Marc Alvarez and Simone Caporale

Essencia: Simone Caporale and Marc Alvarez on their new bar concept

01 December, 2022

The duo behind the world’s third-best bar are to open up the concept they originally intended. Oli Dodd talks to Simone Caporale and Marc Alvarez about Essencia.

This is the bar that we wanted to make even before we created Sips.” It’s unusual that the world’s third-best bar was created as something of an afterthought, as is the case for Marc Alvarez and Simone Caporale’s Sips Drinkery House, which opened in Barcelona in 2021. Given the talents and reputations behind it, the hugely anticipated bar was an instant hit, but as of early 2023, guests will finally be able to experience the duo’s original concept.

Essencia is a bar-within-a-bar à la Monica Berg and Alex Kratena’s Tayer, the more casual Sips in the front bar giving way to an elevated concept in the back – Amy Winehouse’s beehive in bar form. Here, guests will be served tasting flights that deconstruct cocktails in their fundamental parts.

“The concept is to have a space where the essence of a cocktail can be shared and expressed freely without the preconception of drinking habits that can affect consumers’ expectations,” explains Caporale. “Suddenly you might have a snowball filled with pine, honey and lichens.”

The cocktail that Caporale is referring to is one-half of the bar’s Ice serve, which arrives as liquid poured over a snowball. Other serves include Bloody Mary, a triptych of drinks that deconstructs the classic cocktail’s familiar flavour, highlighting in turn, its herbal and vegetal, saline umami, and fruity sweet aspects.

The constantly changing menu will evolve with the seasons and availability, but each serve will keep its alcoholic content low. “When people come to our house, they want to try many things to understand our creativity, but the volume of alcohol in so many cocktails doesn’t allow us to,” says Caporale.

“It is like a chef’s menu or tasting menu for cocktails. With smaller cocktails designed to be served together, we can offer an experience of our philosophy unlike anything else we have been able to do before.”

It’s lofty and ambitious, but what else would you expect from Alvarez, a molecular biologist who has become one of Spain’s most regarded bartenders, and Caporale who, when at the Artesian at The Langham, held the title of World’s Best Bar for an unmatched four years in a row?

“We are so proud of Sips Drinkery House – there we can welcome our guests to be a part of everything, it’s why we built it with a central workstation rather than a bar. But by having Essencia also our guests can choose which experience they want. There will be different occasions for each space.”

Essencia becomes Caporale’s third bar in the city that the Italian now calls home, following his acquisition of Barcelona’s oldest bar, Boadas Cocktails, in November.

Barcelona has fast become one of the coolest places to be on the bar atlas, an accolade it has gained by giving visitors options. Want to be transported back in time? Sure, go to Dr Stravinsky or Dry Martini. Want some maximalism and theatre? There’s Paradiso. Fun, imaginative serves? There’s Sips, there’s Monk. A cool neighbourhood bar? 14 De La Rosa or Schmucks. Old school character? Boadas.

Do you want a bar that challenges the concept of a drinks list? Well, now there’s Essencia.

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