María Dolores Boadas (1935-2017)
“Compassion, caring and generosity of spirit. These are but three of the many life lessons Doña María Dolores Boadas shared with the international bartending community, leading by perfect example. She and her husband referred to their staff as their children and treated them as such. Visitors to this diminutive wood-paneled paradise also became family members if they showed passion and interest. Albert Montserrat, who introduced us to them when he worked there tried to explain, but they had to be experienced. Though she has passed away, Juanjo González Rubiera, Adal Márquez and Jerónimo Vaquero carry on that spirit. Boadas is as alive today as the day in 1933 Miguel Boadas gave birth to this legendary bar”. – Anistatia Miller
Friday is traditionally the busiest day for bars. And on a Friday evening, the 10th of February, a woman who had spent almost her entire life in one bar, passed away. María Dolores Boadas, “la gran dama” of the European cocktail, was 81 years old. Since 1967 and the death of her father, she had been running Boadas, initially with her husband Josep Luis Maruenda who died in 2010.
Boadas opened its doors in August 1933. Miguel Boadas, its founder, was born in Cuba in 1895 and had worked alongside Constantino Ribalaigua at Havana’s Floridita. In 1922, he travelled to Spain and decided to stay in his parents land, Catalonia. After a few years mixing drinks at some of Barcelona’s top bars, he founded his own, a diminutive place off the Rambla. 84 years later, it is still going strong.
Maria Dolores was born two years after the bar opened. As a child, they say, she was doing her homework upstairs while her father was mixing drinks downstairs. After she left school, she joined him. Behind the bar, she met her husband, and the three of them delighted the parroquianos (the regulars, but also the “parishioners”) of what they called the iglesia (the church). Boadas attracted many celebrities, and a few of them became close friends of the family – in particular Cuban singer Antonio Machín. But anyone could enter Boadas, as long as he wore a shirt and trousers. This small, wood-paneled establishment was and remains a temple for elegant drinking.
They say that when her father laid on his deathbed, Maria Dolores took a cocktail shaker and made a drink. One last time, Miguel shook the silver-plated tool of his trade. Upon handing it back to her daughter, he said: “Take it and keep my work alive”. This, she did. And although the 70’s and 80’s were not the cocktail’s best decades, Boadas could always be relied upon. At a time when bartending was still a man’s game, she was la reina, “the queen” of the bar.
Over the last twenty years, Boadas became a destination bar for visiting bartenders. There, beyond María Dolores eternal smile and pitch perfect classic drinks, they discovered a lost technique: the throw, or Cuban roll. Miguel Boadas had brought it from Cuba and, although it had disappeared everywhere, he was convinced that applied wisely, it was an invaluable tool to aerate drinks without over diluting them. María Dolores didn’t do it for show: she did it because she believed in the value of what she had been taught. The art of the throw, now so ubiquitous in high-end bars, would have died without her.
The most lucid bartenders came for the throw but came back for María Dolores, Josep Luis and their bar staff. At the end of the day, it was always the hospitality that won the game. Although María Dolores and her husband didn’t have natural children, they live in the countless bartenders they trained and / or inspired. And today, the sadness we felt at the news still allowed us to see that her life’s work will endure. After two days of mourning, Boadas has reopened its doors. Under the direction of Jerónimo Vaquero, who has been at Boadas since 1971 and took care of Maria Dolores during her illness, we know that the values of Miguel, María Dolores and Josep Luis will shine on.
Photos: (c) Boadas