Met some good people last night. Early hours of the morning, heading home after a midnight dinner of prime Argentinian steak and Malbec wine (as the locals do), decided to pop into a bar near my hostel for a night cap. Turned out to be an excellent decision.
Sitting at the bar (as you do when alone in a big city), got chatting with Guillermo and his lovely wife (who for the life of me I can’t recall her name – blame the beers and bottle of red I’d already consumed), and my one “night cap” became a tour of local and Polish alcohol varieties.
“Polish”, you ask. Yes, seems the bar I stumbled into was owned and run by two Polish immigrants. The reason, according to Guillermo, that it was the best bar in the city. And who was I to argue, it was a wonderful bar. A long room with a high ceiling, exposed brickwork and faux crumbling plaster on the walls to give it that Polish/eastern European basement bar style (Guillermo’s explanation). The bar ran down one side of the room, seemingly every spirit and liquor in the known universe displayed on the wall behind. Down the other side low tables and chairs, full with locals as far as I could tell, reinforcing Buenos Aires’ night owl reputation.
So after my initial beer, Guillermo proceeded to order us “fernet cola” (more on that later), followed by some unknown fruity combination, topped off by a couple of shots of supposed “smooth” Polish vodka, though I say “smooth” with some hesitancy. That had been how one of the Polish owners had described it as he poured us a couple of shots. However my untrained taste buds did not quite concur with his viewpoint, both varieties of vodka recommended by the owner requiring a sip of fernet cola quickly afterwards to placate my raging taste buds and throat.
Fernet cola? It’s “the” Argentinian alcoholic beverage of choice it seems. Fernet is a liquor originally from Italy, in Argentina mixed with cola and a couple of ice cubes. Very important that apparently, just two cubes of ice, no more, no less. And the ration of liquor to cola? Depends on how friendly the bar tender is feeling, or how far from Buenos Aires you are. The friendlier the bar tender, or further from Buenos Aires, the stronger the mix. The “perfect” ratio is apparently 30% liquor, 70% cola, though I can attest that the drinks we were poured were a little stronger than that.
And I’ve hardly mentioned anything about Guillermo, an extremely interesting character himself. He works for one of the major local banks, in the money laundering section. Yes, that got my attention too. In Argentina it’s not drug money or similar that many may initially think the issue, but bribes. Corruptions is rampant at all levels of government and officialdom apparently, hence the need for a dedicated team to deal with. I will certainly have further questions for Guillermo about his work on future social occasions.
And I have a feeling there will be many further social occasions with Guillermo and his wife. Really nice, friendly, funny people. Even with his wife speaking no English, and me with no Spanish, she was able to joke along with us with Guillermo acting as translator. I think I may have found my first “porteño” friends.