Now more than ever, Rio de Janeiro's drinks scene extends far beyond caipirinhas—Brazil's national cocktail made from lime, sugar, and cachaça, a spirit distilled from sugarcane juice. Sophisticated libations using exotic local ingredients are taking restaurants and bars by storm, and in the last year alone some of the city's top cocktail bars and tap houses have debuted, just in time for the Olympics. Below, a guide to Rio's best new drinking haunts, including some spots that have recently made significant revamps.Read More
The Rio de Janeiro Cocktail Heatmap: Where to Drink Now
Where to enjoy cocktails in the "Marvelous City"
Atlántico Rio de Janeiro
Argentinian bartender Tato Giovanonni, partner of Buenos Aires’ Florería Atlántico (the best bar in Latin America according to The World's 50 Best Bars list), opened this cocktail kiosk in Rio's Pepê Beach area, where he serves the same signature drinks from his original location. The idea here is to offer more sophisticated cocktails than the ubiquitous plastic cup drinks found on the beach in this area. Think a gin and tonic built with Principe de los Apostoles, the Argentinian gin Giovanonni created using a native herb infusion; and negronis. To eat, very fresh seafood. Good drinks and food without even leaving the sand.
Since bartender Tai Barbin took over Bar D'Hôtel's drinks menu less than a year ago, this chic, modern French bistro has been jam-packed. Here one will find creative cocktails that incorporate ingredients like house-made cigar bitters (used in a drink with rum, vermouth, liquor, and dried tangerine), in addition to indigenous botanicals, and infusions that use native Brazilian woods.
Cantô Gastrô & Lounge
Inside Grant Hyatt Rio de Janeiro (which officially opened its doors in April), Cantô Gastrô & Lounge is a typical hotel cocktail bar. But it is worth visiting for its caipirinha selection. The ultimate Brazilian cocktail is served in many fruit variations, such as passionfruit and jabuticaba (the Brazilian grape tree). The bar also has a wide cachaça selection, all produced locally in Rio de Janeiro.
Caverna is a good place for both cocktail and beer lovers. Created by bartender Miguel Paes, the drinks menu has interesting choices, like the Uai Protein: aged cachaça, cupuaçu pulp, orange syrup, and nutmeg. Caverna also brews its own beers (a weiss and a lager) served on tap, and offers a good selection of bottled beers from around the world–including some local labels.
The acclaimed eatery from Venice, Italy has a branch in Rio, located in the Copacabana Palace Hotel, an iconic building across from Copacabana Beach. And bar manager Jessica Sanchez recently revamped Cipriani's cocktail menu to include more modern libations. Look for drinks like Brazilian Punch, made with cachaça, lemon, cumaru (an aromatic and flavorful Cerrado region plant that tastes of vanilla and cinnamon), raspberry shrub, and mandarine foam; and Tea Cup Gin, made with gin, blueberry, chamomile, orange bitters, and cabernet foam. But do not miss the Bellini, the classic cocktail invented by at Venetian haunt.
This Michelin-starred pan-Asian restaurant is also located in the Copacabana Palace Hotel, and bar manager Jéssica Sanchez serves signature cocktails meant to pair with chef Ken Hom's fusion cuisine. The Marmelade n°1, for example, combines gin, grapefruit marmaleade, lemongrass, and lychee.
Meza Bar has been one of Rio's best places to drink cocktails since it opened in 2008 and changed the city's drinks scene. And just recently, management launched a brunch menu to remind us that there is no right time to start drinking. During the weekend, this gastropub serves signature cocktails, like the Roselle (gin, roses, hibiscus, and tonic)—a light and fresh tipple perfect to combat a Saturday hangover. Those who order the Pimp My Bloody, will receive a classic Bloody Mary that one can customize with pickles, bacon, lime, rosemary, and homemade chili sauce.
Mixxing is one of the best kept secrets in town. This speakeasy is run by bartenders Alex Miranda and Lelo Forti, and it's only open on Friday and Saturday nights. While there's no formal menu, the duo craft excellent drinks based on one's personal flavor preferences. Usually of the classic cocktail sort.
Sub Astor Rio
This bar is an offshoot of São Paulo’s SubAstor, and it recently opened inside Astor, a bohemian drinking den with a great Ipanema beach view. Here, one will find a huge bar with cocktails designed by head bartender Fabio La Pietra, executed by bartender Plínio Joaquim. In addition to offering the classic cocktails made famous at the venue's original São Paulo location, here, La Pietra added 10 exclusive drinks. Examples are the Ziggy Sour (gin, citric fruits, vermouth, orgeat, and bitters) and the Cobra Fang (Jamaican rum, passionfruit, falernum and absinthe bitters). There's also bar-friendly bites by chef Benny Novak that include canapés, sandwiches, and oysters.
Ró - Raw & Wine
This raw food restaurant in Jardim Botânico cooks with only organic ingredients, and chef Ines Branconnot studied at Matthew Kenney Culinary school in Santa Monica, California. Ró's wine list focuses on natural and biodynamic labels, while the cocktail menu has barrel-aged libations, such as the Brazilian classic Rabo de Galo (the literal translation to "cocktail"), made from cachaça and vermouth.