The funny thing about shots is, as you get older, you really know better. You KNOW better. You know you shouldn’t do them, that tomorrow will be the ugliest of all uglies if you throw back whiskey or tequila with reckless abandon, that you will hate life if you take shots. So by writing about a place that specializes in shots, I want to clarify that I know better. But I also still do them; I still regret them; and I will probably do one at some point in the near future in my life. This all holds especially true if said shots are named after my favorite movies, accompanied by props or music, or lit on fire.
Barcelona Bar has little to do with Spain, really, with the exception of the giant albino gorilla mural that apparently is an ode to a deceased gorilla at the Barcelona zoo. There are no tapas, and while there could feasibly be sangria, I highly doubt it. What exists instead is a long loooooong menu of shots.
Barcelona Bar had been on my NY list for a while because I’m a sucker for novelty. It’s why I went to 123 Burger Shot Beer, even though the place was good at none of those three things (I’ll maybe give them the beer). I also seem to be grasping at straws for any semblance of my tolerance back in my college days, when I would order things like Dirty Shirleys and Washington Apples and still wake up in the morning, chug a berry Rockstar, and go on to ace my social psych midterm. I do not recover like that these days, but in my head I like to think I’m still fun. So I insisted we visit Barcelona Bar after I accepted my new position at Diablo, and Dom politely obliged.
In my head, when I hear shot bar, I think of a huge space with maybe some pool tables? Lots of TVs? Bras strung up from the rafters? Barcelona Bar is actually more of a hallway of a space, and I’d passed by it a million times when I worked at the Hearst building without noticing. We visited fairly early in the evening on a Wednesday, which may have been the first mistake. If you’re going to be indulging in kitsch, you want there to be a crowd, preferably a drunken one. But I was not to be deterred, and we were able to grab two seats at the bar.
Barcelona Bar keeps things purposefully mysterious when it comes to its shot list. Little icons accompany each drink for the base spirit and whether props, fire, or music are involved, but the real fun is supposed to unfold when you order them and things get underway. And that’s probably how it goes on a busy night when people are in the mood. Instead, I ordered a Labyrinth and sang along to “Dance Magic Dance” as it played and I was served something green. Dom took a Rocky shot with accompanying music. No one in the bar cared. It was almost like a more effective jukebox situation, where ordering a drink would get your song played faster. I heard a meek “I love this song,” as I mouthed “you remind me of the babe,” but that was it. We split a Stars Wars shot, and got the accompanying music and two glasses—one red, one green? I chose green, thinking I’d be spared from the Darth Vader mask hanging on the wall. Nothing. So we finished our beers and left, and that was that with Barcelona Bar.
Am I not giving Barcelona Bar a fair shot? Probably. But everyone seemed over it. The bartender approached each order like he wasn’t working in what could potentially be a really fun bar. Maybe he’s been burned too many times by bad customers and sloppy drunks and people slurring “shots shots shots shots shots shots!!” Maybe I need to come back on the weekend and squeeze my way to the bar, order something on fire, and high-five the other drunks lined up doing stupid shit. Or maybe, just maybe, I’m too old for this shit, novelty shots have lost their appeal, and I need to stick to drinking ridiculous amounts of beer for stupid rewards like getting my name on the wall or an engraved mug. I guess that’s what we call “getting older.”