A view from the city: Granada

25 July, 2017

Hamish Smith speaks to Alfonso Maya, Owner and Head Bartender of Alexander Cocktail Club & Speakeasy Bar

Tell us about the tradition of drinking in Granada.

Granada struggled in the face of the Spanish Civil War and post war we suffered a loss in all areas, including drinks and their culture. But today Granada is an extraordinary place for enjoying gastronomy and it has plenty of bars too. It is a tourist hot-spot for the Alhambra Castle, Sierra Nevada ski resort, the Alpujarras and the desert way to Almería. Weather conditions are well suited to long cool drinks but winters are cold and sunny too.

Sangrias, craft beers, wines, G&Ts, rum and mixers, cocktails... Our tradition is to enjoy drinking in groups (remember the first Daiquirí recipe was for six people). People live outside – there are terraces with idyllic views, wine taverns, tapas bars, restaurants, hotels, pubs, clubs, discos and, of course, we have cocktail bars.

What were the first cocktail bars in Granada like? Who were the pioneer bartenders?

We can say a lot of our best bartenders were trained in luxury hotels like the master, Don Julio (Julio García Maya). My father worked in Zaragoza, Barcelona, Mallorca, Madrid, Torremolinos, Almuñécar, Albayzín and, for the past 44 years, our own Alexander Cocktail Club in Granada. Don Julio was the first to establish a large repertoire of classic cocktails and to develop original cocktail recipes suitable to customers’ palates, which he did over 50 years. Those were the ‘black years’ for Spanish cocktail culture, so Don Julio is an inspirational drinking fountain for all kind of bartenders and artists.

What are the best bars in Granada (feel free to include your own) and what makes them great venues?

My own Alexander Bar is a bastion of the cocktail scene, but also there are others reviving the scene. Hotel Alhambra Palace, Hotel Santa Paula, Hotel Villa Oniria. Restaurants and gastro bars come in the form of Restaurante El Deseo, Asador Curro, Siloé, Las Tomasas and bars with cocktails: Escudo 11, Paripé, Verdi.

Are there any notable trends in the way people drink in Granada – is the G&T movement showing any sign of waning?

Over the past five years we can see a notable growth in the Granada cocktail scene. People like G&T a lot but the madness has subsided. Sherry cocktails, cocktails with rum, tiki and exotic drinks, signature cocktails, beer cocktails are all trends here.

Who are the key figures pushing the scene forward and what challenges do they face?

Albert from Verdi Cocteleria was one of the first green shoots in the Granada cocktail scene. He is a gin fanatic. Josefran Martins from Paripe Group has spent the past 10 years working to introduce cocktails in traditional Spanish pubs, clubs and hotels. When you have chiefs who know nothing about spirits or cocktails, it could be a problem – commercial items can appear. Josefran and his team try to work with tropical drinks. Rum culture is very important here. Well done to him. Pablo Martin at Checking was born in Granada and has a big passion and respect for cocktails. He has to fight against the Spanish culture of long drinks. Otoniel Morillo is a younger bartender who has worked hard on cocktails in Granada. He spent several months in Ibiza and Barcelona. Agustín de la Casa, Sergio Chaves y Pepe, Francisco Javier Marin and Eduardas are others that deserve credit.

What bar scenes in Spain or the world do you take inspiration from?

There are a lot of good bars out there – Seiberts in Cologne, Black Angel in Prague, PDT and Dead Rabbit in NY, Smuggler’s Cove in San Francisco, Gibson, Oriole, Nightjar, Buck & Breck in Berlin and a lot more in London. In Spain: Brass

Club in Mallorca. Cubáname, Museo del Ron in Jerez de La Frontera. Del Diego in Madrid and 1862 Dry Bar. Caribbean, Dr Stravinsky, Paradiso, Creps al Born, Dry Martini, Bobby Gin, Old Fashioned and Solange in Barcelona. Restaurante Baltazares in

Dos Hermanas, Sevilla. SpeakEasy in Fuengirola, Málaga. Residence in Bilbao. Varsovia in Gijon. La Villa in Valladolid.

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