South America has been a special part of my life for four decades. I have lived many years in Brasil and Peru. I am married to an incredible lady from Argentina. I want to share South America with you.
The sultry Rio temperatures call for ice-cold beers and freshly made caipirinhas, cocktails and cachaça. Georgia Grimond picks some of the best
Riba brought its artisanal beer to Leblon at the beginning of 2016 and has already amassed a loyal customer base, successfully bridging the gap between the postbeach stop and a smarter evening destination. Slickly designed by São Paulo design studio Super Limão, it opens up an entire corner on Dias Ferreira, one of Rio’s top addresses. The shutters turn cleverly into seats when the bar is open and the toilet doors double as bike racks. Each table has a USB charging point and a bag shelf, satisfying two great Brazilian preoccupations: keeping up with social media and a reluctance to put a handbag on the floor.
On Tuesday nights Riba invites a guest beer brand or food or drink specialist to take up residence behind the bar. It teamed up with top Argentine mixologist and Rio resident Tato Giovannoni to create one of its three bottled cocktails. The focus, however, is on the beer: Riba’s own India Pale Ale and Pilsen, as well as Goose Island Honkers, Leffe Blonde, Hoegaarden, Wäls Dubbel.
Brigite’s is a (misspelt) homage to Brigitte Bardot, who came to Rio in 1964. After a stay at the Copacabana Palace, the film star snuck up the coast with her boyfriend for a quiet break, inadvertently putting the small fishing village of Búzios on the map.
Brigite’s, in Leblon, is a cleanly designed, glass-fronted restaurant with white-tiled walls, a copperedged bar and caramel-coloured stools. It is part of a trio, together with the extremely successful Zuka and Sushi Leblon, which are both nearby on a quiet corner of Dias Ferreira, one of Rio’s most sought-after streets. Lined with little restaurants and buzzy bars, the neighbourhood has long been a favourite of the young and chic. Charming barmen are close at hand to spin home variations on the classics, such as the Cosmo Brigite’s, the Brigite’s Mule – made with Absolut Peach, red fruit and lemon – and the Brigite’s Spritz, jazzed up with Aperol, rosé wine, tonic water and grapefruit.
The advent of Canastra has perked up an unremarkable street off General Osorio Square in Ipanema. Three Frenchmen have added a touch of their native country’s sensibilities to the blueprint of the classic Brazilianboteco (bar) with remarkable success. On the short menu are some wellchosen and affordable wines – a rare combination in Rio – and the food, which comes in the form of small plates, includes caponata (vegetarian stew), burrata cheese, sardines, pâté and suchlike. On Tuesdays, oysters arrive from the southern state of Santa Caterina, but you’ll need to get there early.
The bar operates from a tiny lock-up, which was once a building supplies shop. With just a few tables spread outside, people spill along the pavement, into the road and over to the other side of the street. Since its opening last year it has become quite the hang-out – crowds gather almost every night, happy enough to endure a harried service and shortage of tables.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that the long-suffering waiters at Jobi are the same ones who were working there when this Leblon institution opened in 1956. In white shirts, aprons and bow ties, these old boys keep a thriving boteco running almost every hour of the day, all week long. From midmorning to sunrise the clientele segues seamlessly, from retirees taking lunch through to woozyeyed revellers seeking a saideira (one for the road) and sustenance.
With seats for just 56 in the small open-fronted space and a few tables on the pavement, the waiters circle continuously, depositing ice-cold chopp (draft) beers in the hands of thirsty punters, crossing each one off the tab printed on to the paper tablecloths. Bolinho de bacalhau (deep-fried cod balls), best smothered in hot sauce, are a favourite any time of the day but it is the steak and cheese sandwich, helpfully cut into bite-sized pieces, that draws the late-night crowds.
The neatly laid-out neighbourhood of Urca, which sits on a small section of land under Sugarloaf mountain, was the result of a housing scheme began in the late-1880s. Known as the Urbanização Carioca it gave the area its name (Ur-Ca) as well as tree-lined streets, European and art-deco architecture and overall air of charm. It is surrounded by a low sea wall, which looks out to the hills in Rio’s distance and is lapped by the Atlantic as it enters the bay of Guanabara.
