Carousing in the cocktail capital of South America
(Gran Bar Danzón)
Like many cities around the world, Buenos Aires has recently seen a rise in the art of mixology, with bars offering delicately engineered cocktails to a public whose demand for such creations grows each day.
As testament to the city’s emerging status as South America’s cocktail capital, starting 28 April Buenos Aires is hosting Tales of the Cocktail, a renowned New Orleans festival that is heading south of the equator for the first time to share its love for all things mixology with the Argentine city.
Following the success of cocktail bars such as the speakeasy-inspired newcomer Frank’s in Palermo Hollywood and veteran-on-the-scene 878 in Villa Crespo, the Buenos Aires cocktail scene is moving towards international recognition. While the unofficial national drink of Coke and Fernet (a bitter, aromatic spirit) is not exactly complicated, many bars are stepping up their offerings. Guillermo Blumenkamp and Luis Miranda of Doppelgänger, located in the bohemian neighbourhood of San Telmo, have given Fernet a creative twist in their signature cocktail, the Berghof, comprising Jägermeister, Viognier Tardío (a type of dessert wine), cherry liquor, Fernet Branca Menta (mint-flavoured Fernet), ginger, brown sugar and lime.
A combination of events and seminars – such as The Science of Cocktails and Tiki Drinks from A to Z – the three-day festival will feature presentations by some of the world’s top mixologists, tasting of new spirits, tours of the top cocktail bars and special events that fuse Argentine culture with cocktailing.
The festival kicks off with an all-day welcome party at Estancia La Alameda, a ranch 130km southeast of Buenos Aires. The event will combine a traditional Argentine asado (barbeque) with gaucho (Argentine cowboy) music and dancing, as well as a selection of cocktails prepared by expert mixologists.
The next night, head to the It Takes Two to Tango party at Palacio Alsina, a 19th-century building converted into a nightclub in the Monserrat/Downtown area, and drink inventive cocktails to a soundtrack of techno-tango mashups.
And each night can be a tour of Buenos Aires’ top cocktail bars, where bartenders have created an exclusive signature cocktail. Along with Frank’s and 878, other participating bars include sophisticated Gran Bar Danzon in Recoleta, new seafood restaurant Florería Atlántico in Retiro, where famous Argentine mixologist Tato Giovannoni is behind the bar; and Isabel, a trendy lounge in Palermo Soho.
Admission to all parties, events and seminars costs $135; drinks are not included for the nightly cocktail tours.
Tim Fitzgerald is the Buenos Aires Localite for BBC Travel. He also writes gringoinbuenosaires.com.