Beer drinkers, go home

Pull up a bar-side stool to watch cocktail masters Guillermo and Luis at work.
Pull up a bar-side stool to watch cocktail masters Guillermo and Luis at work.
In the six days since this latest year has commenced, I expect you to have been hungover — thanks to too many sherries, too much Fernet and cola, or too many flutes of fizz — at least once. And as it’s now Sunday, perhaps it’s been twice, or even thrice. But who am I to judge?

“If you were to ask me if I’d ever had the bad luck to miss my daily cocktail, I’d have to say that I doubt it; where certain things are concerned, I plan ahead.” Luis Buñuel.

I know my grandmother would have agreed with him. For her, the bar — at home — always opened at 5pm. At times a little earlier, on other occasions slightly later. But self-service was always available.

I’ve just been devouring some trashy summer novel about British expatriates in India in the late 1920s, and it seems that the time there was always gin o’clock. Or champagne hour. Any old reason to crack open, well, anything.

Certainly it’s a tradition lost on my generation, mainly because we’re underfunded and have to undertake the daily chore of going to work. That said, one highlight of my cocktail calendar is the charity fundraisers in the garden at the British Embassy. Head straight to the back of the lawn where the beef is grilling and the ice is cold. That’s right, those Anglo-Argentines know how to fix a drink all right. I’ll have a gin, easy on the tonic, thanks.

Now, bartenders and mixologists are a buzz word on the local scene, and nudging at celebrity chefs for a status look-in — who wouldn’t want to have a Mr Fix It of that variety popping up on occasion?

Fede Cuco, who proudly knots his bow-tie himself, is the guest barman of the moment — drop by Unik and the drinks list has Cuco’s concoctions abounding from his days as head barman, while he also swings by to mix up drinks at the Thank Fierro It’s Friday event at Hernán Gipponi Restaurant. One of his main interests is getting vermouth back on to drinks lists, and he’s quite the purveyor of Campari and Cynar, the predominantly artichoke liqueur, which is slowly regaining notoriety thanks to Cuco’s efforts around Buenos Aires at encouraging drinkers to dabble with a Cynar Julep. And it’s a darned fine drink, let me tell you, refreshing yet not overly sweet. The differential to my usual Mojito.

In fact, it was Cuco who trained Luis Miranda, barman at Doppelgänger bar, who accompanies owner Guillermo Blumenkamp on the mission to save the world from badly made drinks.

Doppel is not new, four years young in fact, yet its concept remains innovative. It only sells real drinks, apéritifs, made by these two gentlemen’s fair hands. Beer chuggers (draft and bottle), wine sippers and “I don’t drink alcohol” types, go home. Doppel is not for you.

The art is in the drinks at Doppel, and if you choose not to explore your artistic side, then so be it. The barmen won’t mind.

On a familiar-looking yet darkish San Telmo corner, you are buzzed into a bar that pays tribute to the speakeasy era of the 1930s in its very physical essence — think vitraux windows, sturdy soda-siphons, slightly lowered blinds, top-quality spirits and the finest crystal glasses just waiting to have something chilled and delectable decanted into them. Be sure to take a look at one of the menus dedicated exclusively to Martinis.

Luis and Guillermo like to get drink-making exactly right — it is a science and no one would expect a Beef Wellington to appear three minutes after it was ordered. So the order of the day is to lick your lips in anticipation and kick back with some tapas in the meantime. Regulars include the Guía Oleo crowd, people who surely appreciate a decent drink and a half, who, as Guillermo says, “are sipping drinks brought over by our immigrant grandparents to celebrate friendship.”

Happy hour on weekdays is a good deal, two apéritifs for 65 pesos from a 30-strong menu, and the classics all feature: New Yorkers, Tom Collins and the like. Pull up a bar-side stool to watch the masters at work, then enjoy the fruits of their labour by trying not to down your aperitifs of choice in one.

And if San Telmo seems a bit of a schlep, frankly you won’t regret the journey.

Juan de Garay 500, San Telmo
Tel: 4300-0201

Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on January 6, 2013
Photo courtesy of Pick Up The Fork

Why not drop by Dill & Drinks, another bar on a mission to save the world from badly made drinks. You can read more about it here.

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