43 Calle Argumosa
Tel: 34 91 467 0202
The restaurant in the Museo Reina Sofía, Madrid's most avant-garde museum, is everything you'd expect. A shimmering red ceiling ripples and then soars skyward, giving the place a bizarre sense of sci-fi motion. On Wednesday through Sunday, the place is not limited by the opening hours of the museum and doubles as a lounge and dance club, DJ included. The kitchen is equally avant-garde, the brainchild of Sergi Arola (the Adrià protégé of two-Michelin-star La Broche fame). Needless to say, these aren't your Spanish grandfather's tapas. Don't be squeamish about eating raw pork: a carpaccio of solomillo de cerdo ibérico (loin of acorn-fed black pigs) is spot-on.
3 Calle Caños Viejos
Tel: 34 91 366 1596
Frank Lloyd Wright shades of browns and organic yellows deck out this loud, warmly lit hot spot in the old La Latina neighborhood, where you'll find beautiful twenty- and thirtysomething crowds rubbing elbows indoors or relaxing (and actually hearing each other speak) on the rattan furniture outside, overlooking a big viaduct. Mojitos are tasty, and frequent live jazz and funk acts add to the fun. The place hops every night of the week, but come on a Thursday and you'll meet utter insanity (enter the bar before 11 p.m. so as not to get shut out).
2 Paseo de Recoletos
Tel: 34 91 595 4800
This luxuriously sprawling outdoor bar, set on a series of terraces in the garden of the Casa de América cultural center, is on the more sedate end of the Madrid cocktail scene. It's a lovely, tree-shaded, candlelit setup, frequented by an older selection of moneyed Madrileños. Order something appropriately pompous to match the setting, like a negroni, and contemplate the good life. The wine list and top-shelf liquor list are respectable, but it's all about the atmosphere. The place shuts down early by Madrid standards, around midnight, leaving plenty of time to hit the real bar scene afterward.
18 Calle Castelló
Tel: 34 91 575 2866
Architect Ignacio García de Vinuesa has created a memorable visual experience at this tapas and cocktail bar: Recessed lamps emit a warm, romantic light that dances off walls in browns, greens, and oranges. Chef Elías Murciano's seasonal Mediterranean menu changes frequently and is extremely inventive: Think artichoke soup with mullet and vanilla oil or a "carpaccio" of figs and Campari gelatin. You can sit at the informal tapas bar or sit down for a full meal, but it is the former that perhaps best exposes you to the modern concept of the place, where you'll find trendsters galore. Murciano's wine list is also excellent.
17 Calle Morería
Tel: 34 91 365 8446
Taking in a flamenco show in Madrid can be a fantastic experience, but beware cheesy imitationstourist traps abound. Moreíra is the real deal, the place where all the big-name dancers perform when they're in the city and where the stars come to take in a show. The walls are covered in pictures of patrons past and present, spanning 50 yearsfrom JFK, Che Guevara, and Frank Sinatra to Bono, Hugh Grant, and Sarah Jessica Parker. The venue is a typical tablao, with a small stage at one end of the huge room and the rest of the space crammed with wooden tables and chairs. Dinner is served before the show, with a minimum expenditure of €45 ($71) per person, not including the €30 ($47) entrance fee. The dancing (and singing) begin at 10 pm, with the house troupe followed by an invited guest performer. It's all very serious, and at times it seems certain the foot stomping will break the wooden stage. Seating is assigned depending on when the reservation is made, so book early.
Open daily 8 pm to 2 am.
12 Calle de la Reina
Tel: 34 91 523 3106
Dapper in his dark suit, distinguished in his courtly manner, and wrinkled with cocktail wisdom, Fernando del Diego presides over his warmly lit zinc bar with a level of precision and humble attention to detail that is a revelation even in a city full of great bars. House creations include the Diego, with vodka, kirsch, lime, and melocotón (a sweet, red squash-like fruit); the soltero tranquilo, with vodka, Calvados, lime, and blue curaçao; and one of the best-balanced mint juleps in existence. Yet to focus merely on del Diego's recipes is to appreciate only part of his talent. Stop and take a moment simply to watch the master mixologist's hands—the measured flick of ice cracker against cube nestled in his palm, or the quick, compact full-arm shake that kicks up a froth neither one millimeter taller nor one millimeter shorter than is intended. This is where an Adrià foam meets a Federer forehand, and it's much appreciated by the thirtysomething local crowd, who are here for the cocktails rather than to be seen.
43 Calle Alberto Alcocer
Tel: 34 91 345 9047
Pintxos are Basque-style tapas, bites atop slices of French bread, and they represent one of the most fun little traditional corners of Spanish cuisine. Depintxos is a Madrid hot spot at the moment, not just for its pintxos but also for its luxe modern atmosphere, especially on the pleasant outdoor terrace, which is well situated for people-watching (though you'll probably be watching the beautiful people around you rather than scanning the sidewalk). Prices are surprisingly low, which is part of why you might endure a wait before sitting down. The food won't blow you away, but the codfish-stuffed roasted red pepper is nicely balanced, its cod slightly granular but creamy, and the pepper is delicately fried in a thin batter. Cubes of pork loin in mustard sauce atop french fries is a well-executed comfort food. Less convincing, though, are the blood sausage stuffed with too much rice and ill-paired with brie, and jamón ibérico.
