Vintage Cocktails in Buenos Aires: 3 Bars Inspired by the Past
The Italian and Spanish immigrants who originally settled in Buenos Aires had their own well-defined cocktail traditions, but somewhere along the line, mixed drinks went out of style in the Argentinian capital. These days, porteños aren’t big cocktail drinkers – unless you count the ubiquitous bottle of Fernet Branca, a bitter herbal spirit found at every house party in the city – but it’s a tendency that’s slowly changing. Witness the mini-Renaissance of the classic cocktail at three serious watering holes inspired by the city’s past.
The Journalist: Doppelgänger
Don’t even think about asking for cerveza (beer) at this storied corner bar – it’s one of the only places in the city that won’t serve you a cold Quilmes. Indeed, it’s all about classic cocktails at Doppelgänger, a quietly sophisticated venue that pays homage to the vermouth tradition practiced by the city’s original immigrants, including the co-owner’s grandfather – find his likeness in the the huge antique black and white photograph hanging over the kitchen window.
One to try? The Journalist, a 30s-era gin concoction with equal parts dry and sweet vermouth. As the bar’s tagline goes, ‘this is not for everyone.’ That’s true – it’s only for people who like good drinks.
Cinzano Bianco y soda: La Esperanza de los Ascurra
Relatively new on the city’s drining and drinking scene, this friendly vermouth bar is known for its perfectly prepared tapas (empanadas gallegas, anyone?) as much as its cocktails. Like at Doppelgänger, the owners’ grandparents – from Spain – serve as the inspiration, and stepping inside the warmly lit La Esperanza de los Ascurra, you’ll feel like you’re in any classic corner bar in Madrid.
To properly soak up the vintage Spanish atmosphere, pull up a stool to the high wooden communal table in front of the bar and order a Cinzano Bianco (sweet white vermouth) with soda and a twist of lemon. And a plate of morrones asados (grilled red peppers.) And the papas bravas (deep-fried potatoes.) And maybe a couple of albóndigas (Spanish meatballs) for good measure.
The Old-Fashioned: 878
What started out as a closed-door bar on a residential block, the entrance barely distinguishable from outside – 878 is the street number – has turned into a more conventional cocktail bar. But the superb quality of the cocktails hasn’t changed. The trick is managing to get a word in with the bartender: 878 is extremely popular, especially after a certain hour on weekend nights.
The seductive space – low-lit, with exposed brick walls, rustic wooden tables, and a long, snaking bar attended by elegantly dressed barmen – might put you in the mood for whiskey. Perfect, because 878 makes a mean Old-Fashioned (for non-Mad Men initiates, that’s rye whiskey and club soda with a dash or three of Angostura bitters.)
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