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With its cultural significance and architectural elegance, Buenos Aires is regarded as the Paris of South America. But a proper visit to the Argentinian capital reveals a curious urban landscape defiant of easy comparison. Its influences are eclectic, a pastiche weaving the fabric of Pampas and Patagonia with the flourishes of Italy, the stateliness of central Spain. On its face, it is surely the most European of South American destinations. Dig a little deeper, however, and you’ll soon see, this is very much a city like no other. Here’s where to drink it all in.
Buenos Aires’ Signature Drink
Throughout much of Argentina, Fernet Branca is more a ritual than it is mere booze. Combined with Coca-Cola on the rocks, it is the most classic after-dinner digestif in this part of the world. Many high-minded watering holes such as the innovative Bar 878 will deliver jazzed-up iterations, modulating the syrup and/or bittering agents. But SHOUT BAR is one of the only locations tinkering with Argentina’s other drinking ritual: yerba mate. Served in the traditional gourd, the bar’s Bullshitter cocktail blends native herbs with gin, green tea, lemon verbena and citrus. Don’t be fooled by the name: this drink is not to be messed with, nor missed.
Best Bars & Restaurants
While the Retiro section of city is brimming with clubs and vibrant nightlife, cocktail connoisseurs know it as home of South America’s finest speakeasy. Floreria Atlantico is tucked away in the basement underneath a fully operational flower shop. Before the upstairs host can even reveal the entrance to the secret space, your senses are enlivened by bouquets of budding rose and chrysanthemum. The enchantment unfurls further at a long bar stretching from end to end of the narrow, underground drinking den. On menu is a diverse array of tipples, broken down by region, spanning small single sippers to large-format punch bowls. Whether in the mood for a gin-soaked botanical infusion from the English section, or a tiki-fied rum arrangement from Cuba, the waitstaff is eager to help you find your fancy. Like the city it calls home, Floreria draws from a broad berth of cultures to arrive at something wholly unique.
Best Wineries & Breweries
Argentina has earned global recognition as a premiere wine-producing nation. When you want Malbec or Torrentés, nobody does it better. However, far less reported are the country’s craft beer credentials. Buenos Aires is showcasing suds of singular praise, particularly in the barrios surrounding Recoleta — an historic, upscale neighborhood abutting the sea. Picturesque, but also crowded with tourists. Wander westward from here into the Palermo district and reward yourself like a local at Bluedog. This sleek drinking den devoted to cerveza artesanal holds a dozen taps, ranging from reserved English-style ales, to funkier American-informed sours. Each exposes an Argentinian edge, wherein beer-making leans on exotic yeast and grain often sourced from high in the surrounding hills.
Where to Stay
Although the Four Seasons is always a safe bet, in Buenos Aires the luxury chain is even more sensible (read: affordable) than its Northern Hemisphere counterparts. The historic property rises a dozen floors above Avenida 9 de julio, enabling sweeping views of the city’s primary thoroughfare as it bisects the Ricoleta district. You might expect a buttoned-up feel here, but the bar and restaurants on property exude a refreshingly playful vibe. Pony Line, just off the lobby, offers the trappings of a modern lounge minus the pretentiousness. The menu works Argentinian viticulture into mixology; a spritz with Torrontés and elderflower liqueur is a tasty example. There’s also an extensive list of local lagers and pale ales from the city’s upstart microbreweries.
Gin is a booze defined by unique combinations of botanicals. It would stand to reason, then, that a land rich in exotic, aromatic vegetation would produce a damn good one. As qualified as Argentina may be when it comes to raw ingredients, porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) had to wait until 2014 for a taste of their very own craft offering. Principe de los Apostoles brought an end to that drought, with gusto. The new world-style bottling diminishes more traditional juniper notes in favor of a complex partnership between yerba mate, eucalyptus and pink grapefruit pith. This singularly South American offering is worth checking a bag to bring home.
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