31 Manuela Malasaña
In keeping with the style consciousness of the neighborhood, this Malasaña lounge and dance club is owned by the artist Yurena, formerly known as Ámbar and before that as Tamara. Glam Street attracts an older crowd than some of the more down-and-dirty pubs that line the area's streets. A rotating cast of DJs spins here, with a common focus on indie pop. Things generally don't get going until after midnight. Arrive ready to dance.
34 Carrera de San Jerónimo
Tel: 34 91 787 7770
If you can get in—and come early (before 10 p.m.) if you want to be guaranteed a spot—these bars in Hotel Urban are the hottest places in the city for young professionals and beautiful people to sip cocktails. It's not hard to see why: The Urban's smooth angles of glass create an environment so cutting-edge it borders on apocalyptic, although inside the Glass Bar, you'll probably have to wait until the end of the world to get the bartender's attention. (At least he or she will be spectacularly attractive.) La Terraza del Urban is the most appealing space of all: Its rooftop views are unparalleled, its chaise longues luxuriant, and its sofas sexy. There's even a swimming pool.
8 Calle Rollo
Tel: 34 91 547 1005
The groundbreaking drinks at this artistically lit "bar gastronómico" extend the Spanish flair for culinary experimentation to the cocktail shaker. The selva negra is vodka infused with vanilla and strawberry and mixed with strawberry juice, white-chocolate liqueur, and chocolate dust, for a dessert-like approach to mixological perfection. Vodka is only one among many infused liquors: Tequila is flavored with orange and mandarin peel; whiskey, with apple and pear; and pacharán (sloe gin from Navarra) is seasoned with myriad spices. The crowd is international and a bit studenty.
43 Avenida Alberto Alcocer
Like a playroom for older kids, this nightclub is decked out in pop art, museum-worthy lighting, and trendy furniture and is one of the spots of the moment for the 25-to-40 dance crowd. The before-dinner hour is fairly low-key, but late at night the cover is a bit steep—averaging 25 euros ($34) for the privilege of paying ten euros ($14) per cocktail. It's a filtering mechanism: You're not just paying to hear prominent local live-music acts, nor to lounge around a spectacularly landscaped outdoor terrace–Japanese garden; you're also paying to be around the beautiful people until at least 5 a.m. The website lists upcoming shows, and look out for fashion-show cocktail hours.
19 Calle Infantas
Tel: 34 91 522 8138
Madrid's barrio of Chueca offers the city's most eclectic array of restaurants, bars, and shops. One of the newest is Isolée, a multi-function space (including fashion, home decor, and gourmet food shops) chosen by Moët to house its Bubble Lounge, one of only four in the world. The Bubble Lounge, done out in black and gold, is located in the basement and frequented by a chic predinner crowd. Champagne is sold by the glass or bottle, and there's a cocktail menu that includes a Moët Bellini and a Moët Mimosa. For bubbles with a bite, try a Moët Black Velvet, which mixes Champagne and Guinness.
Open Sundays through Thursdays 6 to 10 pm, Fridays and Saturdays 7 pm to 1 am.
56 Calle de José Abascal
Tel: 34 91 399 0900
Hanging white orbs play off sexy shades of red at this Chamberi hot spot, where a rotation of three resident DJs plus a host of visitors spin house music until at least 6 a.m. The door, especially after midnight, is your classic velvet-rope situation: That is, you're well advised either to be a good-looking female or to have some along. Otherwise, there's no telling how long you'll wait or how much you'll pay for the privilege of entry. Theoretically, e-mailing in advance should get you on the guest list. If you get hungry, there are two restaurants, Asialounge (Vietnamese-influenced pan-Asian) and Momabar (Spanish-influenced global fusion), that serve food until 3 a.m. on weekends. Booking at one of the restaurants can be another way to lift the rope.
8 Calle Clavel
Tel: 34 91 531 9186
Rick's in Casablanca wasn't a gay barat least not openlybut its Madrid namesake is. The Humphrey Bogart theme is fleshed out with marble floors, casbah-style cushions, curtains, and so on. Might all sound a bit cheesy, but they somehow manage to pull it off with class, which is far from a foregone conclusion in Chueca. In part because of the incessant theming, the place is more bar than dance club, although there is dancing, and this being Madrid, it hops until dawn nonetheless. Rick's has also become touristy, but that's not necessarily a bad thing, in this case. After all, sometimes you want to meet other tourists, and this is a point of reference for all.
4 Calle Virgen de los Peligros
Tel: 34 91 521 4031
Suite, a gay hot spot with a mixed crowd not far from Puerta del Sol, is anything you want it to be. There's a trendy restaurant; there's a bar that teems with plant life; there's a discotheque; and perhaps best of all, there's a memorably beautiful terrace and garden full of trees and fresh air out back. Suite's music tends to have a deep groove to it, and even amid the crowds of good-looking twentysomethings on the dance floor, the place manages not to feel overcrowded or claustrophobic. Wear your party clothes.