Tell us a little about the tradition of alcohol in Montevideo.
Our drinking culture is very rooted to old traditions, mainly related to the European immigration at the beginning of the 20th century. Without a doubt the bar is the meeting point to share life stories. In this context, drinks have a different meaning for each situation. Wine, whisky, beer – they are drinks that have been always there, more than cocktails.
How does Montevideo’s bar scene differ to other South American cities?
Our more representative bars are mainly defined by bohemian styles, not pretentious at all. Cocktail bars have taken a more important role in the past five years, following the region’s trends, mainly those from Buenos Aires. Its identity is defined by appreciation of local products, such as fruits like arazá, butiá or guayabo, or alcoholic drinks such as strawberry claret wine.
Who and what are the pioneer bars and bartenders in Montevideo?
Nowadays, I can name two wonderful professionals. Santiago Urquhart, from Baker’s Bar, is really passionate about cocktail bars. I’d say he is a great ‘cantinero’, with a rich experience that has defined his identity and which can be found in his recently opened bar.
Then, I should also name Alvaro Aniano, also a faultless professional with a vast career. He is a teacher, a communicator and an entrepreneur when it comes to cocktail bars, who has been influencing the national outlook.
What are your favourite bars in Montevideo?
These days my favourite place is Moderno in Hyatt Centric Montevideo hotel, which recently opened. I belong to the hotel staff working as F&B manager. We welcomed Tato Giovannoni some weeks ago and he has left his signature on our menu. Moderno’s identity is clearly defined and you can find it in its decoration and in the quality of the service. The bar is located in a worldwide prestigious hotel in an outstanding place with a breathtaking view of the sea and in the most populated neigbourhood in the city. Proudly, I can say that this bar will indicate a before and an after in Montevideo City.
Where does Montevideo look to for inspiration? Do you see a Uruguayan style of bartending emerging?
I think the inspiration is in the quality of the products and the research of an identity related to the culinary art. We have an emerging bartender style, but still have so much to learn. We are finding an interesting way to go – people willing to make things right, who investigate, try, risk and get to amazing results.
What are the challenges for Uruguayan bartenders?
The main challenge is to achieve a unit, leaving our egos behind to work as a team. Products are limited, mainly related to variety. But this is changing, as many companies notice the rise of national cocktail bars and are willing to get new products into the market.