Updated: Aug 23
Barcelona & the B(yeast). Craft cocktails ride the Wellness Wave with Fermented Mixers in Barcelona Bars.
Barcelona is a cultured city, not only for the bar's cozy relationship with the kitchen, but now even more so since the city's culinary curiosity has turned toward cultured elements. And this isn't your typical pickle story.
Fermentation is on the rise.
It's true that Barcelona is feeling the funk but what's interesting is that Catalan cooking doesn't actually favour fermentation much outside the bar. This medieval Catalan city holds strongly to it's roots and the new generation of traveled, Catalan chefs is looking to deepen the flavours of their native cuisine using elements from other cultures.
Catching up with co-owner and executive chef of the Alchemix Bar, Sergi Palacin, he says,
"fermentation practically doesn't exist in Catalan cuisine, though they did have Garum, an ancient fermented fish sauce, that was used during the Roman times."
Wellness: drink to your health.
Fish sauce aside, the bar has taken notes. Kombucha has been riding the wellness wave for some time, sliding in on the tailcoat of tea, and both have become craft cocktail darlings. Always on the forefront of healthy living, tea and tea infusions has steadily made its way in as a cocktail mixer into the drinks of wellness-interested cities like LA, New York, London, and Dubai. Kombucha has become so typical as a bar ingredient, it's often used to make non-alcoholic cocktails and signature mixes that give depth and mystery to a modern mixologist's libations.
What is Kombucha?
Different from the culture of bacteria or yeast, Kombucha is it's own thing, made from fermenting sweetened tea. The resulting live bacteria are said to be probiotic and have multiple health benefits and leave the drink a bit fizzy and (just slightly) alcoholic. Any combination of spices and juice can be added to create a unique flavour.
Kombucha ingredients. Photo by Dr. Tungs
The culture culture.
It's not just its bartenders and chefs, but the city of Barcelona has taken a particular interest in fermentation, with cool stands and even stores dedicated to this funky fad, like Ferment 9. A chic, approachable store nestled between the Eixample and Sant Antoni neighborhoods, Ferment9 is wholly dedicated to learning about, trying, buying and making just about anything fermented. A trip here will leave you imagining what in your life you haven't had pickled that maybe you should.
Fermentation adds a bitter note that creates dissonance or harmony depending on it's partner. In the city that invented molecular cooking in the '90's there is no shortage of creativity and taste innovation. Natural elements, and storytelling have become an important part of the craft cocktail experience. Fermentation gives depth, not only for it's unique flavour profile but for the unique way the elements came together and the story behind it.
Chef Palacin and Bar Manager, Ignacio Ussia's of The Alchemix brought their experience living and working in Thailand's top rated kitchens to the kitchen and the bar. Fermentation is a widely used method in Thai and Asian cooking that chef Palacin married with some of his Catalan recipes and that Ussia clearly counts into his alchemy. Don't expect to find people seeking out fermented drinks for a while other than Kombucha but a close eye will notice it tucked into the drinks list of craft cocktail bars across the city, giving a special nuance or balance, that makes each Instagrammable drink a truly unique experience.
Will CBD be on the drink menu soon?
When asked if CBD infusions will also be on The Alchemix's list soon, chef Palacin replied that it had been discussed but no plans were made. As for other bars, expect this to be the next trend to slide into drink menus as the city has also been drawing artisanal CBD and THC chefs and mixologist from around the world.
Photo by Saxon and Parole in New York, IG @saxonandparole.
Rosebud CBD cocktail.
Calle de Sepulveda 135, Bajos 2 - Local, 08011 Barcelona www.ferment9.com/
Carrer de Valencia, 212 08011 Barcelona www.thealchemix.com