85th Anniversary of Boadas

31 Oct. 2018
A momentous moment for one of the very few indispensable bars

A year ago almost exactly, we were celebrating Floridita’s 200th anniversary. This year, we’re celebrating the 85th anniversary of Boadas, Barcelona’s Cuban institution. There must be something about Cuba and time-defying institutions!
As we’ve already commented before, there’s an intimate link between both bars. Miquel Boadas, the founder of the ‘youngest’ establishment of the two, was born in Havana where his family ran a small bar (a stone’s throw from where the Bodeguita stands today). His parents were born in Lloret de Mar, in Spain, and, aged 13, Boadas found work at a bar run by some cousins in the center of the city. The Restaurante Florida would soon be known as… El Floridita.
At Floridita, Boadas met another young bartender, named Constatino Ribalaigua. Ribalaigua was born in Lloret de Mar, like Boadas’ parents, and his family migrated to Cuba a few years earlier. When they first met behind the bar, they probably never imaged that over a century later people would still speak of them — and call them legends.
For a few years, Boadas learned his craft — not only at Floridita, since he did punctual shifts at other venues in the city. He studied and no doubt helped develop the cantineros’ body of work and mastered the throwing technique, so typical of Cuban bartenders at the time. In the early 20’s, life led him to Spain where he met his future wife. He decided to stay, and left behind Constante and Floridita. He didn’t leave Cuban cocktail in Havana though: after a few years of hard work, he finally managed to open his own bar, bearing his own name on the 22nd of August 1933. That he did so in the middle of summer might be an accident; we prefer to read it as a poetic tribute to his roots.
Until his death in 1967, Boadas – the man — and Boadas – the bar – became priest and church for all who passed through Barcelone and were on the look for a little Cuban charm, a great drink served with a smile. Most of all, Boadas safe-kept the tradition he had been taught at Floridita. On his drinks list, one could always find a Daiquiri or a Presidente. And, since the bar opened early, some of the now forgotten Cuban aperitivos, such as the Jai Alai, the Colonial, the Lobo de Mar or the Vermouth a la Americana.
There was no way, though, that the bar would go with the man. Over the years, he had trained his team and knew he could rely on his daughter Maria Dolores and his son-in-law Pepe Maruenda. When Miquel passed, they took on the responsibility to preserve the throwing technique and to train a new generation of bartenders. This they did with gusto. Some of Barcelona’s best bartenders first got their chance at Boadas and to this day, they are still in awe with the place and in love with the couple that gave them their chance.
In the late 90’s, early 00’s, the pioneers of the cocktail renaissance, busy investigating what they thought was the lost art of cocktail making, read about Boadas. And when they finally visited Barcelona, they found out it was still open. When they stepped through the doors, they discovered a bar that seemed stopped in time. And they marvelled at the technique with which each white-jacketed bartender threw the liquid from one mixing glass to the other. All the international visitors brought the technique back home, and from one bar it spread to the world.
Maruenda died in 2010. Maria Dolores Boadas in 2017. They had no children. Or rather, they had no biological children. What they do have is a long, a very long list of cocktail children. First among them is Jerónimo Vaquero, who has spent 47 years at Boadas. And Jerónimo is now making sure that, although there’s no Boadas at the helm of Boadas, Boadas will remain Boadas. On Monday, more than 500 people gathered in Barcelona to celebrate the 85th anniversary of a bar that became an indispensable institution. On the very next day, Boadas opened, as always, at 12 am to serve the city it calls home. Its bar has seen a lot; it will see a lot more in the coming years. Jerónimo, his head bartender Adal and the team will make sure of that.

(photo (c) Boadas)

François Monti