It’s a Catalan expression, meaning: let’s have a vermouth!
Even though I am in love with this local tradition of having a glass of vermouth before lunch – since the very first moment I tried my first dark vermouth (vermut rojo) in Barcelona – I have just recently discovered this chain of bars: La Fábrica del Vermutillo & La Bodega Monumental.
They have five bars in Barcelona, and we have already visited two of their places, and I must admit, they are super cool and I’m very much looking forward to check the rest of their bars, too!
The first bar we tried is located on Enric Granados, honestly it’s nothing fancy from the outside and we arrived for the opening, so they, and as well us, were hesitating a bit if it’s the right time to enter, but after the first quick conversation with the waiter, – what exactly we want?, – vermouth!, we understood each other perfectly. Since the tables were not set up yet on the terrace we decided to go in, and how good idea it was, as the bar from the inside is actually awesome, it has that kind of atmosphere that you feel like going back in time, but already keeping in mind the recent design trends, you can see many pictures from the ‘30s of Barcelona, in comparison with the current look of the selected streets and places. The first bar was opened in 1937, therefore the idea of time traveling.
Their menu is limited to vermuts, conservas, some basic tapas selection, as per the old tradition. But the coolest part is their siphones (sifones), on every table as well as on the bar you can find them in different colors. Not to mention, that the siphones you can buy and personalize with exchanging the color and the label. 😉
So what is vermouth?
“The first thing to know about vermouth is that it’s a fortified wine, meaning that every day red or white wine is made stronger by the addition of alcohol such as brandy. It is then also aromatized with the addition of herbs and other botanicals. In fact, vermouth was originally used for its so-called medicinal virtues, believed to help remedy stomach disorders and intestinal parasites.”
Honestly, before moving to Barcelona, even to me it looked like an old fashioned drink, something my grandparents would order. As a foreigner when you think of vermouth, you probably think of a bottle of bitter drink, lingering for years at the back of your drinks cabinet to be used only occasionally in Martinis or other cocktails.
Well, in Spain, especially in Catalonia, they drink vermouth usually neat. In Barcelona, vermouth is very popular, of course especially among locals. It is an essentially sociable drink and ir de vermuteo, or “to go for a vermouth,” has become synonymous to catching up with friends and family. The perfect time to meet for a vermouth is midday and it’s usually the first drink of the day, still very much enjoyed as an aperitif. The classic vermouths tend to be a little sweeter than some of the new guard, so it’s worth pairing them with some tasty, salty, Spanish olives for contrast. 😋
The most famous Spanish vermouth traditionally comes from Reus, a small town in Catalonia. This town of just 100,000 people became one of the major European centers of the liquor industry way back in the 18th century, and many of vermouths you’ll encounter in Spain hail from there. Given the historical importance of Catalonia in its production, Barcelona became one of the vermouth capitals of the world.
Vermouth is normally served in small glasses, with a large ice cube, a slice of orange and olives on a toothpick, sometimes stuffed with anchovy. Alongside the vermouth, the bar staff will generally offer you a sifón, which you may choose to top up your vermouth with. This, however, is by no means an obligation and many if not most people drink vermouth neat.
The second place we visited was La Bodega Monumental, on Creu Coberta. It’s a restaurant and a vermouth bar (vermuteria) in one.
From the outside it looks like an average place in Barcelona, and if we weren’t looking for this place bar on a given address, maybe I wouldn’t have noticed. But from the inside – again, it’s super cool, going-back-in-time feeling.
Of course we tried the vermouth here too. 😋 They served it for us with local traditional potato crisps on the side.
If we’re being honest, vermouth still has a bit of a reputation as an “old man drink”, but I think these bars are on the right path to make it cool again, and potentially desirable for tourists too, while keep serving it as per the old traditions.
At least they definitely convinced me. Salud! 😉