Every self-respecting cocktail bar almost always hides a true gem inside: the speakeasy, that closed-door bar that was ‘forbidden’ during Prohibition and later, in many cases, became a very exclusive little corner. It was strange that Sips (Muntaner, 108), the best bar in the world since last October, did not have it. Although knowing those in charge, the perfectionist bartenders Marc Álvarez (for years in charge of the liquid proposal of Albert Adrià’s restaurants) and Simone Caporale (who before Sips had already managed to take London’s Artesian to number 1), it was obvious that They weren’t going to have it until they were very clear about their bet.

Today they will debut in the back of their cocktail bar with Esencia, a new space in which they want to present to the world a revolutionary way of drinking while at the same time claiming, precisely, the essence of the cocktail. This is an exclusive experience for 14 people (although not everyone has to arrive at the same time nor will they be served at the same time) in which they will offer an innovative, completely liquid tasting menu.

The new room in which the experience will be offered, which La Vanguardia’s Comer channel has been able to test exclusively, has been designed by architect Pau Llimona, who worked years ago with RCR Arquitectes on the spectacular design of the Enigma restaurant. In Esencia he wanted to simulate a completely fluid and watery space and he has achieved this through some architectural allegories: if the curtains at the entrance, for example, symbolize a waterfall; The lights reflected on the two long Esencia tables resemble the waves that a drop would produce in a pond. For more detail, the ceilings and walls of the sophisticated room have been painted manually with watercolor, a material that cannot be developed without the help of liquid.

As soon as they cross the waterfall-curtain and sit at the table, the customer already begins to intuit what the true essence of the new space is. It all starts with a first Sip (sip in English) of the drink that the bartenders present in the first sequence of their menu: it is inspired by Japan, specifically Tokyo, and includes Shake Nigori (unfiltered rice wine), white Port and a little bit of grapefruit juice. They accompany it with grapefruit sashimi, brown glaze and a touch of miso to take in one bite.

“The menu is like a movie full of episodes that don’t bother each other,” says Marc Álvarez, as he prepares the second drink of the first sequence. “We wanted to steal the concept of a tasting menu from haute cuisine in order to develop all the creativity, make it liquid,” he adds, ensuring that although the experience at Esencia consists of 8 courses, his intention is to make it as delicate and balanced as possible, giving less importance to alcohol than to liquid, and the truth is that they do achieve it.

The second part of the first sequence arrives at the table: an elegant drink also inspired by Tokyo with calamansi soda (they know that yuzu is already highly exploited and they have opted for another of Asia’s most delicate citrus fruits), white vermouth and smoked whiskey.

Then they prepare live, because at Esencia the bartender is always in front of the customer, one of the cocktails that surprised us the most: the Neu (snow in Catalan), a tribute to the most valuable element in the world of mixology. “Ice is to the bartender what fire is to the kitchen,” says Álvarez while he finishes painting with fir honey the pine needles that are placed on top of the ice that stars in the drink. At the base? Fine macerated with boletus and touches of undergrowth.

We do not want to reveal every drink of the experience so as not to create a total spoiler for those who experience it, but we do see it as relevant to explain some concepts that they present in Esencia and that we believe are revolutionary. Have you ever seen a mixologist try to minimize a wine with the simple intention of emphasizing it? They achieve it with Palo Cortado, the jewel of Sherry wines. Have you ever tried an alcoholic and absolutely liquid sea and mountain?

They will do it in the last pass of the menu, a drink that could be a haute cuisine dish: Vozka of sea urchin, carrot, a touch of Bloody Mary, a drop of olive oil to make it more glyceric, pigeon…” It is the most powerful pass, we know that not everyone will like it, but we have to work for the 20% that will like it,” says Álvarez, to which we respond that we must enter that percentage, because the idea we loved it.

The tableware, created by Luisma and Vega, undoubtedly enhances the entire proposal, which in a few months intends to expand; since in addition to the menu of 8 passes at 65 euros with which they will break the ice today, later their intention is to present another longer one, with 14 passes.

Esencia will currently open its doors from Thursday to Saturday starting next February. Reservations will be open next week.