Ariana Díaz Celma

You know how much we love a good cocktail and even more in summer. That is why our first August interview is dedicated to Roger Rueda, the alma mater of the Dr. Lagarto cocktail bar in Sant Cugat. A master of the art, in 2013 he was selected to represent Catalonia at the World Class and has collaborated as cocktail man for events related with Gin Mare in London and around the country. We sat with him to comment on the upcoming cocktail trends…

You just came back from New York, where you learnt about the latest trends in cocktails. You also attended Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans. Tell us about the figure of the bartender today and how it has increased its cache in recent years…

Well, after living in London, having attended Tales of the Cocktail and being in New York, I think mixology is living a sweet moment. Bartenders are now asked to create their own recipes or reinterpret the classics, as far as preparation and presentation goes. One way to understand this is that nowadays a bartender is a combination of sommelier and chef, as they works not only with alcohol but with processes, creating from syrups to homemade bitter liqueurs. So having this last aspect into account, it doesn’t seem bold to me to say we’re a little bit like alchemists.

What will the next gin and tonic be?

As I said before, in my view it will remain a separate category, as Dry Collins, a Fizz, a Silver, etc., though reinterpreted with fruit infusions, teas or even food. Proof of this is what we do in Dr. Lagarto: we use honey and almond syrups created by us and cinnamon infused gin to create, for example, a gin and tonic for dessert, or a slow homemade gin with red fruit to emulate a softer, longer Negroni. Or a gin and tonic ??with basil, olive and tomato, perfect for dinner. We are some crazy alchemists who like to play with nuances, processes and elements outside the bottled product.

What will we drink in 2015?

A friend who I came across at Tales of the Cocktail told me about a new bar that is developing a new Bloody Mary with pig blood treated for consumption. It’s crazy, isn’t it? In Spain in 2015 we’re making a strong bid for tequila and mezcal, unfortunately greatly unknown here, which I feel are culturally closer than others like whiskey. With respect to the UK, I heard they are trying to bring bourbon back. But we’ll see?

You are the visible face of Dr. Lagarto… Why that name?

It wouldn’t be bold to say I’m Dr. Lagarto in the end, considering the fact of it being the name of the bar and that my name is Roger Rueda, we get letters for Dr. Lagarto, which is kind of funny. In the end, the owner, the head bartender and soul of the project have been merged into one. The name comes from doctor’s willingness to study and do research. That is our fate, to go beyond what we know about a recipe or spirit. As for Lagarto, it’s a funny story I will enjoy sharing with you as I fix you a cocktail at the bar.

What do you think makes a type of alcohol famous leaving the rest in the background? Who dictates the bartending trends?

One factor is quality. With gin we’ve all learned the meaning of the word premium. We have taught our palate to appreciate the nuances of good spirits prepared with care and savoir fair. In turn, authenticity and perfect serv, another word learned with gin, makes the difference and is the best way to enjoy the product. Regarding trends, producers and bartenders go together. They say the music that accompanies a cocktail is also important.

What would you listen to while enjoying Bloody Mary, a gin and tonic, a pisco sour and a Negroni.

What a question to make a music lover! I wouldn’t have a Bloody Mary but a Red Snaper, which is the same recipe but using vodka instead of gin. That said, I’d use Tanqueray, Frank Sinatra‘s favorite gin, so the answer is obvious. In the case of gin and tonic, I’d listen to Woodkid?in my opinion, the greatest surprise at Sónar this year?because that’s what my girlfriend and I listen to when we’re relaxed at home. Pisco Sour is a great unknown, the perfect replacement for the trite Mojito. I’d have that in the late afternoon of relaxed with friends, so I’d listen to Antony and The Johnsons or maybe Rufus Wainwright. Or The National or Bon Iver? And for the celebrated and famous Negroni, of Italian origin, I’d listen to anything performed by Pavarotti.

Tell us, in your opinion, the perfect cocktail for an appetizer, for after lunch, for mid-afternoon, before the dinner and the perfect drink for after dinner.

As an appetizer I’d recommend a vodka dirty martini made with only two ingredients: vodka and brine. Brine is olive water, and however strange the name Martini may seem, it refers to the kind of triangular glass and not to the drink. Then I’d choose a premium, unctuous vodka. For after lunch it seems that gin and tonics have become an institution, and it’s not a bad idea: it can be more or less aromatic and it’s digestive, so it’s great. If you want to have pastries, I’d have an Old Fashion, a classic cocktail made with sugar, angostura and orange peel. Depending on the day I have it with rum or whisky rye. By mid-afternoon, I’d have a Tom Collins, originally made with Old Tom gin, which is sweeter, lemon juice, sugar and soda. Before dinner I prefer a Negroni, a favorite classic for bartenders. And after dinner, I’d go for a Trinidad Sour, another favorite of mine, in which proportions are reversed by adding no less than 2 cl of angostura, rum, lemon and sugar.

Your favorite hotspots?

I’m a lot into barmen. In Barcelona, Solange (C/Aribau, 143), where my dear friend amigo Alfredo Pernia works. They I like Bobby Gin, run by Alberto Pizarro and Slow (C/París, 186), where you’ll meet Paco Bretau. In London I like the Savoy hotel’s American cocktail bar run by Erick Lorintz or Nightjar, with barman Luca Cinalli, and 69 Colebrook, run by Tony Coniglario, the Ferran Adría of cocktail making. As for NYC, I was greatly surprised by a cocktail bar we discovered by chance, called Amor y Amargo. Then I like Dead Rabbit for their global approach, and Nomad. The extra bonus goes for Please Don’t Tell in NYC, a speakeasy bar accessed through a vintage phone booth within Crif Dogs. A fun experience worth living! We were treated excellently.

You can’t stop listening to?

David Bowie, especially Space Oddity, a masterwork lasting 5:16 minuts.

You’d ban?

Rather than banning, I’d forced barmen to serve water with cocktails with it cleans the palate. It’s tremendously healthy because alcohol is de-hydrating. If you follow this tip, your liver will be grateful and your hangover won’t be as mean.

You never thought you’d end up?

Going into the Please Don’t Tell, one of New York’s speakeasy bars. It’s very hard to get in. It was a Friday night, we hadn’t reserve anything and they would just say no to anyone trying without a reservation. But thanks to the fact that I had met Jim Meehan the day before, (I bought his recipe book), the called him to New Orleans and not only did they let us in but also invite us to all our drinks. I still can’t believe it! Thanks Mr. Meehan!

Good2b means?

The perfect combination: Earl Grey tea, a whole-wheat croisant and a piece of fruit, my usual weekend breakfast.

*Pictures by Cecilia Diaz Betz