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A whiskey among flowers

Almudena Vázquez had cooking in her genes but turned it in for a cocktail shaker at AREIA, where you can find her amid flowers and fruits.

Try this pineapple. What do you think about this grapefruit? Have a bite of this rose petal…” This is how Almudena greets us, with boxes full of fruits that she dehydrates—that way, she says, “they keep all of their properties and their flavor is intensified”—and rose petals she buys from “the florist on the street corner.”

Such is her passion that at Areia, a popular bar in Madrid (Hortaleza, 92), they’ve had to expand their shelves and space for her and her abundant collection. You can blame it on the success of her inventions, which are part of a menu she designed and from which she makes around 300 cocktails every Saturday night. “Divide them in two and a half hours and you will know how fast I work,” she says. Take the ‘Acrobat’ for instance. She makes it with an acidity that blends with a foolproof J&B whisky, made from a selection of 42 malt and grain whiskies. “Our customers are always willing to experiment with new things. This allows me to play with flavors and discover exactly what the public wants,” explains Almudena, feeling a need to tell it all. She says she began cooking thanks to her father who was a chef. She is also proud of having been a finalist in Diageo World Class Spain 2015 and will soon finish her first novel. Being a woman and a barmaid is no problem for her because she has other female colleagues to rely on. But no, she doesn’t toast with them because… Surprise! She doesn’t drink alcohol. She just shakes it. And very well!