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Arroyo 872, Buenos Aires
OPENING A BASEMENT BAR in a city without basements isn’t the most straightforward of tasks, but the trio behind Floreria Atlantico eventually found what they were looking for. In the event, Aline Vargas, Renato ‘Tato’ Giovannoni and Julian Diaz also unearthed the concept for the bar - the immigrant drinking dens that sprung up in Buenos Aires during the 19th-century. Their site is in the heart of the city’s old shipping district that acted as a funnel to the new Argentina.
This is not a speakeasy in the North American mould. Yes, you arrive through a kooky entrance - here it’s a florist (hence Floreria) - and, yes, it has no windows, but this is an homage to Buenos Aires’ personal history.
An immigrant-themed bar might sound a little rugged, but the sight of bright cut flowers at the bar’s shop entrance softens the whole experience. The florist also contains a wine shop so trade ticks along here night or day. You probably guessed but Atlantico is reference to the four million or so immigrants who have sailed across the Atlantic to reach Argentina’s shores.
"The most important and relevant migratory rounds were between 1900 and 1920 - we’ve divided the menu to reflect this," says Vargas. "As a result we have five sections made up of cocktails with a classic structure but with our personal twist. The sections are Italy, Spain, England, France and Poland." There’s also a sixth section in the menu with ‘criollo’ cocktails, to reflect modern Argentina.
Unusually for a basement bar, food is integral. Towards the back of Floreria Atlantico is an open-fire wood grill that, despite huge ventilation hoods, wafts the smells of Spanish, Italian and English cuisine through the basement. The menu may be a doff of the chef’s hat to the food of European immigrants, but there is nothing more Argentinian than a barbecue.
Drinks are modern in appearance but call again on the influences of the city’s past. According to the owners, the city’s bartending culture was brought by American and Spanish bartenders. Gin arrived from the English and Dutch, Italians brought bitters and Andalusian sherry arrived courtesy of the Spanish. Cubans are said to have brought rum via the Atlantic, Peruvians pisco via the Pacific, while German settlers brought their brews. The Turks came with anise spirits, the French absinthe and champagne and the Portuguese their fortified wines.
You’ll find all and more at Floreria Atlantico, making this our Best Bar in Latin America.