Giacomo Giannotti And Margarita Sader From The World's Best Bar
Image Credit: Image Credit: ZLB23, The Leela Palace

Imagine a world where the best places to sip and savour take centre stage—that's where The World’s 50 Best Bars shines, spotlighting the ultimate hangouts for drinks worldwide. Think of it as the VIP list for extraordinary watering holes. And guess who topped the charts in 2022? Paradiso, the magical hotspot in Barcelona, snagged the title of the world's best bar.

We had a chance to catch up with Giacomo Gionnoti, Owner and CEO of Paradiso, Barcelona, along with his wife and partner in crime, Margarita Sader, Co-Owner of Paradiso. Oh, and did we mention they were on a thrilling adventure in India too? Well, it was their first visit to India for an exclusive bar takeover at ZLB23, a Kyoto Speakeasy at the Leela Palace in Bengaluru.

They spilled the beans about what it takes to run the coolest bar globally, all the way from crafting mind-blowing cocktails to keeping things eco-friendly. Join us as we dive into their fascinating journey, where every drink is a work of art and sustainability is the secret ingredient. Cheers to a sip-worthy story!

What does a glimpse into Paradiso look like in Barcelona? Tell us about the Atlas' best-rated cocktail bar in the world.

Giacomo: Paradiso is a Speakeasy Bar. From the outside, you will see an artisanal pastrami bakery in a lovely neighbourhood of Barcelona. You can enjoy a good pastrami in the cafe. And then, from there, you can enter through the refrigerator door into Paradiso and be transported to another place altogether. Initially, when we started, it was just Margarita, myself, and another person, and today we have a team of 45 people working with us to provide a wholesome cocktail experience and an enjoyable experience for our guests. 

Margarita: An experience at Paradiso, in one word, is a surprise. Although Paradiso gets its name from Giacomo's family ice cream shop, it is a walk into a paradise full of surprises. It is a beautiful place packed with energy and full of surprises. If you go looking for the restroom in Paradiso, you may hear the birds chirping or find another room altogether, which transports you from reality to an illusion.

What are some of your favourite gastronomic effects that you have tried on your cocktail creations at Paradiso?

Giacomo: In Paradiso, we constantly work on different methods and techniques to surprise our guests, like changing liquid ingredients to solid forms, adding a flavoured floating cloud on top of the drink, or lighting a flame inside a bottle. Not every effect we create is theatric; instead, it mostly features techniques.

For instance, for one cocktail, we fermented the rims of the glass as the flavour complemented the cocktail as a garnish. We push our boundaries with every menu, year after year. I have enjoyed creating all these effects and more with my team. So, my favourite effect is the next one that we will discover. 

Margarita: As a Good Italian, Giacomo retained Negroni as a constant on the menu. This is one signature cocktail available at Paradiso at any given time. Although our menu concept changes every year, we need to have a Negroni on the menu, and Giacomo introduces it with a spectacular twist every time.

What are your signature cocktails? What is the inspiration behind the concepts for your cocktails?

Giacomo: We work on various concepts and experiment with various ingredients to create something new, always to provide our guests with a wholesome cocktail experience each time. And our concepts change every year. But there has to be a Negroni on the menu, which is a constant signature cocktail at any time of the year. For instance, this year the theme was 'Evolution', which is inspired by the creations and innovations by mankind that have led the world to be where it is today.

In Paradiso, we believe in evolution, reinvention, sustainability, and progress. We think about the present and the future, learning from the past. In this new menu, we wanted to give a lot of importance to progress and new experimental techniques that we’re including in our new cocktails

The cocktails are inspired by technology and the metal-age era, where we tried to highlight copper and more. For example, we have curated Tesla, which is one of our signature cocktails that is inspired by electricity. Also, we have an Evolution Negroni that includes a touch of exotic fruits like mango, coconut, and tea. And it has a garnish of caramel wheels, which is inspired by evolution.

Margarita: Behind every drink is a story. It is important for the concept to match the flavour of the drink. The presentation of the drink or the person narrating the story behind the drink is as important as the drink itself. When we are able to give the customers an experience that allows them to indulge their five senses and feel the emotions that arise, it means that they are involved in our concept and become a part of the Paradiso atmosphere.

