Pisco Sours Are Just the Beginning: The Essential Lima Bar GuideBy Karen Catchpole
Food is famously top-notch in Lima, Peru, but you can drink very well in the city, too—if you know where to go. Not sure where to start? Use our essential bar guide as your map.
Chef and bartender Aaron Diaz has created a kind of cocktail circus at this bar in the San Isidro neighborhood, where every drink has a specific glass and there’s an ice chef. Yes, you read that right. Diaz designed the long bar to work like a kitchen, with individual stations for specific styles of drinks, and attention to detail is acute.
The cocktail menu is extensive, even daunting, and each option is more like theater than just a drink. The Tomando de Van Gogh, for example, is made with Chivas, absinthe, green Chartreuse, St. Germain, and Jerez brandy.
But that’s just half of it. It’s served in a cold, shallow, ceramic bowl with a hollow orb of absinthe-infused ice over it. The ice is shattered at the table, and as you sip the drink you begin to see a version of Van Gogh’s Starry Night in the bottom of the bowl.
Bitter Cocktail Club
This cocktail club is a speakeasy with attitude. There’s no sign. You must check the bar’s Facebook page to get the nightly password. And they only serve classic cocktails, so don’t come here looking for anything new-fangled. As the name implies, the bartenders and owner are also big fans of bitters, and there are more than 100 artisanal bitters behind the bar.
When Peruvian chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pia León moved their acclaimed Central restaurant into spacious and chic new digs in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood, they also incorporated a separate bar. Mayo Bar is a welcoming, sophisticated, sexy space with a long bar and ample sitting areas and intimate nooks and crannies.
Taking a page from Central, where tasting menus are arranged by altitude and ecosystem, the cocktail menu is broken down by Sea, Coast, Andes, and Amazon. The Mil cocktail, for example, is named after the duo’s restaurant in the Andes in the Sacred Valley and features locally produced Cana Alta infused with Andean herbs and mixed with salt from the Maras Incan salt flats.
A bar food menu (broken down into the same geographic categories) is also offered, so you can get a taste from the Central kitchen or from the kitchen of Pia’s new restaurant, Kjolle, located above the bar. If you just want a quick cocktail, move on. This place is for lounging.
Juanito de Barranco
Juanito de Barranco (which everyone just calls Juanito’s) is the kind of long-standing, no-funny-business bar that’s hard to find these days. In operation (and in the same family) for about a century, this bar draws in politicians, artists, locals, and travelers for cheap cocktails (order a chilcano, not a pisco sour) and snack-size pork or beef sandwiches.
Conversations are lively, there’s often a strolling minstrel working the tables, and if there’s a soccer match on, you can bet that the brothers, who are still behind the bar every day, will be watching the game on a massive TV above the front door.
Antigua Taberna Queirolo
This tavern in the Pueblo Libre area of Lima is another classic with wood floors, black and white photos of the distillery and winery of the same name, exposed beams, a maze of large and interconnecting rooms, and the kind of patina and gravitas that come from being in business since the late 1800s.
The bar only serves piscos and wines made by the Queirolo company, along with traditional Peruvian food, including ceviche, soups, ají de gallina, and more. Even if you think you’re stopping in for a quick drink, the atmosphere may hold you for hours.