A view from the city: Madrid

Hamish Smith speaks to the founder of Salmon Guru, Diego Cabrera

What is the drinking tradition in Madrid? Do some sectors of alcohol dominate? Where have people traditionally gone to drink?

In Madrid we have a beautiful sentence: “The bars are the first social media in the world.”

All the people like to go to bars to drink – cañas (little beers), vermouth, sherry wine, cocktails, gin & tonics etc, but especially to speak to and meet new people.

We have a good centenary taberna tour of good cocktail bars, for example.

I think that the most popular spirit is gin for the gin tonic, but this depends on the time of day. People love wine and beer.

How has the tapas tradition influenced the city’s bars and bartenders?

Tapas is the most popular dish in Spain, not only in Madrid. When Ferran Adrià speaks about Spanish food he says that the tapas is a more international dish than the ham and paella.

It is social – “let’s go for cañas and tapas with friends”, “one tapas here another tapas there”.

The tapas is a little portion, you can eat more different dishes than just one big dish of the same.

What are the best bars in Madrid and who are the standout bartenders?

I am not sure if I can speak about this… Salmon Guru and myself occupy a privileged place, fortunately.

Then there are Angelita with Mario Villalon, Del Diego with Fernando del Diego’s son, Le Cock with Javier Rufo or 1862 Dry Bar with Alberto Martinez, for example.

From where do local bartenders take their influence?

Today we have a lot of information all the time from the internet, magazines, books, etc; we can take cheap travel to another city, but in my case I take a lot of influence from the chefs – the chefs in Spain are super-creative.

Where would you place Madrid among Spain’s top bar scenes?

Madrid is super-top. But I am not sure if I can say which city is the best in Spain, because they influence different things – it’s not about how many good bars are in the city.

What challenges do you face as you try to put Madrid on the global stage?

Madrid is the big cocktail secret of the world. We need to say: “Hello we are here.” And we need to change the consumer culture, we need to get them to switch beer and wine for cocktails.

It is a challenge but we are really starting to see a big change.