BUENOS AIRES FOREVER THRUMS WITH THE NOSTALGIA OF EL TANGO but, as a massive cosmopolitan city, it is constantly advancing its unique cultural trends.
This same spirit exists in its bartenders, who not only look to the history of local cocktail culture, which has been well established for over a century, but also to New York, London and Berlin to incorporate the latest cocktail trends.
This is a city where several cocktail books had been published by 1911, where professional bartenders arrived from the US in 1917, and where local bartenders were celebrities in the 50s and 60s with presence on TV. The past 15 years have been led by a generation who rediscovered its own heritage, opened bars, and joined the global renaissance of cocktail mixing, giving the local scene an unprecedented vitality over the past 40 years.
There are dive bars and speakeasies, both inspired by local history (or even the stories of Julius Verne), high-volume to small and controversial bars, all sharing one base – they serve extremely good cocktails.
Federico ‘Cuco’ Lorenzoni, bartender at Verne, explains what people are drinking: “New interpretations of old classics, aperitifs and gin-based cocktails, as well as local spirits such as hesperidina, pineral or pear eau de vie made in Patagonia.”
Doppelganger is a small but key bar on the local scene, with a menu of some 120 cocktails, including signature recipes, forgotten classics and Martinis. “Our Di Cardinale has vermouth rosso and bianco, moscato, cynar, fernet, hesperidina, lime juice and cider syrup,” says Guillermo Blumenkamp, owner and bartender.
“I don’t know if there are cocktails that are more popular than others in Buenos Aires, but I know that bartenders fall in love with classic or contemporary recipes and popularise them – we are communicators,” says Ezequiel Rodriguez, head bartender at Victoria Brown, one of the latest speakeasies.
Julian Diaz, owner, sommelier and bartender adds: “There is a boom in Buenos Aires aperitifs. We really like bitter flavours, herbs and fresh citrus juices. Also, the demand for fresh cocktails that are low in alcohol keeps growing.”
Buenos Aires always looked at what was happening in the world, but according to Diaz, this is also changing: “It was always the peripheral bars copying those in Europe or the US, whereas today the relationship is more symmetric - there’s a mutual interest between bars from different places.”
Another popular bar is speakeasy Harrison, known for Sebastián Garcia’s signature cocktails: “One of the most succesful cocktails now is the Conde Niccoló, made with Fernet Branca, ginger, lime and cinamon syrup.”
Growing restrictions on imports of foreign liquor have reinforced experimental craftsmanship in the bars –techniques such as macerations, infusions and the use of barrels or batch cocktails to expand the supply. With this, local spirits started to bloom, such as a pear eau de vie produced in Rio Negro, a single malt named La Alazana made in Patagonia, or the successful Gin Príncipe de los Apóstoles created by Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni using peppermint, eucalyptus, grapefruit peels and yerba mate. Tato is also one of the owners of Florería Atlántico, a charming bar with a unique proposal of cocktails, wines and grill inspired by the port and immigrant history of Buenos Aires. The bar was twice elected among The World’s 50 Best Bars and is one of the most popular in the city.
Finally, hotel bars have always been a refuge for classic cocktails, such as the Hotel Plaza where Negroni continues to be one of the most popular classics, but there are also style bars such as the Pony Line in the Four Seasons hotel.
Buenos Aires is much more than tango, asado, wine, Maradona and Messi. It’s the city to discover through cocktails.