For many travelers Rio de Janeiro is synonymous with the Caipirinha. The traditional cocktail combines limes and sugar with Brazil’s national spirit, cachaça. (The alcohol is a close relative of rum that’s made from fresh sugarcane juice—most rum is molasses based—and is often unaged.) Bars serve both the classic recipe as well as a host of modern variations. The city itself is getting ready to host the Olympics in six years, but its bartenders are already in world-class form. (The dizzying array of local fruit also gives them a home field advantage.) Here are some of my favorite places to drink in Rio.
Overlooking Leblon Beach, bartender Santiago turns heads with his Chopprinha, a cooler-style drink made with, of course, Leblon Cachaça, tangerine and ginger juices and topped with a float of honey-ginger foam.
In Ipanema’s swanky, modern Fasano Hotel, bartender Andre mixes up modern cachaca cocktails. Try his surprisingly refreshing Croc Martini, which features fresh sour mix, passion fruit juice, Ovaltine and skim milk.
Over at the Copa, the Copacabana...bartender Paulino (pictured above) makes drinks from a smorgasbord of fresh Brazilian fruits. Try his contemporary Caipirinha, which is served up and spiked with fresh tangerine juice and purple basil.
Off the beach at Mr. Lam, a modern Chinese restaurant, bartender Luciula uses fresh lychee juice, cashew fruit juice and homemade gum syrup to create her Aca-iu Martini.
If you’re looking for a well-stocked bar, head to the hills and check out this tree-house of a restaurant. Restaurante Aprazivel offers more than a hundred different cachaças, including a delicious house-aged spirit that the owner’s family laid down over 30 years ago.
Looking for more great watering holes? Check out our bar guide for the best bars in the world.
H. Joseph Ehrmann is the proprietor of Elixir in San Francisco and the Brand Ambassador and Mixologist for Square One Organic Spirits. He is also one of Liquor.com’s advisors.