The perfect aperitif, Spanish style

Gourmet nibbles, fabulous cocktails and glorious views: discover five bars in Madrid that will leave you hungry for more.

By Las Rozas Village

24 July 2020

The tradition of the aperitif holds an important place in Spain’s gastronomic heritage; the deeply rooted social ritual of relaxing with a drink before dinner is an essential evening pastime, beloved in the country’s big cities and beyond. Derived from the Latin ‘aperire’ (to open), the origin of the aperitif dates back to the fifth century, when Hippocrates invented a wine-based drink intended to stimulate appetite. It wasn’t until the eighteenth century, with the arrival of a precursor to vermouth, that this social encounter became commonplace in Italy before gaining popularity in Spain. Nowadays, whether tucking into tapas, sipping on vermouth or snacking on pinchos, sharing this magical moment with friends is a must. Here are five Madrid bars that are perfect for doing just that.


Toast the classic aperitif at Bodega La Ardosa

Located in the heart of the Malasaña neighbourhood, with an unmistakable red façade and one of the best Spanish omelette pinchos (if not the best) in Madrid, it’s no wonder Bodega La Ardosa has become a guide book favourite. Since 1892 the bodega has been serving tapas and broad range of beers and wines. And it’s thanks to these wines that winemaker Rafael Fernandez Bagena established the bar all those years ago, the story of which is preserved in its vintage signage declaring ‘Viñedos Propios’, or 'Own Vineyards'. The Bodega La Ardosa empire has been passed down from generation to generation over the years, with an ever-shrinking number of bodegas in the city. But what has been preserved is its delicious salmorejo, original recipe cured beef croquettes and countless tapas they serve paired with a large number of wines, beers and Vermouth de Reus.


Admire the elegant interiors of La Máquina de Jorge Juan

In each of Madrid’s neighbourhoods there’s one street that stands out for its gastronomy, and in the Salamanca barrio it’s Calle Jorge Juan. You’ll find the street abuzz with people all day long, especially during the evening when hungry locals head for their aperitif. On the corner where Calle Jorge Juan meets Calle de Puigcerd we find La Máquina de Jorge Juan. Styled with high tables, a large oval bar and luxurious finishes, this bar housed in a restored mansion attracts a young, lively crowd with its delicious menu of tapas made using traditional recipes with a contemporary twist. Puff pastry potato sticks with salsa brava, La Máquina Russian salad and Oviedo-style tripe are just some of the specialities you can enjoy with your aperitif here. If the tapas leaves you wanting more, a wrought iron staircase guides you upstairs to La Máquina’s elegant restaurant, where you can sample the delights of its popular XXL roasted cannelloni, as well as a range of seafood and rice dishes.


Savour sustainable Spanish food at Mama Campo

We can't think of a better place to enjoy a healthy appetiser than on the terrace at Mama Campo. Sustainability matters to this restaurant, which sources much of its produce from small, local producers. Its menu, decorated with images of farm life, features authentic dishes made with fresh flavoursome ingredients such as the squid sandwich, Spanish omelette pincho and cheesecake, both made with organic eggs. Decorated in chic neutral tones with raffia and wood details, much of the restaurant’s decor comes from recycled materials, and this eco-friendly touch extends to every aspect of Mama Campo’s business: from its Ecoalf staff uniforms to its eco green kitchen. The perfect place to enjoy an aperitif with a conscience.


Enjoy a drink in seventh heaven at Only You Atocha

An aperitif with a view always feels a little special. And from the moment you step inside the foyer of Only You Atocha hotel it’s clear that this place is more than a little special. The interiors are a sleek fusion of retro-meets-modern with industrial details and a spectacular column of books. But the best awaits seven floors up in the hotel’s Sép7ima bar, offering brunches, DJ sets and aperitifs as well as magnificent views of Madrid from the rooftop. Invite your friends and stay until the sun goes down while you enjoy delicious contemporary Spanish cuisine and exquisite cocktails.


Try an aperitif with a little je ne sais quoi at Cristina Oria

Enjoying some tapas with an aperitif is a national pastime in Spain, but our friends in France are also partial to partaking in this evening ritual. When it comes to chef Cristina Oria, she’s found the perfect balance between the two, with a menu of delicious Spanish dishes with a distinctly gallic twist. Her award-winning foie mi-cuit with two types of jellies features alongside raisin and walnut bread and warm Clarines cheese with fig jam, which pair perfectly with a sweet 2015 Chateau Violet-Lamothe. Other reinvented classics include Bellota ham croquettes and Spanish omelette with aubergine and truffle oil. Once the aperitif draws to a close, there are more delicious discoveries to be made during the main course, with innovative dishes such as confit duck with raspberry coulis, salad and sweet potato purée.