El Barón: Cartagena's sustainable cocktail bar
Cartagena is full of trendy bars, restaurants and watering holes. But the hippest of them all is El Barón, nestled in the Plaza San Pedro Claver and serving up cocktails from around the world, all with a sustainable soul. This is why you need to make it your next drink destination.
“The variety of spirits were pretty limited,” explains Noah Matthies, a German mixologist who moved to Colombia after falling in love with Cartagena. “The general cocktail knowledge of locals was limited as well and so we started with a classic cocktail bar concept and an additional innovative house cocktail menu.”
Since opening its doors in 2013 in a family house in a former handcraft store, belonging to owner Juan David’s father, El Barón has gone from strength to strength, and regularly tops “where to drink” and “Cartagena’s best bars” lists.
Noah’s background as a chemist – he was studying chemistry at university in Germany before giving it up to travel the world – is evident in his painstakingly-precise cocktail making.
“We dehydrate fruits in house for garnish, we infuse spirits with various herbs. At the moment we are using techniques such as milk wash [a process whereby hot milk is added to the mixed cocktail, curdling the milk. The liquid is then strained to remove curds, also removing the cloudiness from the drink and making it crystal clear]. We’re also currently working with butterfly pea flower, cacao butter fat wash, and how to perfectly balance the pH in a cocktail.”
El Barón is also known for its sustainable practices, and working with the local community.
The bar team grows many of its herbs in the rooftop garden, and focuses on “using as little plastic as possible and producing minimal waste”. You won’t see any plastic straws here. El Barón uses local non-profit social enterprise Green Apple to advise on how to dispose of waste, recycle and implementing sustainable practices, such as sending the bar’s food waste to the organisation to compost in El Barón’s very own worm farm.
“We want to be an example for sustainability in an environment where still a lot of people are fighting for their daily needs – food, water, clothes.”
The team is also working with “Granitos de Paz”, a foundation which teaches the local community how to grow herbs, fruit and vegetables in their back garden or even on the street.
“It’s really important to us to show people how vital it is to have quality food in their diet,” says Noah, who has worked as head bartender since the bar opened. “Not only that but to show them where food comes from, and how they can grow it and sustain themselves. Everyone we employ on the team is Colombian, and locals own shares in the bar.”
“From the beginning we had a vision to offer education and knowledge with both our clients and the community. That’s why we founded El Barón Academy in 2017, a teaching a tasting program, showing people the art of fermenting and distilling beverages. Through Green Apple, we also teach them about food waste and rubbish, and how that can be properly disposed of.”
“We help all our employees create a person vision for what they want to achieve in life, and provide options and support for them to constantly progress.”