MAPA and the Revival of the Apéritif

Perhaps you’ve heard: in Buenos Aires, the aperitivo is back. The resurgence of the leisurely old tradition – sipping a cocktail, often vermouth-based, to stimulate the appetite before a meal – is partly due to the efforts of the one organization, the Movimiento Aperitivo Argentino (MAPA). Here’s what they’re up to, and a short list of the best places in the city for classic apéritifs.

MAPA bag

MAPA bag – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Comprised of a handful of Buenos Aires’ top tastemakers from the fields of food, wine, and spirits, MAPA is a group with a clearly stated goal: to share their passion for the custom of taking aperitivos, whether creating imaginative new cocktails or appreciating the classics inherited from a generation of immigrants who came to Argentina from Spain and Italy. In 2013, MAPA put on a much-talked-about event, inviting mixologists from across the country to compete against one another to create the year’s best new cocktail.

MAPA brunch event

MAPA brunch event – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

I missed that day – I was traveling elsewhere in South America during the competition – so I was excited to hear that last year’s winner would be present at a MAPA brunch event last week. Here’s Simón Tello of Córdoba, Argentina, mixing up his winning concoction. Made with Príncipe de los Apóstoles gin, Cynar, lemon juice, simple syrup and tonic, the aperitivo is charmingly named ‘Buenos Días Rodolfo.’

Mixologist at MAPA event

Mixologist at MAPA event – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Cynar – along with Cinzano, Aperol, and Campari – serve as basic ingredients of the Argentinian aperitivo.  Here are a few to try, and where to find them.

Aperol spritz at Rey de Copas

My go-to cocktail bar at the moment, the lovely Rey de Copas, is also my favorite place to order an Aperol spritz, or simply ‘una Spritz': Aperol mixed with sparkling wine, or white wine with soda, and a twist of orange. Rey de Copas is such a uniquely gorgeous space, filled with art and antiques, that it’s difficult to choose where to sit down – and now the bar has opened a charming winter terrace upstairs. It’s open to the night sky, but warmed by outdoor space heaters: perfect for the chilly autumn and winter weather that’s setting in.

Rey de Copas

Rey de Copas – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

El Lombardi at 878

It’s hard to find a bar in Buenos Aires with more onda (loosely translated: ‘atmosphere’) than sultry 878 – or better cocktails. Formerly a closed-door venue, it’s still easy to pass by, as there’s no sign outside. Beat the weekend crowds and come on a weeknight: the ‘hora vermú,’ a vermouth-focused happy hour, runs from 8-9pm. Try the excellent negroni or the more adventurous (and even more potent) Lombardi, made with Aperol, Cinzano, Campari and lemon peel.

Cinzano on the rocks at La Esperanza de los Ascurra

The delightfully down-to-earth tapas bar in Villa Crespo has opened a second – somewhat sleeker – location in Palermo Hollywood. Keep it simple at La Esperanza: order papas bravas and a Cinzano and soda on the rocks. At least to start.

Delve into the porteño gourmet scene in Buenos Aires with LAN Airlines and its affiliates, offering daily nonstop flights from Miami to Buenos Aires, plus daily connecting flights from New York and Los Angeles.

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