Food and drink
The vermouth, a tradition with history
The midday aperitif
In Barcelona we like the custom of meeting up with friends at midday for a chat, some nibbles and a glass of vermouth. In fact, more and more bars and wine bars, upmarket included, have opted to turn the aperitif into the best moment of the day.
The word vermut, or vermouth, comes from wermut (absinth in German) and refers to a sweet, aromatic wine that was first sold in Italy in the 18th century. In Barcelona it is usually drunk around midday on holidays or at weekends, together with olives, seafood, crisps or some other nibbles. If someone suggests going for a vermouth (anar a fer el vermut), for sure they mean an aperitif in general. It includes beer, wine, soft drinks, juice or whatever, but always before lunch.
"Going for a vermouth" was a very Catalan custom that gradually lost its original form and tailed off to the point where it practically disappeared. Vermouth was usually sold wholesale in the traditional bodegas and drunk on special occasions. But in recent years it has become fashionable again. Now it is more and more common to see an elderly couple having a traditional vermouth, or aperitif, and a group of young people doing the same on the next table.
Some wine shops, like Casa Mariol, in the Sagrada Família neighbourhood, have helped vermouth lose its old-fashioned image, thanks to the “very Barcelona” design of the bottle, and they have introduced the tradition to the electronic music festival, Sònar.
Today lots of pubs have adopted the Catalan tradition of “going for a vermouth”. There are parts of Barcelona where you can find bodegas with history. In Poble-sec, for example, there is Quimet i Quimet, and in the Born, the cava bar El Xampanyet. There are also areas where the locals hang out, such as Carrer de Blai, also in Poble-sec, and Carrer de Parlament, in the Sant Antoni neighbourhood. But if you want to enjoy an aperitif with a seafood tapa, you should go to Barceloneta.
Going for a vermouth...
In Catalonia it is a long-standing tradition to add soda water from a siphon to the vermouth or wine you are having for your aperitif, and these days lots of places serve it as an essential part of the aperitif.
A good, traditional vermouth should always be accompanied by some good cockles, spiced with the traditional Espinaler sauce, a Catalan classic made with pepper and vinegar.
There is no aperitif without olives. Sometimes you do not even have to ask because the waiter offers them with the drink.
Crisps are the third nibble in the Catalan trio that accompany the aperitif. They are often used instead of forks to scoop up the cockles with some sauce.