This post is part 7 of 9 in the series Lima, Peru City Travel Guide
Yes, the food in Lima is world-class. However, there are also bars and bartenders in the Peruvian capital that are well, raising the bar, when it comes to places to enjoy craft beer, craft cocktails, and spirited takes on Peru’s beloved pisco in the city. Here are 8 top bars in Lima.
8 top bars in LimaIn the San Isidro neighborhood, chef and bartender Aaron Diaz (and his team) created a sky’s-the-limit temple of libations. At Carnaval Bar, a celebratory tone greets all who enter but the heady, happy vibe belies the careful (almost OCD) attention to detail going on behind the bar. Every drink has a specific glass. Many have their own style of ice cube–which explains why there’s an ice kitchen and an ice chef. 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, Chartreuse, St. Germain, and Jerez. But that’s just half of it. It’s served in a cold, shallow, ceramic bowl with a hollow dome 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. It takes about one sip to see (and taste) why Carnaval Bar is (as of this writing) the only Peruvian bar to rank on the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. At the other end of the top-bars-in-Lima spectrum (delightfully so) is Juanito de Barranco. There is no extensive cocktail menu at this bar, just commercial beer on tap, wine, and pisco. There are no fancy glasses. And there is certainly no ice chef. Nope. Juanito’s (as everyone calls it) is unapologetically what we like to call an “old man bar”. The lights are bright. The owners/bartenders are crabby old guys (in this case, brothers), the insect zapper counts as decor, and prices are low. The same family has been running things in the Barranco neighborhood since 1937. Along the way, this bar has become a go-to for politicians, musicians, artists, and savvy travelers. Go early to score a table, order a chilcano (pisco and ginger ale), and enjoy. When you get hungry, order a freshly-made roast pork or roast beef sandwich or a plate of cured olives to get you through to the next round. Let us know if the Trans-Americas Journey sticker we proudly slapped onto the swinging doors that lead to the bar’s bathrooms is still there… Craft beer is booming in Peru and Barbarian Beer is at the forefront, producing a wide range of acclaimed beers and operating four brewpubs in Lima (including one Barranco, one in Miraflores, and one in the Sheraton Hotel). Walk into any Barbarian Bar and you’ll find booths and tables, bold murals, fantastic music, bar food favorites (burgers, wings, salads), and great beer. In addition to about a dozen Barbarian beers on tap (many with playful names like Crazy Llama), the pub also offers craft beers from other Peruvian microbreweries, so this is the right place to get your bearings in Peru’s craft beer scene. Recently, a gin made from a base of craft beer was also being produced by this top bar in Lima. When Peruvian chefs Virgilio Martínez and Pia León moved their enduringly buzzy Central restaurant into spacious and chic new digs in Lima’s Barranco neighborhood, they took the opportunity to expand. Pia opened her own restaurant, the acclaimed Kjolle, and the pair also added a standalone bar called Mayo Bar. It’s a sophisticated and sexy space with a long bar and ample sitting areas plus a few intimate nooks and crannies. The cocktails are as imaginative as you’d expect from the chefs who routinely top the list of Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants. Add in an ambitious bar menu and this is the bar in Lima for those who want to lounge in style. The large and well-executed Barranco Beer Company brewpub was one of the first to open in Lima and it remains a pioneer. The enormous space in Barranco has a large ground-floor brewpub and an inviting open-air rooftop space for warmer days. It’s also home to the brewing operation which puts out award-winning brews which are available on tap along with a wide range of menu items from pizza to Peruvian favorites. Antigua Taberna Queirolo, in the Pueblo Libre area of Lima, takes you into the history of one of the country’s most popular brands of pisco. Quieirolo has been producing pisco, a type of brandy made by distilling white wine, since the late 1800s. Their namesake tavern is located in a historic house with wood floors, black and white photos of the distillery and winery of the same name, exposed beams, a maze of large interconnecting rooms, and one of the first telephones in Peru. This top bar in Lima only serves piscos and wines made by the Queirolo company and the restaurant only serves traditional Peruvian food, including ceviche, ají de gallina (a saucy chicken dish), and other favorites. In 2016, the first Museo del Pisco opened its doors in the Historic Center of Lima. Others followed including one in Cuzco. The original in Lima is a great place to go for traditional and modern takes on pisco and pisco cocktails. The food is also good, making this a great stop for travelers looking to refuel and learn more about Peru’s most beloved spirit. Bar Maury (sometimes called Morris Bar) in Hotel Maury in the downtown area of Lima has been around since 1821 and claims to be the place where the pisco sour was invented. It’s easy to believe when you walk into the space which feels like a time capsule thanks to lots of wood, brass, and leather and bartenders (including Eloy Caudros, pictured above) who seem even older. Fun fact: Winning race horses were once brought into the bar for a tipple (we saw the photos).
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