It’s almost 2 AM in the city of Buenos Aires, but the city and it’s nightlife refuse to sleep. I am in Floreria Atlántico, South America’s best bar by a big margin. It has me in love with the confluence of cultures here. Being a port city, Buenos Aires has seen the coming of German brewmasters, American and Spanish bartenders, along with the Peruvian pisco, Mexican tequila, and champagne from France; bringing together cultures and beverages from all over the world and creating a potpourri that you’ll fall in love with. Even though the menu here is divided into the cultures that have shaped the history of this magical city, it’s the house speciality Ginebra con Tónica y Algo Más (gin, tonic and ‘something more’) that you must try. This house gin is infused with eucalyptus, yerba mate, grapefruit and the sprightly essence of peppermint to round it all off. By Sudipto De
Celebrating the Malbec World Day in Mendoza, Argentina
Although finding the best bars in the city might be one of our passions, nothing matches exploring the beautiful countryside of Argentina, especially the Mendoza region. Due to a micro-climate apt for growing temperamental grapes, this region is home to the country’s famous Malbec. One of the best vineyards to visit here is La Mascota, located at the foot of the Andes. For more than 30 years now, chief winemaker Rodolfo “Opi” Sadler has been creating the lovely Malbec to be served on Malbec World Day i.e April 17th every year.
All aboard the Jose Cuervo Express in Guadalajara, Mexico
The Jose Cuervo Express is the best way to explore Mexico’s national drink as it takes you on a day-long trip along the UNESCO Heritage site in Guadalajara. The trip starts off with a masterclass on tequila before snaking its way over the Mexican countryside tinged with the blue Agave plant of the La Rojeña distillery. The distinctive crow of the Jose Cuervo family hangs overhead as I head into the dark cellar full of a musty smell and the promise of some of the best tequila there is. I find Añejo cheese aged in white oak barrels giving the tequila a glowing brown colour while simultaneously infusing the flavours from the wood into it.
Not Tequila, it’s Mezcal time
Tequila isn’t really a favourite among Mexicans; Mezcal is. Made using 35 different species of the Agave family — other than the Blue Webber — the Mezcal has a richer, smokier experience which will pique your taste buds quite a bit. Once you head out of Oaxaca, you’ll find yourself in the midst of many small boutique distilleries where the traditional methods of Mezcal making are still followed. You might just find the drink being cooked in underground pits surrounded by lava rocks or being distilled in earthen clay pots which give it the distinct smoky flavour.
Why are Peruvians are all about Pisco?
Rudyard Kipling once famously described Pisco as, “the highest and noblest product of the age, composed of cherubs’ wings, the glory of a tropical dawn, the red clouds of sunset, and fragments of lost masterpieces by dead poets.” It’s very rare to find a drink that exemplifies the aspirations of a nation but Pisco — Peru’s national drink does that with effortless ease. To understand Peru and more specifically Pisco, head to Ica, one of the five designated regions where the production of this drink is allowed (Pisco production is quite regulated in Peru and only a few designated areas are allowed). Surrounded by coastal waters from Antarctica and the Andes in the East, the soil of Peru’s coastal valley is apt for the grapes that go into the drink’s production. Head to the Hacienda La Caravedo where the traditional ways of making the Pisco are still followed, including a copper pot for distilling it. Although Pisco is made with grapes, it is quite different from wine. It is, in fact, closer to brandy. Brandy, too, is aged in casks, but Pisco is considered to be purer, as it does not come in contact with either water or wood.
The Carménère of Chile
Another set of grapes, but from the Maipo valley, south of Chile’s capital Santiago. Also known as the Bordeaux of South America, there are some good Cabernet Sauvignon and Carménère coming out of this region. One of the largest winemakers is the Concha y Toro. They offer wine tours which start at their gigantic estate, cover the history of wine making in the country and also include a tasting of its famous grapes.
Of Cachaça and Caipirinha
Just as the Peruvians are in love with their Pisco, the Brazilians swear by Cachaça. Made using distilling fermented sugarcane juice, Cachaça embodies the soul of Brazilian people and even has a deep-rooted link with the slave trade of colonial times. As the Portuguese fell in love with the flavour, they imported their own stills and used their traditional cognac style distilling to create the Cachaça we know today. As Brazilian immigration peaked and scores of Italians, French and Lebanese entered Brazil, they brought with them their own styles of brewing and distilling, leading to multiple artisanal Cachaça which is still available today.
We head to Sao Paolo to try out some of these artisanal Cachaça and find ourselves staring at Papo, Pinga e Pestigo tucked into the hip Praca Roosevelt. Loosely translating to chat, Cachaça and snacks, the bar is filled with antiques and offers a cosy, old-world feel. There are quite a few Cachaça on display and we recommend trying out the ones that have been aged in barrels like the Nego Furo (Oak) and Canarinha (Amburana). The Bar do Ernesto offers the city’s largest selection of Cachaça; their famous wall has more than 500 brands lined up along with Caipirinha, Brazil’s favourite cocktail made with Cachaça, lime and sugar.
Do check out these drinking holes in South America the next time you’re planning a trip.