Barreldier – Basso’s “Hand Fan” beats the beach
Heat, sweat, honking cars, headaches. During summer most Athenians try to flee the city. They head to the sea on their free time, filling up the beach bars and seaside clubs to the brim. Some of us, however, are not willing to give up on the city center. The coastline might call to us to spend an evening looking at the sea while drinking gin and soda, but being used to the many choices for fine drinking in the center, this is where I want to have my cocktail.
Barreldier VS beach: 1-0
Speaking of preferences, there are some bars, and a few bartenders, who will always win my vote in the “where to go tonight”-discussion. Of course I have favorites. Who doesn’t? Mario Basso and Barreldier, for example, are always among my recommendations for Athens newcomers. It is also the place I take people I care about, because I know they will be happy. Basso doesn’t have bad days. If he does, it leaves no trace in the quality of the drinks, nor in his hospitality. Since the opening in 2015, I’ve made sure not to miss any menu changes, including the seasonal cocktail lists for Christmas and summer.
So what about the additional list of summer cocktails this year? (Spoiler: I’m as much of a Basso fan after tasting it as I ever was.)
The Hand Fan summer list on Barreldier
It is called Hand Fan, and it is playfully shaped as just that. It is less focused on the classics than the regular menu and more inspired by current trends; a little tiki, some Asian flavors, and it’s accompanied by flamingo printed coasters to match the crew’s floral shirts. While I love the regular dark and polished, hotel bar look of Barreldier, a few pops of color and fun are welcome in the summer.
Knowing my weakness for basil and spice, Basso starts me off with the “Crush Punch”. “A punch doesn’t necessarily have to be served in a bowl”, he explains, as my eyes wander to the amazing Hendricks punch bowl displayed behind the bar. “Punch is essentially a cocktail with five ingredients; alcohol, something sweet, something sour, spice/s, and some non-alcoholic mixer.” This particular one is a drink clearly designed for summer. With a vodka base, the sweetness of pineapple, spiciness of ginger, and freshness of basil and lemon juice, refreshing is the key word to describe this cocktail.
Next up is the “Shinsen‘na” (“Fresh” in Japanese). It is made with gin, sake, lime, cucumber, vanilla, and tomato water. I have to ask about the tomato water. “The tomato water is the liquid you get from the tomato as you cut it. It is not tomato juice from the whole tomato, but lighter in color and more subtle in flavor.”
The “Pinky Gonzales” smells and tastes as if the summery and flirty classic Mai Tai has suffered a bit of heartache, maybe aged a little, and gone to drown her sorrows at the local cantina. The secret behind it: a pairing of orange liqueur, bitter almond, and smoky mezcal.
Named for a line out of Lou Reed’s song Perfect Day, the “Park Sangria” does, as the song also says, sort of make me “forget myself”; in that I find myself enjoying a drink which in theory wouldn’t be in my taste. It is sweet, and banana flavored, with lemon juice, honey, and white wine. If you’ve had one too many Aperol Spritzs already this summer, this white sangria is a sweeter, more unique option you should definitely try.
Finally, just like every other time I’ve visited Barreldier, there is a drink that steals my heart away. Third in the list on the hand fan is the “Painkiller (not)”. It is clearly tiki inspired with coconut milk and rum, but in combination with raspberry puree, lemon juice and vanilla, to me, it tastes like Swedish summer, and my head is suddenly full of images of picking wild raspberries and drowning them in cold milk. Almost a smoothie, this cocktail is served with crushed ice, coconut, raspberry and mint garnish, and most notable of all, grated South American tonka bean.
Guests are prone to take the Hand Fan with them when they leave, Basso tells me. I get that. It’s great for cooling down, but more than that this is the kind of bar that makes you want to bring home a souvenir. It’s summer vacations in the center of the city. I almost steal one as well. Fan for fan.
Adress: Voulis 7, Stoa Bolani
Phone number: 210 325 4711
Open: 8:00 am – 2.30 am on weekdays. Later on weekends.
Reservation needed?: For more than 6 people
Takes credit cards: Yes
Photos by Paulina Björk Kapsalis for Bitterbooze.com