A Liquid City Guide To Madrid’s Drinking Dens – Salmon Guru & Family
I discover countries through their spirits, and cities through their bars. My favourite quote is by Ernest Hemingway and gets straight to the essence: “Don’t bother with churches, government buildings or city squares. If you want to know about a culture, spend a night in its bars.” Madrid is an impressive bar city bustling with exciting happenings.
Madrid’s drink scene is thriving: from classic bars, new hotel bar concepts to experimental laboratory approaches. Season, sustainability and hospitality front and centre. My trip to Madrid is already a while ago. Usually I travel by myself but this time I enjoyed the company of Attadrink. With our picky palates, strong opinions and passion for the bar culture our combined adventures are double the fun. Join us on a much too short weekend.
Salmon Guru | The Crowdpleaser
Maximalism versus minimalism. Salmon Guru is a bar with playful drinks. It boasts an impressive drink spectacle in unique specifically designed vessels that sometimes even foam and smoke. The drinks concept is also reflected in the bar’s quirky interior design. The bar is divided into three spaces and each has a different theme and atmosphere. The main room, with its tropical vibe, plays tribute to the Tiki era of the 1950s, while another room is bathed in the neon light of the 1980s with speech bubbles containing such important components of comic language, such as “Bam!” And then there’s a Chinese-themed back room. Salmon Guru is the first – and so far only bar in Madrid – that’s been included among the 100 best bars in the world. Be sure to make a reservation early; the queue at the door seems endless.
The presentation is as playful as the preparation of the ingredients is labour-intensive.
The workflows are in place and the processes are optimised. Already close to system gastronomy. The bar team is highly professional, but at the same time friendly and responsive to individual wishes. We had a nice evening with good drinks and bar food. Everything at Salmon Guru is geared towards the guest and an unforgettable evening. By the way, “Salmon” stands for wisdom, “Guru” is kind of clear.
Guru Lab | The Laboratory
Owner of Salmon Guru is none other than famous and experienced mover and shaker Diego Cabrera aka “Maestro Coctelero”. Madrileño by choice and Argentine by birth, he seems not to be resting, yet is always coming up with new ideas and concepts. In 2020, Cabrera established Guru Lab located a few metres from his other places, Salmon Guru and Viva Madrid.
Behind an unobtrusive wooden door with no signs, that only reveals itself if you have the proper code, you’ll discover a mix of an in-house lab, green house and supper club. Think of a huge shared table in a long rectangular room with an open kitchen at the end. The Japanese-inspired interior seats around twenty people (my guess).There’s no bar counter but an integrated mixing station at the top of the table provides space for a stand alone bartender. What catches the eye is the huge green wall with its lush herbs. The stylish vertical garden serves as sustainable ingredients for cocktails and food and also provides a fresh indoor climate.
A space for creativity and education. Cabrera has established an analogue networking place for the bar community.
Guru Lab, as the name implies, is the lab and preparation kitchen for bartenders. Here, the bartenders have a retreat, enough space and the technical equipment to create new creations and flavours. The equipment is state of the art (rotovap, centrifuge etc.) and you’ll find the latest craze to develop a contemporary cocktail. It’s the place where everything that goes into Diego’s bars grows and is produced – from syrup to pickles. In addition, it’s the perfect place to hold workshops, tastings and dinners without having to close the bar during business hours. Test kitchen and event venue, Cabrera has established an analogue networking place for the bar community.
And us, Attadrink and I? We got a seat at the kitchen counter, the full attention of the bartender, a tour of the location including the cellar, good drinks and great food. We chatted, enjoyed ourselves and felt in good hands. Just the way we like it. How to get in? Be nice, be polite and be smart (think of Cabrera’s bars in the neighbourhood). It isn’t a speakeasy but the door will only open with a code – which changes every day.
Viva Madrid | The Day Bar
Viva Madrid comes from the same think tank. Diego Cabrera has had a conceptual romp in Madrid and has opened this day-drinking den in an historic location.
We visited Viva Madrid in the afternoon. The place is an all-day operation focused on aperitivo culture and located in an historic taberna which opened in 1856. Breathtaking and incredibly beautiful, the Viva Marie brings a smile to the face. When we visited, the bar was pleasantly empty inside and we had plenty of time to admire everything, from the colours to the azulejos tiles to the decorative elements and to the display cases of vintage bar books & equipment that simply emphasise that you’re in a sophisticated cocktail bar.
The concept: Spanish tavern combined with a cocktail bar and pub where you can enjoy coffee, beer, tapas, vermouth and sherry all-day.
The impressive and well-preserved blue and yellow mosaic façade of the house already welcomes you. You have the option of sitting outside or inside according to your taste. The bar has two storeys and is furnished with high and low tables. The historic tavern is located in the entrance area. To reach the cocktail bar, a few steps lead to the upper floor. Everything is open and spacious and has an air of cosiness and loungy feeling.
To eat & drink?! Traditional tapas dishes are served with an unusual twist, while the cocktails are more classic. Viva Madrid is an all-day concept and therefore different from the other two concepts. The PICKLE Room, which recently opened, is also different and combines pickles, cocktails and Rock&Roll. It’s on our list for next time.