A cocktail revolution is underway on Ibiza’s East Coast.
Inspired by the cosmopolitan – pardon the pun – city of London’s mixology culture, cool new Santa Eulalia watering hole Café Caleta is combining a stylish look with an impressive menu.
And while it has the credentials to rival any five-star hotel bar you might find on these shores, owner Alex and his partner Miriam are determined to keep the atmosphere relaxed, the welcome warm – and the prices fair.
“We want Café Caleta to be a place where you can drop in and chat with the bartender. We want to build a relationship with our customers and interact with them,” Alex explains. “So we get to know our guests and establish what they like, and from there we can help them explore new creations – or they can stick to their favourite classics!”
The idea of having a ‘local’ bar on your doorstep, which residents frequent regularly and loyally, is a quintessentially British concept. It’s this very familiar and welcoming vibe Alex and Miriam want to create in their establishment.
Pull up one of the plush velvet chairs at the bar and let your eyes feast on the quirky Tiki cups, vintage liqueur posters and charismatic black and white photographs depicting island scenes from Ibiza in the 1970s.
It’s not intimidating, it’s not pretentious – it’s simply a great little place to drop in for a tipple. Whether you want to wind down over a quick glass of vino or chat the night away with your friends, you will receive a warm welcome.
Café Caleta’s cocktail menu starts with the classics, listing international favourites such as the Tommy’s Margarita, Penicillin and three varieties of Martini (dry, dirty or wet).
Alex explains, “We gave these iconic cocktails a modern twist. We want our guests to be happy drinking, and trying new things. As time goes on, the list is going to change and evolve with new craft cocktails being added. But if you have fallen in love with one particular drink, we will of course still make it for you!”
Alex learned the art of entertaining – and educating – his guests while working in one of London’s most revered bars, Happiness Forgets, a tiny speakeasy in the city’s hip Hoxton area.
He says, “I worked in a high-volume bar before but I had reached a point where I stopped growing, so I studied the list of The World’s 50 Best Bars and I found four in London. Happiness Forgets is where I fell in love with the cocktail industry; the smell of fresh ginger, the chatter of everyone around, the sound of the bartenders shaking… This kind of atmosphere inspired me.
“When I applied for the job, they said I didn’t have enough experience in making high quality craft cocktails, so I took the role of a ‘bar back’ instead. I swapped a well-paid job as a bartender in a busy city bar to clean glasses at Happiness Forgets, and it’s the best decision I made in my life. I learned so much from the owner, Alastair Burgess, and my mentor, Tara Garnell, from making shrubs to how – and when – to talk to customers.”
Originally from Malaga, Alex spent six years living and working in London. The multicultural city provided an education in world cuisines, ingredients and flavours.
“Coming from a small town in Spain, when I came to London at age 17 the diversity shocked me. I had never even tried soy sauce before! Eating spicy foods like Thai or Indian dishes, and discovering tropical flavours, was like an explosion for me.”
Exploring his culinary palette in London shaped Alex’s approach to creating different flavour profiles in drinks. Arriving in Ibiza four years ago, he took his time to process everything he had learned, from bold aromas to business skills, before opening the doors to his own premises in 2021.
We have to, of course, ask Alex about the original Balearic cocktail that the bar was named after: Café Caleta.
The coffee and rum-based creation is Ibiza’s version of a drink that was originally invented by the fishermen in Spain’s Galicia region. After it arrived on the White Isle’s shores, the recipe was tweaked and named after the famous red-cliffed Caleta beach, where marineros used to come together with friends and family after bringing in their catch.
The main ingredients of the classic Ibizan Café Caleta is a base of brandy, rum and orange liqueur. The potent concoction is brought to the boil to burn off some of the alcohol, before being mixed with black, decaffeinated coffee. Brown sugar adds a hint of sweetness. Naturally, Café Caleta has its own take on the historic Balearic punch.
Alex tells us, “When the Ibicencos went to do their military training in Galicia, they learned how to make this drink and brought it back with them. Using the fresh produce from the island, they came up with their own versions. It has become a family tradition, and like a punch, it gets served from a big ceramic jar. It’s a way to bring together the whole family, and I love this kind of sharing philosophy.”
Speaking of coffee, Café Caleta also serves up an excellent selection of specialty java. Alex used to work as a brand ambassador for Tia Maria, a dark liqueur made with Jamaican coffee – so he knows the importance of a good bean!
“From coffee producers to infusions, coffee culture is its own universe. During my time with Tia Maria, I got into coffee in a huge way, and I learned so much. For people who love coffee, it’s a religion!
“I became friends with a woman who travels around the world and collects specialty coffees, and she supplies us with small batches of independent fairtrade brands. So one week you can try a coffee from Honduras, and next time you come we have beans from Myanmar.”
On top of all of this, at Café Caleta guests will find interesting and unique specialty spirits including rare Mezcal brands, as well as artisanal beers, organic wines, a selection of vermuts and sakes. For those who prefer to drink alcohol-free, an impressive list of virgin cocktail options awaits.
Alex says, “No one is going to judge you if you don’t want to drink alcohol, so I wanted to make sure there are a lot of options. And if you don’t like any of those, we can make something especially for you. We just want to bring our guests the best experience possible and to have a good time. This is a place to chill and to feel comfortable.”
Before they get too tipsy, guests can order the enticingly titled ‘table sexies’, a selection of palate-pleasing Jamon Iberico, cheeses and Mediterranean favourites such as olives and hummus.
Considering the surprisingly (for Ibiza) friendly prices on the menu, Alex and Miriam are surely onto a winning combination.
“We don’t want to be a ‘one-night bar’ where people only come for a special occasion because we are expensive,” Miriam tells us. “We want to have regular visitors who feel like they are a part of our community. Who pop in to say hello to Alex, and stop for a quick drink.”