I love a good cocktail in a good cocktail bar. Hotel bars in London have great offerings (negronis at the Ham Yard Hotel, sidecars at The Fumoir in Claridges, Manhattans at The American Bar in the Savoy, martinis at The Connaught, etc.). However, it takes major cojones and skill to run a standalone cocktail bar. Especially when cities are peppered with college type joints that sell supposedly well-mixed concoctions on the cheap (enter the Be At Ones, All Bar Ones, Revolutions and Dirty Martinis of the world).
My favourite London cocktail bar was LAB (R.I.P.) on Old Compton Street (where the pornstar martini was born, I believe). I became a regular and explored on- and off-menu drinks with friends old and new. When LAB permanently closed, a part of me felt really sad because my little corner in Soho is gone. And I’ve not found a place with a similar vibe since.
Perhaps that’s good for my liver. But hey.
Anyway whilst browsing for spots to visit in Madrid, I found a recommendation for Salmon Guru. There was something about the name that intrigued me, and so we went, pleasantly surprised that this cocktail bar had a really nice vibe at first sight. I’ve not been to a cocktail bar as warm as this since my beloved LAB closed, so I perched by the counter and eased my way through the menu.
Founded by celebrity ‘maestro coctelero’ Diego Cabrera, Salmon Guru has become one of Madrid’s best watering holes despite only having been around the block since 2017. It’s been known for courteous service, amazing drinks, and decent small plates of snacks for the peckish.
Sitting by counters is a good way to gauge service and the passion you get from bartenders. A good bartender has decent banter – a right balance of knowledge about drinks, current affairs, and personal anecdotes – whilst producing quality concoctions. We were lucky enough to have been served by Diego himself, and his equally talented mate Adrian Sehob. The drinks they made for us, as well as bants, were pretty wonderful.
The vibe was quite rocking as well. Despite our visit coinciding with Semana Santa, it was buzzing. The area is divided in three rooms. The first is a classic speakeasy with a bar counter, leather booths, and eccentric decor. The second is inspired by superheroes and neon signs. There’s a huge ‘bartender’s table’ in this room that can be reserved for small groups with the idea of the bartender working like a croupier. The third, the tiniest room, is inspired by Asian night markets.
And the drinks? Holy guacamole and all its cousins. I kid you not when I say these were some of the best I’ve had. Plus, with masterfully crafted cocktails knocking you back from just 9-12€, you’re definitely in for a treat.
The classic concoctions are terrific – delicious, with an exquisite amount of potency that sits just right after a few. Their Salmon Guru signature cocktails and house creations are fun, creative, and tasty. Definitely try the ones that have chili, they’re fierce and fiery. But I also would highly recommend a dry martini and their take on a good ol’ Old Fashioned.
On our last visit, Diego kindly showed us downstairs to another private area they would hire for small groups. It’s a treasure cove of wonderful spirits. I even got super lucky to have a sip of a very, very, very good bottle from Suntory Distillery.
Salmon Guru is one of those places that might just put the Madrid cocktail scene on the map. Fair enough, you have loads of other established bars (1862 Dry Bar, La Venencia, Del Diego, Bar Cock, etc) – but there’s something about this one that combines everything you need in a cocktail bar and more. I really recommend you guys try this place if you’re off to Madrid.
And I hope they open in London.
Calle Echegaray, 21, 28014 Madrid, Spain
Ave spend pp: 9-12€ per cocktail