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GQ Fail, and a great bar in Buenos Aires

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Everyone is entitled to his opinion. This is a statement about the rights of free men, however, and does not imply that the opinions of all men are equally valid, a statement that can be proven by a cursory glance at GQ's article purportedly listing the best cocktail bars in America. It's a travesty.

I like Angel's Share, which happens to be where I first met in person an old law school mentor who would years later help kick off the North American Road Trip. [1] Angel's Share's drinks are well-mixed, the surroundings classy, and the place certainly deserves a spot in the top-25 New York bars. But second in the nation, ahead of Houston's Anvil, to say nothing of New York's own Death & Co. or PDT? Not a chance. And what Pegu Club is doing on GQ's radar at all is a mystery: it's overpriced, overcrowded, and by the time a drink gets to you it's sometimes room temperature. That said, if you require a chance to sober up between cocktails, Pegu's your place. For better drinks and better ambiance in New York alone, you could try White Star, Apothke, or half a dozen others. Still, it's made me think of one important project for this trip: to keep track of the best drinking holes that we come across on our way around the world, and to wrap them up into one lengthy post.

Speaking of which, we came across a new global favorite on Saturday night, when I hit The Library Lounge (warning: sound and lots of Flash) with the Guniganti sisters. Like the overdone website, the actual bar must be seen to be believed. The decor is faux-19th century tacky, as if Russell Crowe's character in Master & Commander had resigned from the Royal Navy, purchased an upscale French bordello and converted it into an unofficial officer's club. The walls are bedecked with animal heads. Some of the walls and half of the seating are one shade or another of dull crimson. But the Library Lounge doesn't stop at chairs, chaises and low tables. One corner holds a leather-covered desk and four officer's chairs, next to a small humidor of cigars, while another corner offers what I think is a fainting couch as a seating option.

On Saturday night it was filled with an odd mix of the brash and the beautiful: hotel guests in their khakis and golf shirts sat at one table, while another was full of slinky model-wannabees in little black dresses. Yet another couple nestled on a loveseat and attempted to bring hipster fashion to South America. (Note to the hipster: a gentleman always takes off his hat indoors.) While I wouldn't wear jeans and a t-shirt, you don't have to dress up too mightily to avoid feeling under-dressed. One thing Buenos Aires shares with San Francisco, however, is that if you feel like going all-out, you can do so. A young gentleman roamed the room in a suit with such broad pin-stripes that it begged to be turned into a Tex Avery cartoon, while a woman with hair trimmed an eighth of an inch from her skull never took her (presumably real) fur cape off the shoulders of her bright red dress.

A word of warning: this place is expensive. Buenos Aires is in general more expensive than Peru or Ecuador, but this was the first place that made New York prices look good. In the evenings the bar has an AR$150/per person minimum (about US$38), which will buy you about two drinks. We avoided this by arriving very near closing, so that they only charged us for the one round we had time to drink.

On the upside, the cocktails themselves are as interesting and oddly-designed as the bar itself. My Manhattan was unusual for two reasons. First, the whiskey did not taste like Jack Daniels or Jim Beam (apparently the two go-to brands south of the equator), but considerably better. Second, they garnished it with some kind of albino cocktail cherry, a whitish marble at the bottom of the glass with only a rose-like hint of its original color left. I don't know how they bleached the cherry, but it did go well with both the drink and the decor.

[1] This lady taught me one rule to live by: if you're a lawyer and you meet a law student at a bar, you pay. They then pay the next generation of students when they graduate. (My only post-recession corollary to this rule is "when they graduate and have a job.")

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2 Comments

I was wishing you took pictures but your words were so descriptive.

So was the price worth the one drink?

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