Besides being the biggest city in Brazil, São Paulo is also the wealthiest. As a result, there are no shortage of designer clothes stores, Michelin-starred restaurants and, of course, world-class cocktail bars. Here is a list of some of the best drinking spots that São Paulo has to offer.
Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
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We begin this list with what is widely regarded to be the city’s best cocktail bar, Frank Bar inside the upscale Maksoud Plaza hotel, one block from Paulista Avenue. Created as a homage to Frank Sinatra, Frank Bar has a very cool, classy ambience, with vintage decor and live jazz music, but the main attraction are the drinks. Barman Spencer Amereno Jr. has won countless awards for his creations, with a menu that mixes the classics with his own unique cocktails and reinterpretations of traditional drinks. What sets Frank Bar apart is the care and effort put into producing not only the drinks themselves, but all of the ingredients that go in them. All of their syrups, juices, extracts and bitters are made in-house, under the watchful eye of Spencer himself. For something a little different, try the ‘Drink, Strip and Stay Naked’, made with white rum, martini, mangosteen, lime and a homemade ‘fassionola’ syrup which includes passion fruit, raspberries and Bahia orange extract.
One of the most legendary bars in São Paulo reopened its doors in 2013 after being abandoned for almost a decade. Located on the privileged corner of Paulista Avenue and Rua da Consolação, throughout the 1960s, 70s and 80s, Riviera Bar was the bar of choice for musicians and left-wing intellectuals, particularly during Brazil’s military dictatorship. Famous names in Brazilian music such as Chico Buarque, Elis Regina and Toquinho were Riviera regulars, so its reopening was welcomed with open arms by the São Paulo public. The new Riviera has changed somewhat – it is now much larger and has a gorgeous mezzanine on the bar’s upper level, while the food and drink on offer are a bit fancier. Barman Kennedy Nascimento prepares some superb cocktails, from arguably the best caipirinha you’ll ever have in your life to old classics such as the Negroni and Apple Martini. If you’ve had your fill of caipirinhas but still fancy something Brazilian, let Kennedy make you a ‘Rabo-de-Galo’ (Portuguese for “cock-tail”) with cachaça, Cynar, white vermouth and Angostura Bitters) or a ‘Maria Mole’ (brandy, white vermouth and Angostura Bitters).
Opened in 2016, Guarita Bar is somewhat removed from the classic cocktail bar style and tends more towards a cool hipster crowd. Drinks are cheaper (between R$18 and R$28), and Jean Ponce, famous for his spell at Alex Atala’s Michelin-starred restaurant D.O.M., commands the bar. While “guarita” is the Portuguese word for a bartizan – a small wall-mounted turret found on medieval castles and buildings – Guarita Bar itself is surprisingly spacious, with a spacious bar with fifty seats and an emporium at the front of house. The previously mentioned ‘Rabo-de-Galo’ is an excellent choice, made with delicious cachaça, white vermouth and lime.
Located in the basement of the posh pub Astor, in the hip neighborhood of Vila Madalena, SubAstor has arguably become more famous than its cousin upstairs as one of the best places in São Paulo for cocktails. Because of the decor and the fact you can only get in via a ‘secret entrance’ in Astor, SubAstor has a bit of a speakeasy vibe and serves many of the classic cocktails from that era. Out of the house specialties, try the ‘Ceará vs 007’, which is a vodka martini infused with cashew extract, or the ‘Ordem & Prosecco’ (a play on Brazil’s official motto, “Ordem e Progresso“) which sees cachaça, calvados and prosecco mixed with citrus and Lebanese cedar.
With its simple menu, cozy interior and excellent atmosphere, Barouche has become the spot for cocktails in São Paulo’s historic center. Facing the Largo do Arouche square, the inside of the bar fills up quick and most of the clients sit on tables set up on the sidewalk, ordering round after round of Barouche’s limited yet delicious cocktail menu. Do not leave without trying the Arouche Sour, which is whisky, lime, ginger and honey topped with a shot of red wine and served with ice. It tastes even better than it looks.
Espaço Zebra, adjacent to the Italian neighborhood of Bixiga, is a fascinating space in the center of São Paulo, operating as an open studio of multimedia artist Renato Larini and a rather excellent cocktail bar. The hidden speakeasy feel to the bar is accompanied by excellent drinks. As Espaço Zebra is also the home of Renato and his wife Néli, there is a very homely and welcoming atmosphere to the bar, as if you are being served by old friends.
Another of São Paulo’s best-kept secrets, Buraco (which is the Portuguese word for “hole”) is a small bar sat atop a simple cosmetics store in the center of the city. You could walk past dozens of times without ever noticing it. Once inside, you will notice the bar’s interesting design, with sofas and small metal tables, all designed by architect Rodrigo Ohtake, grandson of informal abstractionist master Tomie Ohtake. Besides the classics, Buraco also offers some of its own house creations, all of which are made with different variants of tea. Try the Sylvia, which is rum, ginger, lime and tonic with masala chai.
One of the newest (and smallest!) cocktail bars in São Paulo, Apothek opened in April 2017 purely as a place to test the new concoctions of Apothek Cocktails & Co., the independent producer of homemade cocktails led by Alê D’Agostino. As the owner’s idea was never to create a fully-fledged bar, the space at Apothek is small and only opens on Thursdays and Fridays, but the drinks are superb and the intimate house party atmosphere makes for great nights.