The best place to drink is not always the most glamorous
As well as discovering the best drinks on the planet, Club Connoisseur has been on the hunt for the perfect places to enjoy them. Below reveals a favourite of ours that doesn't come with it's own glossy website...
It is an inconvenient, annoying and downright dispiriting truth that the harder you work the more successful you are. Effortlessness takes effort, hardwork beats talent etc. But hours of intenet research to identify a top-notch place to drink is often counter-productive. Sometimes - as we learnt from Club Connoisseur's trip to Rio de Janiero - you just have to let it happen.
Before we were let loose in the city of God, much painstaking internet research went into the best spirits the city had to offer and the trendiest places to drink them. Many of them turned out to be fantastic. However, on the acid test of which bars we still talk about today, a particular bar won hands down. It does not have (or need) a swanky website. In fact it doesn't even appear to have an official name. So let's just call it Ronaldo's.
On approach to Ronaldo's bar, sat at the foot of the vast skyscrapers that make up Rio's business district, we could see the entire venue in a single snapshot: there was no front wall so the it merged into the busy street seamlessly and had rows of spirits lurking behind a couple of bartenders watching football on tv. There were plastic chairs and tables and locals drinking. The place was so at ease with its own existence it didn't feel the need to impress. It didn't even feel the need to have a sign informing you it was a bar. Such a sign would have a been a tragic waste of resources. As we got our first drink and looked at the locals, we guessed they probably knew who's bar it was so there was no need to publish that information either.
The Guyanan rum was smooth, even when neat. The measures weren't measured. A touch of coke was needed to accompany some of the local rums, particularly in the South American heat. We had stumbled across Ronaldo's by accident/fate, in the middle of Rio's business district, understandably low on tourists and void of anyone pursuing travelers for money. We spent time watching business people rush past in their suits, queues of taxis, and street sweepers. Our table was inches from the pavement; a dinstance short enough to feel like we were part of the chaos rather than detached observers. The décor from street to bar didn't really change, there was no visual boundary – the concrete pavement of the well-trodden street became the concrete floor of Ronaldo's. The lack of front wall allowed people to shout out a short Portuguese 'hello' to both the workers and drinkers alike as they scurried past.
We have never felt less pressure in a bar. The dress code was a strict 'you can wear what the hell you like', there were no promotons to tempt you in, no neon signs trying to grab your attention. If you felt you needed another drink you could either ask for one, or - what was more prefrable to the bartender - grab one yourself and remember to pay at the end. This 'help yourself' system was clearly not a carefully devised management strategy but felt simply like common sense. The till (a 1985 Casio calulator) was a the lynchpin that held the sytem together.
Over the following hours, as we ventured onto the local favourite spirit – cachaca - were were joined by all walks of life, young and old, rich and poor. High-rolling businessmen escaped from the towering officers all around and a group of heavily armoured police officers held a debrief over a beer. Our desire to escape the tourists hotspots had been realised.
But, regrettably, we had to leave at some point.As we stood up the bartender,wearing a Real Madrid 'Ronaldo' shirt, plodded over to shake our hands. Before we stepped out into the street scene we had spent a few hours watching, he said in charming broken English “you must have worked hard to find this place.” We hadn't and that was the beauty of it.