This was my favorite bar in Buenos Aires, and we happened upon it thanks to a recommendation from a bartender at another great place called Olsen (which I heartily recommend if you like martinis and are interested in vodka flights paired with Scandinavian hors d’oeuvres, served in a beautifully lit garden; the martini pictured on the home page is from there). We asked the bartender at Olsen where he would go for a good drink, and Rey de Copas was his first recommendation. He even gave us their business card, which is printed on a playing card!
My friend Mary and I walked into Rey de Copas around 11 p.m. on a weeknight during the lull between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, which turned out to be great because we sat alone at the bar and had four or five bartenders mostly to ourselves (though there were other customers seated elsewhere in the spacious place). We had barely sat down before the bartenders handed us a welcome cocktail served in a champagne flute. (I don’t remember if we ended up being charged for this, but I liked this place so much that I’m going to say we weren’t.) Their cocktail list was shorter (only a page), but they get very high marks for creative ingredients and combinations. I honestly didn’t recognize half the ingredients listed, and this wasn’t a language issue – I just had never heard of most of these things!
I ended up ordering the Kahlo, which involves a combination of tequila and mezcal (I was feeling adventurous…) as the base liquors and then a mixture of Golden Age Maraschino liqueur, amaretto, orange juice, lime juice, cinnamon, and salt. It was delicious and strong as hell. Mary ordered something that I no longer see on the menu, but it involved ginger and was beautifully made.
Later on, we had my favorite kind of interaction with the bartenders. I told our favorite, a guy whose name we sadly never learned but who we will always remember as the cute Uruguayan guy in the red shirt, that we wanted to give him the honor of exercising his considerable skills to make us bespoke cocktails. We asked specifically for things using local ingredients or representing the best of Argentina. He was very amused and quite willing to oblige us.
I have no idea what either of us ultimately ended up with, but both were great. All I can recall (it is worth noting that we never managed to eat dinner that night, so I felt these drinks more than usual) is that it had a distinct herbal flavor. I think now that it might have contained some fernet, which is Argentina’s national liquor and is not unlike Jagermeister in taste. I’m not at all a fan of Jager, but if my drink did indeed contain fernet, it worked quite well with everything else in it. Here it is:
Rey de Copas gets top marks for everything. The interior (which sadly I neglected to photograph) is colorful and covered in interesting antiques, so it would be a great place to check out alone because you’d have plenty to look at while waiting for your drink if you couldn’t talk to the person next to you. The drinks were great and reasonably priced. It was mostly locals (we did hear one group of English speakers), and we were so pleased that the bartenders were so willing to talk to us. It was, in short, the Calbar of Buenos Aires – and I can offer no higher praise than that!