The theatricality of Paradiso begins before one even enters the bar. Taking a page out of PDT’s book, the award-winning speakeasy is hidden behind a refrigerator door within an unassuming pastrami shop in Barcelona’s El Born neighborhood. The unexpected entryway is all part of the bar’s emphasis on making a big impression: “The ‘wow effect’ is the protagonist” of Paradiso, according to owner and founder Giacomo Giannotti.
As a bar that’s constantly tinkering with new techniques, ingredients and flavors, it’s only fitting that Paradiso’s latest menu is inspired by the phenomenon of human evolution. “We believe in evolution, reinvention, sustainability and progress,” says Giannotti.
Months of work led to this multisensory menu of 14 drinks that draw inspiration from discoveries and inventions that have defined evolution, from the first use of fire to more contemporary technological advances. One of the menu’s most innovative serves, for example, is a cocktail named Fleming, inspired by Alexander Fleming, the doctor who discovered penicillin.
Given penicillin’s origins as an antibiotic substance, Giannotti and his team channeled the microbial with fermented components like beer, miso and kefir water, which they felt complemented the tangy, refreshing flavors of a Paloma. The resulting drink retains the hallmarks of the classic—a tequila base, served long with grapefruit—except it’s delivered in Paradiso’s signature theatrical style: The cocktail is milk-clarified and garnished with a one-of-a-kind, textured rim.
For the base of the Fleming, the team infuses tequila overnight with black miso, which both adheres to the fermentation theme and introduces the salinity typically found in the Paloma’s salt rim. Giannotti then adds grapefruit juice and kefir water infused with grapefruit peels before giving the drink a bittersweet spin, with the addition of dry vermouth and a beer syrup made with equal parts weiss beer and sugar. From there, the Fleming evolves into something more complex.
To clarify the base, Giannotti turns to a combination of coconut and rice milks inspired by and infused with ingredients common in Thai cuisine (lemongrass, makrut lime, lemon balm, ginger, coriander) for even more depth of flavor. Once infused, the base mixture is poured on top of the heated milk to curdle overnight before the mixture is filtered through a cheesecloth, resulting in a transparent, straw-colored drink.
At this point, the cocktail is a luscious, layered, elevated Paloma milk punch, but it’s missing Giannotti’s show-stopping finishing touch. The “wow effect,” as Giannotti would call it, is the Fleming’s intricate rim. Weeks of testing with various spores, yeasts and methods in the Paradiso lab, the bar’s research center, brought the team to “the perfect solution,” according to Giannotti: a mixture of agar-agar, glucose, tempeh and koji spores that are fermented in a temperature- and humidity-controlled chamber until they can be cut into a ring shape to fit precisely around the rim of a glass. The garnish looks like a fuzzy cloud wrapped around the rim; its distinctive spongy texture imparts a silky mouthfeel with every sip.
“As a team, before the launch of a new menu, we try to surprise ourselves,” says Giannotti. The Fleming, with its living garnish and complex flavor profile, did just that. “Transforming the impossible to the possible is something that fascinates us.”