Iberica’s take on Martinis and Margaritas


Australia’s iconic beachside suburb Bondi has long been a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Taking up residence in a two-storey venue on Bondi Road, Iberica has brought a modern approach to the traditional Spanish cuisine of tapas, designed to transport visitors from the beachside locale of Bondi to the Balearic Islands.

The venue is helmed by Joaquin Saez, owner of Bondi hotspot Ikaria, whose portfolio includes esteemed restaurants such as Cho Cho San, Freatelli Paradiso and Alberto’s Lounge.

Joining Joaquin as Head of Bar at the new Mediterranean eatery is Carlo Valdivia who previously led the bar at Ikaria for two years, accompanied by Executive Chef Ivan Sanchez.

Carlo, who is Mexican-born, first found his feet as a Chef in Europe where he spent many years travelling and working before deciding there was more fun to be had front-of-house.

Although he was fascinated by European cuisine and drinking culture, Carlo journeyed from London to Sydney where he has garnered experience in venues like Porteño, Continental Del, and Sokyo, before working with Joaquin to redefine Bondi’s dining and drinking landscape with the essence of the Mediterranean.

Central to Iberica’s ethos is a commitment to fresh, locally sourced ingredients, and flavours that celebrate the traditions of Balearic cuisine. Passionate about creating a holistic dining experience, Carlo has curated a Spanish-orientated wine list and cocktail menu that complement the food offering.

Speaking about his love of different cultures, Carlo explains that he dived into the history and traditions of Spain and its cuisine to develop the flavour profiles for his cocktails. Taking inspiration from the food menu, he tries to include some of the same ingredients.

“With Spanish food there are a lot of strong flavours like saffron, paprika, capsicum, I like to play with the same ingredients and balance it with something fresh,” he says.

“When you have a bite of something spicy, you need a drink that still has a bit of spice but balances the flavour and takes that kick out of your mouth.

“My focus with the drinks is to be fun and playful, I like to take ingredients that don’t make sense and make them taste good together. I have a drink on the menu that includes whiskey, carrot, mandarin, chocolate bitters, fresh lemon juice and cinnamon, usually those ingredients wouldn’t make sense but they work together in the Carrot Mandarin.”

Carlo says that his passion is creating memories for his guests: “That is what creates the whole experience for me. We have people coming back to the restaurant, and even last week we received an email requesting the recipe for a cocktail because his wife loved it and he wants to recreate it at Christmas.

“This is why we do hospitality, to create those amazing memories for people.”

One of the highlights from Carlo’s cocktail menu is the Iberica Gin Martini. Over the last year the Martini has had a resurgence of sorts, reappearing on cocktail menus around the country. Carlo points out that it can be easier to find a terrible Martini than a tasty one, which inspires him to offer an unusual take on the cocktail.

“I use the dry gin from Four Pillars in Sydney, which is very traditional for a gin Martini, but I blend it with a saffron gin from Tasmania which has more of a kick and is super aromatic. To balance this out, instead of using a dry vermouth, I use a dry chamomile sherry which helps to enhance the floral aromatics of the Martini and creates a crazy experience.

“The Iberica Gin Martini is served with a gilda or olive, me being myself I tried to think outside of the box and make my garnish different to everybody else who is doing gilda olives in Sydney. From guindilla peppers and fresh lemon I decided to make a gel which I pump into the olives and then wrap it with anchovy.”

Much like the growing popularity of the Martini, Carlo says the Margarita is the drink of choice for many in Bondi. Looking to put his own spin on the classic iteration, he introduced the Margarita 251.

“In Bondi, people drink a lot of Margaritas and Eastsides. An Eastside is usually gin, lime, mint and cucumber. So, I wanted to put these two drinks together and tie in the colours of the restaurant in Iberica, so it had to be green.

“I mixed the ingredients of those drinks together and decided it needed to be greener, and then I started thinking of the Japanese Slipper. That cocktail is usually gin, lemon, and Midori. Midori is a very old school spirit, and I don’t really like that cocktail, but I wanted to find a way to incorporate it into the drink and make it tasty. It’s almost three cocktails mixed into one.

“Margarita 251 has fresh cucumber, fresh mint, agave syrup that is infused with salted cucumber and jalapeno, elderflower and tequila. It’s sweet, it’s sour and it’s refreshing.

“A lot of people will read Midori on the menu and go back to a bad memory of the liqueur, but once they try it, we change those memories and they order two or three more.”

Sangria as a drink has a long history in Europe and has become synonymous with Spanish culture. The classic blend of wine and fruit is heartily enjoyed throughout Europe as an afternoon aperitif, a culture that Carlo is recreating at Iberica.

On the cocktail menu, you’ll find the Blanca Sangria, comprising Verdejo, gin, Suze, lemon, passionfruit, orange bitters and yuzu soda, or the Red Sangria, featuring Tempranillo, cognac, triple sec, Angostura bitters, falernum, lemon and cranberry soda.  

“A lot of people are used to bad Sangria’s full of syrup, juices and bad wine,” says Carlo. “Our Sangria’s are super refreshing, very well balanced, and served with nutmeg on top which is super tasty.”

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