Teams: The Marlowe Team
The history of the cocktail bar Marlowe (24 Rec Street, BCN) told by the team who bring it to life every day is a fascinating reinvention case of a business model from respecting its legacy and authenticity. Adrià, Aleksandra, Jordi, Lorenzo, Marc and Pere (in alphabetical order) write the present and make up the future of a key place in an iconic Barcelona area: el Born. We talked with Adrià Sànchez, one of the talents of the Marlowe family.
What is the origin of Marlowe?
It was 1979 when Marlowe served its first cocktail. In that time, its name was Gimlet and it was the outcome of a collaboration amongst three partners who, after a while, separated and never worked together again. Only one of them (the artist, the romantic, the philosopher) stood at the head of the bar, which became a meeting point for intellectuals, freethinkers, artists and classic cocktail-lovers. Years later, in 2010, my friend Marc Pinotti started to work as a bartender there. As a disciple of the charismatic founder, Marc learnt from him not only the art of mixing, but also to love the decadently romantic atmosphere of the Gimlet, the ambiance of El Born and the charm of its community. I visited Marc every single night. By that time, I was also a bartender in a cocktail bar nearby and, after closing, I headed to the Gimlet to have the last drink of the day. From both sides of the counter, Marc and I dreamt about the project we would do together one day. In 2016, we proposed to the owner to buy the Gimlet.
How did you decide to buy the Gimlet?
For romantic reasons but also for common sense. The bonds with the owner of the Gimlet were very solid and strong, since, besides being a very charismatic person, he was the mentor of Marc. By that time, he was over 60 years old and our proposal was to buy his bar to keep his legacy going. Finally, he said yes. Who better than his disciple and his best friend to keep on writing the history of this iconic bar?
What were your first steps?
It was very clear to us that we would keep the Gimlet’s romantic atmosphere, its dim lighting and its 30’s American crime novel-style décor. In fact, Gimlet is the favourite cocktail of detective Philip Marlowe, the most famous fiction character created by Raymond Chandler. That is why we decided to call the bar Marlowe. We did a complete renovation and we left it exactly the way it was. In fact, the counter is exactly the same since it opened in 1979. We started to plan the team we needed at Marlowe. Of course, Marc will be behind the counter, since he was the expert bartender, a very well-known person in the neighbourhood and, of course, the mentee of the founder. In the team we also had Pere, an all-rounder. In my case, taking into account my education as a designer, I would be in charge of creating a new storytelling, iconography and image for the cocktail bar. We also needed a new partner who came from the cocktail sector to work with Marc behind the counter, creating the alchemy our clients searched for.
What did you do to find this extra talent?
Marc attended a cocktail competition in Barcelona and there he met its winner, Lorenzo. It was an immediate match. Lorenzo had built his cocktail expertise in London and, as a strange coincidence, he worked as a bartender in one of the cocktail bars one of the initial partners of the Gimlet created years ago. Lorenzo was thinking about launching his own project and our proposal fitted perfectly with his plans. By pure chance, then, the two disciples of the two founding partners of the Gimlet, worked together on a common project.
Some months later, we welcomed new talents to the family, Aleksandra and Jordi. We are a self-managed team where each of us has a role in writing the history of Marlowe.
Your cocktail menu is very inspiring… How did you create it?
When we designed our first menu, our main priority was, above all, to respect the Gimlet’s client. We wanted to offer classic cocktails with a twist, in a journey towards a new concept, but always respecting the house’s tradition. It was a purpose we all shared: we wanted to embrace a different perspective of cocktails, inspired by Marlowe’s universe and also inspired by Barcelona, our neighbourhood and also the Mediterranean.
Our first menu was called 1979-2017. Under the 1979 category you could find classic cocktails with a twist which changed the game (for example, Cuba-Libre was made of Coca-Cola syrup mixed with champagne). The 2017 category embraced 5 cocktails fully developed by us, taking Philip Marlowe’s ecosystem as a reference (we called a cocktail Linda Loring after Marlowe’s femme-fatale partner and we used ginger amongst its ingredients).
We opened in November 2017. Since then, our menu has been constantly evolving. We change our menu every season and every day we have our “market offer”, depending on the fresh produce we find in the market. We are huge fans of the so-called Zero Mile products (locally sourced ingredients).
Locally sourced cocktail ingredients … What’s the secret to getting them?
We have a romantic belief in handcrafted cocktails. We do our own production of juices and plant mixes we use in our drinks. For example, the botanical expert of El Celler de Can Roca (which was no. 1 in 2015’s ranking of the best 50 restaurants in the world) taught us about how to use herbs and wild plants and, since that session, we pick them ourselves in the nearby Tibidabo hill. It’s incredible how in such a close area one can find lots of local herbs that became luxurious ingredients for unique cocktails. As for spirits, we prioritise local distillers.
Marlowe’s atmosphere is something really special, what are your plans for the near future?
Marlowe’s logo is an eye, since we want to be witnesses of everything that happens in our neighbourhood. We are a cocktail bar, a meeting point, that’s why we want Marlowe to tell its own story. Our next menu, for example, will be a comic where the star is Philip Marlowe. It will happen in a futuristic Barcelona and each cocktail will play a key role. Amongst other activities, we offer very special concerts: we choose the band, we co-create with them their own punch (which is served during the concert) and the band plays behind the counter in a unique experience. We also want to include a reading corner in the bar where our clients could read and buy books related to Marlowe and what we do.
A million thanks to the Marlowe Team! Your history is a business case!