Have you ever seen a fully grown human, the male of the species, resplendent with beard and lumberjack shirt, knocking back a tropical-looking number complete with straw, umbrella and enough sugar to rot the teeth of an entire primary school? If you tick yes, I assure you it’s because it’s got a name he can remember when it comes to crunch time and ordering…
The world of cocktails can be complex and ordering one can be as confusing as asking for a bottle of wine. Consider the raw material too — wine is essentially smashed-up grapes while spirits come from barley or corn or juniper berries or sugar cane. The list is endless. Throw in the production process of each spirit, which can be malted, distilled once or twice, take into account its ageing and so on and cocktails aren’t just a world of their own, they’re a whole other planet in a different galaxy.
While vermouths, creams and bitters all have their part to play in the cocktail world, there is one particular drinks type that has made a veritable comeback — and it’s rightly here to stay.
An apéritif offers the following luxury, and it’s a simply glorious characteristic: you can sip away with the legitimate reason of stimulate your stomach ahead of a meal. With its origin coming from the Latin aperire, which means to open, it’s for your own good health!
Whether it’s a Manhattan, a Gimlet, a classic Martini or a Gn’T, an apéritif is the most appropriate way to kick off a meal (that or Champagne). Even a mojito, with its simple mint, soda and sugar mix on white rum, officially fits the bill when it comes to stomach settling…
If taking a barman’s course to try and get to the bottom of mixology sounds too much like hard work, try the next best thing: the Aperitour.
Now in its second year, this unique drinks tour is brought to you by the Fuudis team (the people behind Buenos Aires Food Week) and MAPA (Movimiento Aperitivo Argentino).
Aperitour involves sampling some sips made from a base of Campari, Cinzano, Cynar and Aperol — much like the Fuudis dining experience where you take in each course of a three-stage meal at three distinct restaurants — the organizers have their finger firmly on the bar pulse, whisking drinkers to the city’s latest hotspots.
While organized fun isn’t the first kind I opt for, the Aperitour has certain advantages. You get to check out new bars or go out in a hood to prove there is nightlife beyond Palermo, sample different apéritifs designed by each bar’s staff, gulp down some bar snacks thereby replacing dinner, and meet people in one hit. Plus, it’s ideal for visitors to use as a starting point.
Taking place on a monthly basis, it’s organized on a neighbourhood basis — I went on the Palermo Soho excursion, for example. And despite my best intentions to go out all night every night, two out of the three bars we visited were unknown quantities — on my radar but never formally visited.
The night began early at 7.30pm on a given street corner. Once all gathered — more or less — the first port of call was Bernata. A Spanish-run tapas bar on Honduras and Uriarte, the house drink was enormous, served in a vast balloon glass, elegant and herbaceous with cucumber slices. The very keen could loiter at the bar and watch the barman in action. The only drawback was that he was putting so much love into each drink, that it was almost time to go by the time I got mine. The vibe, however, was friendly, and no one minded knocking back their booze, least of all me.
Bernata itself was a hip space, with one wall a blackboard dedicated to all the tempting tapas, certainly giving up a reason to return. We also got to sample some of the wares such as deep-fried mozarella sticks with a tomato chutney, helpful stomach lining.
The second port of call beckoned and despite the drizzly night, no matter, we were only walking a few blocks to Soria on Gorriti. The queues on a Saturday night mean it’s a place I’d go to never in a million years — and have only stuck my nose into — but at 8.30pm on a Thursday, it was still quiet.
A cool in/out space, the Aperitour had the back salon reserved, a sultry living room with an eclectic range of furniture, fun street art and bunting. It was a bit too dark to inspect the mixology, and after that first Bernata bonanza, tongues were now loose and punters were happily gossiping, sharing titbits about favourite bars and drinks.
Soria’s drink had elements of a Negroni to it, bitter, smooth and hearty with a Campari base, but it was a bit too ferocious this early on in the evening. All part of the apéritif learning curve.
The final port was Duarte, on Godoy Cruz. By 9.30 this joint, run by an ex-878 barman, was already packing out but again, the Aperitour had cordoned off space for its 25 revellers.
Tongues were now so loose they were falling out of mouths and the banter had gone up several notches. Duarte offered up a choice of two apéretifs but clearly by this point, I had could have been sipping a piña colada and been none the wiser. Drinking had been replaced by out-‘n-out flirting and while it seemed my table was filled by a gaggle of old mates, no no, they’d just met earlier that evening.
My mission — to check out two bars new to me and sample some drinks — was accomplished. But who knows where the table of overly friendly folk at Duarte ended up?
Buenos Aires Herald, November 30, 2014
The last Aperitour of the year takes place on December 11 at Blanch. Email the team at email@example.com for more details.
Check out last week’s piece on Microcentro’s latest hip watering-hole Shout Drinks and Brasas.