Alquímico, which has a different menu for each floor, is highlighting Colombian ingredients and experimental techniques in a stunning old mansion.
I shouldn't have been surprised that my night at Alquímico was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had at a bar, as it was recently named the tenth best bar in the world. But I’d never been to one of the ten best bars in the world before, and I didn’t know exactly what I was in for.
Located in Cartagena’s Old Town, Alquímico is set inside of an ornate old mansion that reflects the neighborhood’s historic architecture, with two indoor levels and a third rooftop floor. Art Deco details, a grand double-sided staircase on the first floor, a balcony on the second, and vintage accents like crown moldings create a sense of grandiosity as soon as you step inside.
While the space itself is enough to make you remember a night at Alquímico, deemed the best bar in South America by the World's 50 Best Bars, the creative menus — a different one for every floor — make it one of the coolest cocktail experiences you'll ever have.
Floor 1 - La Mansión
Floor one is where you’ll have your first cocktail of the night, and its menu is fittingly more cerebral — the bar describes its first level as “the essence of Alquímico.” The drinks on this floor are unique to the bar and extremely creative, featuring spirits infused with flavors like corn, green tea, or even cheese. These are the kind of cocktails that you want to think more about; they deserve to be sipped and savored before you’ve had three espresso martinis.
While on floor one I tried the Té Caribeño, a tart, earthy, and subtly sweet concoction of Tanqueray Rangpur gin, Maraschino liqueur, a green tea infusion, dehydrated coconut, Peruvian groundcherries, and lime juice. (Alquímico recently redesigned all of its menus, and a server told me that this was her favorite out of the new drinks.)
Floor 2 - El Balcón
The second level of Alquímico is dedicated to classic cocktails, which you can sip on the grand balcony while peering down at the floor below. None of the drinks on this menu, however, are straightforward versions of the classic cocktails you may know; the bar puts a unique spin on each one. I tried the Clear Espresso Martini, which, as its name indicates, was completely clear (instead of the typical brown) and flavored with a hint of cardamom. The Ayu, or House Highball, includes coca cordial and orange blossom, while the Tomoji (House Mojito) adds lemongrass and sage in with the usual mint and lime.
None of these new takes on classic drinks felt gimmicky, either. Even the Clear Espresso Martini, which could easily rely on its color alone as a selling point, was spectacularly delicious with warmly spiced notes from the additions of cardamom and cocoa.
Floor 3 - Terraza
Floor number three screams “fun,” which seems appropriate since it’s where you’ll end the night. Located on the rooftop of Alquímico, you can look out at the night sky while dancing to reggaeton and remixes of pop hits. The drinks reflect this spirited, let-loose vibe. This level’s tiki-inspired menu is packed with fruity, refreshing cocktails, none of which are too sweet.
I had the Mandarino, a citrusy blend of gin, Alquímico’s own mandarin-lemon liqueur, pineapple extract, lime juice, and bee pollen. Bright, juicy, and refreshing drinks like these are exactly what I want at the end of the night. I don’t need something as strong as a martini (can you tell I think of everything in terms of martinis?), and a big glass full of ice and something super refreshing is perfect for sipping in the hot Cartagena air.
Most of the cocktails, no matter the floor, rely on fruits, herbs, and other organic ingredients. Perhaps the best part of Alquímico is how it shows off Colombia’s biodiversity and indigenous ingredients. Co-owner Jean Trinh actually purchased a farm in the country’s coffee region in 2019, which now supplies the bar with much of this produce. So when I say “Alquímico’s own mandarin-lemon liqueur,” I mean that quite literally.
If that wasn’t enough, Trinh also used the farmland to house and feed his staff during the early part of the pandemic, when the bar was forced to close. It’s this respect for the earth and what it can produce that adds an extra layer of magic behind Alquímico’s drinks.