Ahh, Argentina, the land of beautiful people and tango, the Paris of South America. Besides the wild partying and the intellectual culture of psychoanalysis, Argentina has a lot to offer… but let’s start with what the best drinks in Argentina are!
Everyone always talks about how amazing Argentinian food is, but what about the national drink of Argentina? Whether you go to the bustling capital of Buenos Aires or the outlying provinces, there are 5 drinks that you need to try in Argentina.
Fernet Branca is not actually from Argentina, but like many other things in Argentine culture, has been adopted from Italy and claimed as and Argentinian drink. Fernet is a dark, syrupy liquor that tastes bitter and herb-like, similar to Jägermeister. Everyone told me over and over again I wouldn’t like it, that it has a particular taste, and that I need to let my taste buds warm up to it… I loved it immediately, go figure. And so began my slight obsession with all things in terms of Argentinian drinks.
The typical way they drink Fernet in Argentina is by way of the “Fernet con coca,” mixing about 1 part Fernet with 8ish (depending on how strong you like it) ounces of Coke or Diet Coke. If you’re feeling extra adventurous you can also try the more “feminine” version: Fernet Menta with Sprite. This is a little bit sweeter, but packs a punch that will have you feeling like you’ve swallowed large quantities of toothpaste. Bottom line: you cannot go to Argentina without having Fernet, and if you like it immediately you might belong there (like me).
2. Gancia batido
Think of a lemon drop shot with half the sweet and twice the bitter. Gancia is a truly Argentinian drink, made with over 15 types of herbs and mixed with sugar. The best drink with Gancia is called the “Gancia batido,” kind of like a pisco sour – frothy, citrusy goodness. To make it, just take Gancia, lemon juice, sugar, and ice and shake it up in a cocktail shaker for a few seconds. Just like Fernet, this is probably another acquired taste.
So, believe it or not, Campari is also from Italy (shocking, right?), but Argentina has adopted it as its own, along with all the delicious cocktails that are made with it. Campari by itself is incredibly bitter and fruity, but if you pair it with some orange juice you’ve got a nice, refreshing drink. Campari with orange juice, or the “Garibaldi,” like all of these Argentina drinks, it is well worth trying!
Malbec is Argentine wine, and has become a staple for wine drinkers everywhere. Malbec is a full-bodied red wine that grows mostly in the Mendoza region of Argentina along the Chilean border. Argentina produces over 75% of the world’s Malbec! If you are a wine lover, you have to drink your fair share of Malbec while in Argentina. Felipe Rutini is the fancy-smancy brand if you have the money to spend. Otherwise, Gascon and Trapiche have good, affordable bottles. Diverse and rich, it’s the perfect wine for sipping slowly while you nibble all of the delicious local meats and cheeses.
5. Yerba Maté
Although it’s not alcoholic, this is THE top Argentinian drink of choice for the people at large. Walking around you’ll see people carrying what seems to be a large, wooden or metal cup with a metal straw stuck in it. What is this madness? None other than yerba maté (SHER-bah MAH-tay), a native leaf of South America with plenty of caffeine and huge health benefits. There is a very specific, almost ritualistic way of preparing and drinking maté. First, you take your yerba (loose yerba maté tea) and pour it in the gourd. The bombilla (bom-BEE-sha), or metal straw, is inserted and the hot water carefully poured from the thermos, and the maté is passed around a group of people.
The rules are: you drink until it’s gone and you don’t touch the straw! You will get disgusted looks if you are caught wiggling the straw or handing the maté back to the person that gave it to you without finishing. You know you’ve finished when you hear that gurgling, sucking noise of air being sucked through the bombilla. “Tomando maté” is more than an excuse for a caffeine buzz, but a way of life in Argentina: friends go to the park and sit around chatting and passing it, students pour over their textbooks while sipping. The most common way to drink it is “amargo,” bitter, but you can also add sugar if you’re a first timer.
Bonus Choices — More Drinks of Argentina
If you are looking for something sweet, try their version of hot chocolate. If you are in Buenos Aires, visit one of the old style coffee shops and ask for a submarino. Your waiter will bring you a glass of warm milk with an entire chocolate bar either on the side or for melting inside the milk…. it is truly fabulous! If you want to try to make it at home, it’s very simple. Heat up milk until right before a boil, and make sure you use a quality bar of chocolate. Pour the milk into a mug, drop half of the chocolate bar in, stir and enjoy!
Quilmes is the most popular beer in Argentina and it goes really nicely with all the beef and other heavy meals you are going to eat down there. It is a very smooth beer, much better than the Central American beers you might have been drinking, if you have been up in that area before. All in all, one of the solid drinks of Argentina that you should try.
Gancia Batido sounds like my kind of drink – I love sour alcoholic beverages…
Well then you’re in luck! In Argentina, a lot of cocktails seem to be bitter/sour 🙂
yumm… we loved the Melbec while we were in Argentina. Drank lots of it. We stayed part of the time on a wine estate in the Cafayate region.
Forgot all about the Yerba Mate. We had read a lot about Argentina before we went and had read about the Mate culture, but were still a little surprised at how many people carried around thermoses and gourds with them.
I never did try fernet or Gancia Batido but I was not a big fan of Campari.
You should definitely try them! I won’t guarantee that you’ll like them, but it’s worth a shot, right? 🙂 That wine estate sounds amazing… I have become such a believer in Malbec thanks to my time in Argentina!