In the cocktail bar there are short and long drinks, but a conversation with Diego Cabrera (Buenos Aires, 43 years old) is never brief, but long and sparkling, like one of those Gin Fizz that he prepared at the beginning of his career at the Hotel Arts in Barcelona . He, precisely, has just returned from the Catalan city because on Wednesday the 5th it was the scene of the presentation of The World 50 Best Bars 2022, in which his Guru Salmon appears in 15th position. Cabrera opened the premises in 2016 in the center of Madrid and the following year he already found his place on this international list from which he has never left and which this year crowns Barcelona’s Paradiso as number one in the world.
Ask. Six years in a row on The World 50 Best Bars list. What does that mean?
Answer. Is awesome. Because it is not only what you can do, but the wonderful things that others on the other side of the world can be doing. Competition is healthy. When it’s loyal, it makes you grow, but you have to keep your feet on the ground and, if you happen to be on the list, use it as a tool to amplify everything, because being on the list allows people to listen to you, allows you to lead projects and be invited to share your experience in other parts of the world.
Q. What is a cocktail worth?
R. A cocktail is worth to transform the world. Today the cocktail is a social transformer. The bartender has already transcended the agitation of the shaker, now we are people with social, sustainable projects, committed to tolerance, inclusive, so when you drink one you are consuming culture.
For example, the guys at Alquímico, a bar in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, considered the best in Latin America, are all about biche, a distillate from the Pacific that slaves began to make hundreds of years ago. It is a cane distillate. It was somewhat vulgar, but now it is being put on the map thanks to the project that they are leading. Imagine how current this is, that the bug is made by an Afro-descendant woman, in a forgotten area of the Pacific. They have been doing it for a long time, but now they are being recognized and, thanks to that, these people do not have to emigrate for lack of work, but stay because they have work, access to a better education, to a greater standard of living… This is the cocktail as a social transformer. It’s crazy what’s happening. The power of the bar today is not that we know how to make a Dry Martini well, but that there is a close work that generates wealth in its environment.
Q. The prestigious cardiologist Valentín Fuster warned last week in this newspaper that it is better not to start with alcohol, since most drink too much. What do you think?
R. Well, I’m on the other side. We are in this world of passage, but you have to have control. For example, I never go to a casino because I probably like the game. But the cocktail is sophisticated, it is not drinking in a square, it is a luxury that you do not need to live. Consumption with a head I think is fine and that is where the bartender as a prescriber has a job to do to teach how to drink because people are not going to stop doing it. We are aware that we are handling a drug, that the drug must be known to be prescribed and that information must be provided. But, in addition, behind ours there is a very large industry… Each one defends his own, and I understand that a doctor thinks like this.
Q. What did you call your first cocktail?
R. Passion. It was my boss who asked me to do something, in the bar of the Hotel Arts, in Barcelona. At that time Sergi Arola was at the top and we began to make a more democratic cocktail bar, accessible to the final public. Until then, cocktail bars were very classic, they distanced themselves from new consumers, but I thought that cocktail bars had evolved, that something that was already served in 1920 could not continue to be drunk, so we began to do things to be different. . At that time, I was ashamed to say that I had created that, because it was a very basic type of creation, simply adding an ingredient or changing an ingredient. What I did then was take a piña colada, change the proportions and add passion fruit. We are talking about the year 2004 and it was a bombshell, it sold very well. So my boss told me to make another one. That’s when we started building. Those were the first steps with the luck that I had to have the bosses that I had, who empowered me a lot.
Q. Is there a lot of copycat in the world of cocktails?
R. And where there aren’t? I always say that if you have the budget to do this exactly like what I’m already doing, this is old. When you come to copy me, I already have the next three steps in mind. Actually, all bartenders want our cocktails to transcend and become a classic, in recipes that everyone knows how to make. Therefore, if you are going to take my recipe with you because you tried it and you liked it, at least put the creator’s name on it.
Q. In a cocktail, is the recipe, the image or the name more important?
R. Today we go out to live 360 experiences. If you don’t take care of everything, there is an imbalance, and the cocktail has to have a balance. Before, people thought about the balance of the glass —acidity, sweetness, alcohol content—, but now the balance has to be one hundred percent. The cocktail first enters your eyes, even your ears. Look, we advise a hotel where it was very difficult for us to start selling cocktails. When I went to see it, I discover that all the clientele have their backs to the bar, facing the sea. So I told all the bartenders to shake the shaker, just with ice, no water, because that way it doesn’t muffle the sound. And people would turn around and ask if the bar was open yet. Everything matters… With music you can take people to your land, the presentation allows you to stimulate with colors, with lighting, and you make the cocktail richer. Smell is also almost 90% of the cocktail. That’s why you have to remove the straw. Sometimes, due to the design of the cup, you need it, but we are working to remove it because it minimizes the experience.
Q. What are you preparing for this fall?
R. We are entering a remodeling process. There is always a return to the origin and we are going to start a new cycle from April. We are going to tear down the whole Salmon Guru to start from scratch, because people already came and got a lot of inspiration from Salmon, it already does what we did, so it’s time to start again from scratch. We are also working on expanding the brand internationally because I would like people to be able to try our cocktails in other parts of the world. You have to enjoy it because this is the best moment in the history of cocktails.
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