The number 10 bar in the world, Alqumico, is an experience! Three floors of bars in a traditional and regal-looking colonial building. As the hostess told us, “For the full experience, start on floor one and work your way up”.
On the ground floor, I ordered a drink with Mescal, Iguaraya liquor and Champurrado wine (I’m not even sure what half those ingredients are. Although, we were told later that Iguaraya is some sort of cactus fruit). Arielle’s drink came with a burning sprig of rosemary. The drinks were from Alquimico’s 1st Floor Menu and were impeccably crafted. In fact, because the place was dark each bartender had a desk light facing straight down at their bar station so they could make their drinks—it was that dark.
In the corner, a DJ was playing. The ground floor was classy and traditional—but buzzing. Arielle loved the music and SoundHounded a few of the songs:
We walked up an elegant stone staircase with colonial-style stone railings. The center of the second floor was open and looked onto the ground floor bar below. A stone railing wrapped around the opening and two-person high tables surrounded it. This floor had a different atmosphere than below—it was more subtle and casual. The second floor had a different 2nd Floor menu that highlighted the classics. Arielle got a martini variant called the Selva Martini (a tropical martini using selvatico vermouth) and I got a White Old Fashioned, which was distilled bourbon that was clear in colour (not brown) but drank and tasted like the original. An open kitchen was behind us cooking up food—it was inconspicuous, but also added to the energy of the place as the cooks were moving around quickly doing their culinary tasks. We ordered yucca dumplings and a cheese board that came with random artisan cheeses. On the board was this amazing granola-type mix that paired well with the cheese and honey. (View Food Menu)
We checked out the third floor. Huge party. Everyone was dressed to impress and dancing. Now we understood why the hostess recommended starting on the ground floor and working our way up!
Overall, Alquimico was incredible bar and is one of my favourites. Ambiance is the most important factor for me for a restaurant or bar, so the colonial building with three floors and three different atmospheres is a winning setup. Add in the amazing music, the buzz and the fantastic cocktails and you have an incredible establishment.
Pro Tip: I wore a t-shirt from Carnaval (#44 bar in Lima), which the bouncer quickly recognized and let us right in. One of the bartenders came over to compliment my shirt. Supposedly, there was a working relationship with Carnaval and it wasn’t uncommon for bartenders to work together and collaborate. There’s a slight chance that the Alquimico staff thought I worked at Carnaval! The reason it’s a pro tip is that this is not the first time that this situation has happened: in Buenos Aires at Floreria Atlantico (#5 bar), I wore a Tres Monos shirt (#27 bar), which resulted in the same treatment.
Additional Note: The next night we visited El Baron close by. This small spot is in the heart of Cartagena’s historic centre. It had five seats at the bar and four small marble tables. This place is small, but it is mighty. The World’s 50 Best describes this place as “an unpretentious drinking spot” and that’s a good way of looking at it—it was nice to take a break from the splendour of Alquimico and sit back for a chill one at El Baron. While I preferred inside, they have a great terrace for al fresco cocktails. Their best drink was the Rosarito, which combined mezcal, cilantro, pineapple extract and bitters.