I had expected to end my days with endless local red wine, but quickly discovered that the real drink of choice for locals was the gintonic. On our first night, I asked the bartender at our hotel, the Reina Victoria in Ronda, to help me choose from the 60 different types of gin they had on offer. She quickly returned and served me up a softball sized coupe with a generous portion of Gin Mare. Produced in the small fishing town of Vilanova, just outside Barcelona, this tasty spirit boasts typical mediterranean flavors like Seville orange peel, Arbequina olives, basil and thyme. (And luckily for us, they’ve just started importing it in the US.)
Drink in hand, proud of having completed our first day of riding, we sat on the hotel’s deep gray outdoor sofa, nestled under a heat lamp, and watched the rain fall on the mountainside through a sea of palm trees and ethereal fog. Most people go to Spain for the sun, but in yet another unexpected twist, it was the rain that gave us our perfect vacation moment.
On the grid in Madrid
One of the best reasons to go off the grid is the feeling you get when you resurface back on it. After a week of batting my mascara-less eyes and looking at the rolling hills rather than a scrolling iPhone screen, it felt exhilarating to arrive at the luxurious boutique hotel, Only You, in the big city of Madrid. Fancy cocktails! Facials! Fluffy white beds! Not that we didn’t stay at some lovely Andalusian hotels, but we’re city people at heart and being in the capital felt just a bit more like home.
Completely worn out after our week of mountain cycling, we let ourselves truly indulge, simply by doing very little. We opted to eat lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day all in our hotel - a renovated neoclassical townhouse from the early 1900’s, clad in a modern day Delft-Blue motif - and stepped out to see the Prado museum and Botanical Gardens in between meals. We also spent several rounds of gintonics at the hotel bar and learned some more about Spain’s gin craze from Only You’s head bartender, Marc Puig. Here’s what he had to say:
Tell me about the gin trend in Spain...
People have been drinking gin and tonics in Spain since the 70's; however, they made a huge come back about 10 years ago aiming to become a more “premium” drink. Nowadays they are one the most popular drinks in almost every cocktail bar around the country. What I love about the gintonic is that there are so many subtle variations that everyone can find their perfect drink. It also can be consumed from the late afternoon until the moonlight; and it’s refreshing and light making it easier to deal with even the hottest Spanish day.
What's the best way to make a gin and tonic?
Take a big cold glass, filled with ice to the top, 5 cl of premium gin and a nice Indian tonic water. Absolutely superb! Add a twist of lemon for a fresh touch of citrus.
How many different types of gin do you have at the bar? What’s most popular?
At Only You, we have 44 different types of gin. I think the best we have is Tanqueray because it has just the right balance of botanicals; we serve it with a twist of lemon or orange to bring out the flavor.
In terms of the most popular - I’ve noticed a big difference between our Spanish and international customers. While the Spanish tend to order Beefeater, guests from other countries really have a thing for Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks (I mean, who doesn’t like a bit of cucumber with their gin?).
And for those who enjoy gin but not the bitterness of tonic, I always recommend a gin fizz or Tom Collins.
Why should someone stop by your bar?
Here at the Only You bar, we take our cocktails very seriously and have created the perfect drink-pairing for every gin. We carefully study the ingredients of our gins to achieve the best possible harmony for our guests.