Even the most adventurous traveler longs for a hidden corner in which to settle, release a deep breath and feel, well, at home for a couple of hours. While on the road for business or pleasure, it is not always easy to find such a place. Being jostled by rowdy crowds at the local Irish pub (every city has one) or paying through the nose for fancy frou-frou drinks at the locale’s trendy traps wear on both mind and soul after a while. Luckily, visitors to Barcelona have an alternative.
I will admit that I am somewhat bias. Barcelona is one of my most favorite cities in the world. Whether browsing the bustling, tourist-inundated market stalls lining Las Ramblas or mingling with neighborhood regulars at a hole-in-the-wall tapas-and-cerveza bar in Gracia or being rewarded with panoramic hilltop views spreading clear over the Mediterranean after meandering up a winding mountain road, Barcelona offers a sip of culture to wet one’s proverbial whistle at every turn. It is sophisticated yet approachable; exciting yet relaxed; a special occasion destination yet homey at one go… very much like my favorite Barcelona cocktail bar, Muti. (NOT to be confused with Bar Mut, which is a different place altogether!)
The first thing to know about Muti is that it takes a bit of work to find. I was lucky enough to be escorted there the first time by my “brother in mixology” Albert Montserrat, who I can best describe as the “Cocktail Ambassador of Barcelona.” Muti has no sign out front. There is no row of metal-and-plastic chairs lining the sidewalk. There is no indication at all, in fact, in front of the residential building in which Muti is housed, that it even exists. You kind of have to know about it. And, really, isn’t that half the fun?
Now, don’t get me wrong. There are currently quite a few of the “no-sign,” “no-walk-ins,” “big-attitude” bars in various cities around the world. And, yes, I’ve been to most of them. Sometimes its worth the hassle. And, frankly, sometimes the hassle outweighs the convenience and conviviality of a bar that actually wants my money and patronage. So, one of the first things I loved about Muti is that there is no “fuck off” attitude at the door. Yes, patrons are requested to make a reservation (the bar is, after all, a small one-bedroom apartment) but Muti’s doorman checks you off the guest list and greets you with a cordial smile. You feel like the place is happy you made the effort to show up. Welcome to Muti. Welcome to Barcelona.
Upon ascending a flight or two of stairs, a knock on the wooden front door begets yet another polite greeting from the headset toting ninja hostess who seems to appear out of nowhere and keep an eye in every direction at once. During my last visit to Muti, I was rewarded with two barstools (a hot commodity as there are only about 8 of them, total) where I could watch the behind-the-bar action, up close and personal.
The wooden bar is situated at one end of a long living room. Diagonally from it, there is a small stage, enough to accommodate 3, maybe 4 people, if squeezed in tightly. The last act I saw there was an incredible Irish singer called Sinead Savage, who is living in Barcelona. Throaty and sensual, her crooning warmly engulfed the space between human bodies. A couple of sofas and low coffee tables line the wall leading to the very back section where 3 small bistro tables are set for those looking to nibble on a snack from the apartment sized kitchen.
At Muti, “intimate” is an understatement. “Cozy” is cliché. It’s a home. It could be someone’s home. Its your home when you are there. And, once you wrap your lips around a cocktail, you never want to go back to wherever you normally hang your hat in the real world.
Joao Eusebio is one of a handful of impassioned mixologists shaping the cocktail scene in Barcelona. The Portuguese transplant is one of the up-and-comers who makes syrups; marinates cherries; reads; studies; experiments; learns from his peers and shares his own knowledge with others. He is proud of his work and works hard to be good at what he does. When I go to Muti, it is one part for the bar itself, one part for imbibing a drink from Joao’s capable hands.
Despite my best efforts, I usually wind up treating myself to at least one cocktail more than I had planned for on my way to the bar. (Luckily, unlike my last home, Los Angeles, driving is not a necessity in Barcelona). Joao is usually working on some new recipe or other and he is happy to get feedback from his trusted pals and patrons.
*Personal Aside: If I were more gregarious, dear reader, I would bring a notepad and pen and write down all the names, ingredients and notes associated with the wonderful drinks I try at bars such as this, specifically for the purpose of sharing them with The Liquid Muse readers. Truth be told, when I’m at a special bar, I like to take a mental break and enjoy the atmosphere, get a feel for the place, just experience it – so more often than not, I take photos and hope I can remember enough about the wonderful elixirs, afterwards, to do them justice in a review. Do know this, however: if a photo of any particular drink winds up in a posting on this website, and I’ve taken the time to sing the praises of the bar, cocktails and bartender, you will not go wrong tippling in said bar.
If go to Muti ask for a Death Flip or a Mutis Maker, both of which I loved during my last visit. You can also get an array of classic cocktails (made properly and with quality ingredients). Or, allow the barstaff to get creative and concoct something just for you. No matter what you drink, know that you will have a great experience, and you will be inspired to tell all of your friends. But, please don’t. We, here in Spain, like Muti the way it is: classy, relaxed and still on the down-low. Its our neighborhood cocktail bar. Its home away from home. Would you really want the whole world traipsing through your living room?