Raising the Bar

Javier de las Muelas, Founder, Dry Martini.

Published: 16th September 2019

Our exclusive editorial feature series ‘Raising the Bar’ gets behind the bar and meets the head barmen and women at some of the world’s most respected, loved and admired bars in the world. With a focus on Scottish Gin, mixology and more, ‘Raising the Bar’ provides a fascinating and unique insight directly from the people who are at the forefront of global bar culture.

Elevating a classic cocktail from a drink into an art form is an unenviable task. Enter centre stage, Javier de las Muelas, the founder and mixologist maestro behind Dry Martini Barcelona. Consistently featured in the world’s best bars list and a hotspot for any cocktail lover visiting Barcelona, we caught up with Javier to learn more about what it takes to create the ultimate Martini experience and learn more about his thoughts on the growing drinks category of Scottish Gin.

What is your name and what do you do?

My name is Javier de las Muelas and I have dedicated my life to serve others, to cultivate and promote the culture of service; the supreme art. This can be done from almost any activity, but I personally focused on gastronomy and despite having restaurants, I did it especially well in the world of cocktails. I am an entrepreneur and the founder of a group that owns several cocktail bars and restaurants, among which stands out the mythical “Dry Martini Bar” of Barcelona, which just turned 40 years old.

What makes Dry Martini unique?

It is unique for several reasons. In first place, is a theme bar, it is not the classic cocktail bar, but a tribute to the great cocktail of history, the Dry Martini, from which it inherits its name. The whole establishment is decorated with an art collection that is exclusively about this cocktail and accompanied by an impressive collection of old gins and dry vermouths that occupy the entire bar. In a lower plane and hidden by sliding doors, are the rest of the spirits. In the setting of 3 meters of steel, is where Dry Martinis are exclusively made and through an electronic counter the Martinis are counted, which are carried out in real time. If you wish, you will receive a certificate with your name and Dry Martini number.

Dry Martini just turned 40 and this is the data that best speaks of this bar that has been able to adapt to all times while preserving its own identity and style. It is really solid and is not based on trends, fashions or mixologist artists, but on a strong culture of service, on pursuing excellence with perseverance and passion. Without these factors, the projects last for a few years and end up being forgotten.

The Dry Martini is a complete gastronomic experience, it is a cocktail bar that has a large kitchen, because our proposal is not that you take two or three Martinis or Negronis, it is about getting a higher elevation and experiencing cocktails and dishes in the form of pairing. The pairing has been our essence for 20 years, we never advise a dry without a good tartare of fresh tuna or a Normandy oyster.

Which Scottish Gins do you have behind the bar?

For years we have been working with Scottish gins, some more unknown and others more popular such as Old Raj, The Botanist, Caorunn or Hendrick’s. There is always much more to discover and we will surely increase the existing references because we have an increasingly dynamic and knowledgeable market.

You serve an array of amazing cocktails and drinks but does your clientele have a favourite cocktail?

Yes, without a doubt, the Dry is almost mandatory, but in fact we are a Gin Bar and those cocktails with gin, including Gin & Tonic, have a main role. Two of our most emblematic projects, the Frappés and the Dry & Tonics, are based on gin. The Frappés are Dry Martinis subsequently infused with natural elements, filtered and frozen for several days at -24 degrees. The Dry & Tonics are served in tall and wide glasses with plenty of ice and Schweppes tonic. From here the variety is infinite.

It currently feels like gin has never been more popular. Have you seen a gin renaissance over the last few years? 

In Spain without a doubt, the Gin & Tonic fever has changed everything, including the market. The references of gins in bars and restaurants has multiplied by 5 or by 6 being the most dynamic sector of the spirit. Old concepts based on their heritage, futuristic presentations, flavours and innovative colours in this spirit, in short an authentic explosion of the sector.

What’s the best part of your job?

Serving is a personal passion, but I could have done it from other fields of work. I feel very comfortable in the world of cocktail, because my concerns are multiple and through the world of cocktail; Martinis, I can recreate and relate to painting, sculpture, music, design, film, architecture and create exceptional meeting points.

Are there any other bars on your tick list to visit and who are your bartending heroes?

Without a doubt, sensational bars in which we always find great professionals who get four walls to become places of worship and pilgrimage. These great bars have been open for many years, because this is the guarantee of their greatness and solidity.

To say some and without keeping any order, I would mention the Tender Bar of the great master Kazuo Uyeda, Schumann’s Bar of my dear Charles Chumann, American Bar of the Savoy Hotel in London for which great characters like Peter Dorelli, Salim Khoury and now Erik Loritz, Bar Hemingway Bar at the Ritz hotel in Paris, how well Colin Peter Field cares, The incredible “Loos American Bar” etc.

What are the essential ingredients for running a successful bar?

Honesty, neatness, rigour, professionalism, knowledge, having a great team, culture of service, having your feet on the ground, giving in to the spotlight, taking care of small details, managing with precision, being proactive, knowing how to take care of people (those outside and inside) and smile.

You have to know how to manage, in the field of finance and human, both for your customers and for your team. Have perseverance in fundamental values such as honesty, loyalty, rigour, professionalism, knowledge, etc. It is essential to be constant, because in the end a brand, is neither more nor less than a promise.

How important is provenance to you and does this influence the spirits brands that you keep behind the bar?

It is not always important but it can influence. For example, when you are presented with a Scottish distillate, the quality is guaranteed. There are denominations of origin that carry excellence in their DNA. Scotland is synonymous of tradition and excellent products.

You can learn more about Dry Martini here.

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