The place has no tables or chairs; instead it serves ice-cold beer and caipirinhas to couples and groups who carry their drinks to the water’s edge. The pasteis(thincrust pies), filled with shrimp, cheese or meat, andempanadas are good and will keep the hunger at bay as you hang out here. This is an idyllic spot, with boats bobbing nearby and glittery light thrown on the water as the sun goes down.
Bar Urca is an idyllic spot, with boats bobbing nearby and glittery light thrown on to the water
Bar do Mineiro
In Santa Teresa, a hilly neighbourhood of cobbled streets, crumbling beauty and grand colonial houses, this is one of Rio’s much-loved institutions. Bar do Mineiro is a simple set-up. It is in an open-fronted box of a room, tiled in white on both the floors and walls and chaotically decorated with old photos, cooking dishes, puppets and posters. On the right there are busy tables and on the left an imposingly high bar, covered in adverts for local plays, shows and gigs. It was opened in 1992, by a Mineiro, that is, someone from the neighbouring state Minas Gerais. It is famous for two things: mining and cooking.
The feijoada, a traditional meat and bean stew, is a favourite here, served with dangerously moreish pork scratchings and chunky slices of orange. At Carnival the bar is open almost all hours and delivers stupidly cold beer and fortifying snacks to the revellers. Half of the fun of the place is ordering minipasteis de feijão (little deep-fried parcels filled with black beans) accompanied by its home-made sugarcane cachaça to have on the street as you wait for a table. The speciality is the batida de gengibre, a fierce brew made with ginger that is said to have aphrodisiacal powers.
Bottles of spirits at Bar do Mineiro in Santa Teresa
Under open sky in a quiet, villagey part of the Jardim Botânico neighbourhood, Sobe makes the most of Rio’s natural assets. The walls are painted in greens and greys with strings of naked bulbs hanging over the tables and the windows are open to the fresh jungle air. The bar serves caipirinhas in many incarnations, alongside a special espumante (sparkling wine) selection.
House specials include the Kingston Negroni, which uses rum instead of gin, and the Miss Joplin, made of vodka, Southern Comfort, lemon and cherry. There is often live jazz music, particularly on Sunday nights. And the barbecue is regularly opened up to burger companies for pop-ups and take‑overs.
Academia de Cachaça
Though Brazil’s national spirit has much in common with rum – they are both made from sugar cane and come in white and gold varieties – cachaça is the lesser known and often lesser celebrated of the two. It is commonly found as the alcohol in a caipirinha but at the Academia de Cachaça, which has a bar in Leblon and another in Barra da Tijuca, pinga is celebrated in all its eye-crossing glory, with 80-plus brands stocked. The Academias also serve batidas – thick shots of cachaça blended with fruit – and many versions of the humble caipirinha. Pair your tastings with the daily feijoada(the Brazilian equivalent of a Sunday lunch) or snacks and pasteis.
At the beachfront Marina All Suites hotel in Leblon, Brazilian mixologist Tai Barbin has been coupling Brazilian ingredients with his international expertise to produce exciting new cocktails which have attracted a young, carioca crowd. Easily spotted with his neatly trimmed facial hair and penchant for a jazzy bow tie, Barbin can be found behind the bar on Fridays and Saturday nights.
His drinks are artistic creations, made to the highest standards with close attention to detail, using Brazil’s abundant fruits, infusions and bitters. Recent additions to the menu include a house version of the daiquiri – aged rum infused with pineapple skin, combined with rapadura (a type of unrefined sugar) syrup, lemon juice, fresh pineapple and Angostura bitters. Or a new take on the Tuxedo N2 – gin, Luxardo, dry vermouth, absinth and orange bitters. The bar itself is a bold design of bright colours and sharp edges, which contrasts happily with the subtlehued beach vista outside.