed hands," he remarks. Already over a hundred mixologists have graduated from the Drinksmotion Academy, ready to take their places in the ranks of a fascinating, if not yet recognised, profession.
Our next stop is the Nicolás. In November we saw Minorca native Andreu Genestar, another great mixologist now based in Mallorca, take the stage here. Tonight it's the turn of Felipe Daviu, runner-up in the 2014 Spanish Championship, who receives us with a flair both elegant and discreet that he manages to maintain into the early hours. At the end of the session he jokes around with Ursula Truyols, winner of the 2011 Spanish Championship in the Aperitif category. Felipe suggests we try his Christmas Mule: "It's a Moscow Mule with a festive air", he explains. Preparing the cocktail with great concentration, his dark eyes don't miss a thing and he seems to even read your thoughts.
Next stage: Paseo Mallorca. Ginbo’s team of bartenders work together, clearly enjoying themselves. Matías Iriarte, Charles Harrington-Clarke, Leandro Cometta, Diego Bravo, Diego Olivera and Borja Triñanes draw you into a world of the imagination. Triñanes, known as 'the Galician', has a talent for quickly connecting with the public. On his recommendation, I try an interesting Alexander Trufado: two ounces of truffle-infused Suau Brandy, Pedro Ximénez, chocolate liqueur and crème fraîche. ‘Crème Fraîche). Ginbo specialises in gin-based cocktails "with a generous measure of hospitality". With attitude, character and that hint of the dark side that tends to please, last June Ginbo was among the top ten cocktail bars in Spain to win a prestigious Coaster Award in the World Class international competition.
We save the "perfect drink" to last, walking on down Paseo Mallorca in an attempt to digest the "magic" inside us, knowing that, once we cross the threshold of Brassclub, nothing will be the same again. The genius and flair with which master mixologist Rafa Martín lovingly dresses his creations take us into uncharted territory. "Our secret is we offer experiences, not cocktails”. Rafa and his team of mixologists work with locally-sourced products, treating them with respect and obvious pleasure. Rafa serves some more customers and leaves us in the hands of Sergio Terrassa, winner of the 2015 Spanish Bartenders Association (FABE) Championship in the non-alcoholic cocktails category (Monin Cup). He puts together Rafa’s festive potion, Cuckoo's Nest Christmas Edition. "This cocktail uses 8-year-old Diplomático Reserva rum, the winner of the 2009 Grand Gold Quality Award," explains Sergio, adding Angostura syrup and chocolate and carob bitters made on the premises, a splash of soda, and a sphere of ice. And with that, we decide to call it a night...
Text: Aina Solano
Photos: Cristian Montoro