Back in 2004 I was planning a trip to Spain to attend the incredible music festival called Wild Weekend, held in Benidorm every year until 2004, when I found a great online source of information about Barcelona called City in Space. The web site and companion book highlighted the best remnants of mid-20th century Barcelona, from art deco to tiki, and included restaurants, bars, hotels, theaters, and shops. Unfortunately, many of the places mentioned are now gone or remodeled, however some of the best happily remain, including all three tiki bars, the wonderfully Mod Tortilleria Flash Flash, and the oldest bar in Barcelona, Boadas.
I immediately fell in love with Boadas and it remains one of my favorite classic bars in the world. The history; the classy atmosphere; the well-dressed bartenders who can make any classic cocktail and probably every historic Cuban cocktail with just the right amount of flair. It was like no other bar in the world in 2004. Now there are many newer ones like it but without the history, the patina, and the neighborhood feel.
A brief history: in 1933 Cuban-born Miguel Boadas opened his bar simply called Boadas in El Raval just off La Rambla in Barcelona, where it still stands. Although he was born in Cuba, his parents were from Catalonia. Miguel learned to tend bar at the famous El Floridita in Havana, owned by his cousin Narcís Sala Parera. The bar was frequented by many American celebrities escaping Prohibition, most notably Hemingway, and there Miguel learned the Cuban cocktail traditions and recipes, which he brought back to Spain in 1922, taking on bartending jobs in Barcelona until opening Boadas. The bar survived the Spanish Civil War, was enlarged and developed a clientele of famous Catalan writers artists, and celebrities. Today Miguel’s daughter Maria Dolores runs Boadas.
Cuba had a rich cocktail history in the first half of the 20th Century. There are dozens of cocktails that were invented at the bars El Floridita and La Bodeguita. The daiquiri and mojito are well-known, but there are many more that are less common. Boadas can make all of them. It is the only surviving bar with connections to the glory days of Cuban mixology. El Floridita bar still exists in Havana, and is definitely worth visiting, but it is a tourist attraction that can only serve you a popular cocktail like a mojito. Cubans don’t drink there anymore. All the original bartenders and the vast number of recipes they had knowledge of are lost to time, except at Boadas. They don’t have menus at Boadas, but on the chalkboard is a different ‘cóctel del dia’ every day, which are always good.
I’m excited to be going back to Barcelona very soon, and to be visiting Boadas for a cóctel del dia! Salut! (the Catalan toast)
Carrer dels Tallers, 1, 08001 Barcelona, Spain
+34 933 18 95 92
Open Mon-Thu 12:00pm-2:00am, Fri-Sat 12:00pm-3:00am, closed Sunday