That's how we go about our concepts, and we try to reflect it in the flavours of our cocktail creations with our skills and the effort of our team, without whom we couldn't be here. For instance, in our Universe concept last year, we tried to include all the natural phenomena in the cocktails. On the menu was this refreshing cocktail called Tornado, where we tried to create the effect of a real tornado in the drink when presented to the guest.

How important is sustainability for you and Paradiso? Are you able to promote it even when you travel for events?

Giacomo: Sustainability is a bigger word than we can comprehend. We value that, and it plays a big part in every aspect of our dream programme. It is a responsibility that has many different aspects. We constantly try to be sustainable in our approach, even when we travel overseas for bar takeovers and other events.

However, when we travel, we can promote sustainability with the ingredients that we use and other components, which are limited in many aspects. But when we are at Paradiso, we are able to maintain sustainability at the most. Our team is trained to learn, imbibe, and adapt as far as sustainability is concerned. We try our best to respect our resources, avoid waste, recycle, and upcycle them to the best of our abilities at every given opportunity.

For me, sustainability means trying to waste as little as possible and transforming residues into materials that can be used at the bar. In an industry like ours, this might seem like an unattainable goal, but with the right mindset and the right people, there is always a way.

Margarita: When we started the bar eight years ago, we decided to practise sustainability as a primary value. We don't use plastic straws, etc. Along the way, we have learned more techniques and also used them to practise sustainability. We try to reuse ingredients in garnishes like fruits and herbs.

We have learned how to make organic coasters from mint leaves and orange peels. As Paradiso is a high-volume bar, we use large quantities of ingredients and generate waste. Therefore, we have recently invested in a waste lab and equipment that gives us a better understanding of the waste generated at Paradiso, and we reuse, recycle, and upcycle it into resourceful things. We are able to make recycled and organic coasters and other bar essentials too.

Have you visited India before? How has it been so far, and what inspires you about India?

Giacomo: This is my first visit to India. I'm sure we need more time, but what we've experienced so far is beautiful. We are here for our first bar takeover in India at ZLB23, which is also a Speakeasy bar Concept like Paradiso. We tried some food and some cocktails in Bengaluru. And some ingredients. They are very tasty, and the flavours are very different for us. The start has been good, and we look forward to coming back for more. Let us just say that this is a brief for the next visit. 

Margarita: We do not have many days here this time. But so far, it has been very nice. It is a big country, and there is a lot to see. And we want to experience the different cultures and traditions of India, and we want to see a bit deeper into the Indian style. We are also inspired by the architecture, textiles, and fabrics that we have seen and would like to take inspiration from the colours that are in play to try and incorporate them into our cocktails, hopefully.

What is your take on the cocktail culture in India?

Giacomo:To begin with, the flavours of the cocktails in India as compared to the European ones are different here. Here, the use of spices is greater, which is good because it is unique from the popular regular cocktails that we get everywhere, which might get boring sometimes. We tried a few places during our short stay and managed to visit a few bars and try some drinks and food in Bengaluru. We were not sure of what to expect but were pleasantly surprised and impressed with the level of service, choice of menu, and a few establishments here.

Margarita: We see that there is great scope for a thriving cocktail culture in India. The people are friendly and approach with a smile, which is warm and welcoming for a guest like me. And we were moved by the hospitality and compassionate gestures of the people who make us feel welcome here.

What are the ingredients that you tried here in your first Indian experience? And what would you like to take back to Barcelona?

Giacomo: There are so many fresh ingredients available here. We tried the betel leaves, and I found the flavours very interesting. It was sort of like lemongrass with a hint of pepper and spice. We learned that it is really good for digestion as well. That is one ingredient that I look forward to trying in cocktails soon. And I am also hoping to take back some spices and ingredients from here to try them in our bar lab.

Margarita: We are in the process of developing the menu for the next year, and we might take some inspiration from India. The ingredients are very important. We tried black lemon and some spices. Turmeric is very different and packed with flavour in comparison to the ones available back home in Barcelona. We are excited and can't wait to try more.