You need a secret code to enter Frank’s. Punch the numbers into a telephone dial pad in a phone booth outside the bar,and a concealed door swings open to reveal a classic cocktail joint that swaggers with the decadence of a 1920s Chicago speakeasy.
in the evolving Hollywood neighbourhood, Buenos Aires’ young and beautiful sip classic
cocktails like the bourbon-based Old Fashioned, and house twists on vintage
tipples, like the Old French Style, a dry aperitif that is a delicious,
aromatic blend of single-malt whisky, orange bitters and truffle honey.
Over at Isabel,
meanwhile, in the ultra-cool Soho district, patrons lounge in oyster-shaped
booths backed by floor-to-ceiling mirrors. This glamorous clientele sips bubbly
champagne cocktails and highballs like the 1950s Puerto Rican classic, Campari
in the bohemian San Telmo quarter, celebrates 1930s Berlin. Its customers drink
dry Martinis with twists of citrus peel beneath Art Deco lighting and modernist
artworks. It is slightly maverick and deliciously shady; a place lifted from an
inter-war-years yarn by Graham Greene.
All have diverging concepts, but these bars share
one major trait: they are leading lights in this wave of hip new cocktail bars.
The inspiration here is the 1900 to 1960 golden age of the cocktail, when
everyone from starlets of the silver screen to Chicago mobsters sipped
glamorous drinks like the Aviation (a blend of gin, maraschino liqueur, crème de
violette and lemon juice) and the Manhattan,
which is made with whiskey, sweet vermouth and bitters.
If the retro tipple is not your thing, the city
also has plenty of stylish, modern cocktail bars to appeal to the contemporary
in Soho is winning fame for its simple, zingy inventions, much loved by
creative-industry professionals who seek tables in Río’s multi-space interior
or on its funky, palm-tree-shaded terrace. They order cocktails like the Pomelo
Rossi Sangria – a mix of Martini Rosso, pink grapefruit juice and fresh mint –
that are simple, punchy and served in jugs for sharing.
So what is driving this exciting new cocktail scene?
All Argentines share a lust for the thrillingly new and creative; and the
country’s economic prosperity is giving its residents the hard cash to convert
cool concepts into exciting realities. The Argentine capital is also a hotspot
for young North Americans and Europeans who are keen to escape the ravages of the
recession at home, drawn by Buenos Aires’ repute as South America’s most
Although this new influx of immigrants barely
registers at a national level in Argentina, it is keenly felt in Buenos Aires
-- particularly in its most fashionable districts, like hip Palermo Soho,
upscale Recoleta and emerging San Telmo, where the majority of new expats now
choose to live.
In these neighbourhoods, youthful entrepreneurs
with an eye on the zeitgeist are responding to shifting micro demographics. While
many daring bar and dining concepts have centred around the food, designed to
seduce a broader diversity of palates, others are experimenting with mixology.
Inés de los Santos is a drinks designer whose inventive creations
enliven drinks menus across the capital, including at Río Café. She says the secret
behind these great cocktail bars is synergy.
“Río Café is inspired by Río de Janeiro, and
its cocktails reflect that city’s spirit. These are light, uncomplicated
drinks: breezy, fresh and cheerful – just like the city – and they match the cool,
breezy style of this bar,” she said. “They are different from the complex,
classic cocktails at Frank’s or Doppelgänger, which are just as successful in their
Head to Río Café on Wednesday or Thursday
around midnight, when DJs play sets. Isabel – arguably Buenos Aires’ sexiest
cocktail spot – thrives on Fridays. Frank’s (access
the entrance code via Frank’s Facebook page)
and Doppelgänger fill up on weekends after midnight.
And if you hanker after something truly
different, Prado y Neptuno is a
boutique cigar and cocktail spot in the exclusive Recoleta district. Here you
will find smoked-infused cocktails and daiquiris served with a splash of sweet
vermouth – sacrilege to the cocktail purist. Try their magical Mai Tai; the
base of Caribbean rums is poured not from a bottle, but from a tiny French-oak
barrel, where it is stored for weeks and infused with rich cinnamon and vanilla
The article 'Cocktailing in the Argentine capital' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet.