Bar do Gomez, Santa Teresa
Founded in 1919, the inimitable Bar do Gomez began life as a Spanish migrant's grocery store and retains its idiosyncratic charms of yore to this day, with jars of dangerously ancient-looking olives and tinned foods still lining the shelves above the counter. Gomez has run the bar for years, making it a dependable local staple attracting toothless characters, car-chasing hounds and a gaggle of locals in various stages of inebriation. The deep-fried bolinhos de bacalhau (cod balls) and shrimp pasteis (tiny pasties) are all recommended, washed down with a great chopp and over sixty types of cachaça. Everything you could want, in other words, from a classic Rio boteco.
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Ovelha Negra, Botafogo
'Happy hour' in Rio doesn't necessarily mean cheap drinks and special offers, more that it represents that post-work period where only a few beers will do to take away the troubles of the day. Or, in the case of Botafogo's tucked away Ovelha Negra, several glasses of bubbly. The beautiful colonial-style building fills within an hour of the 5.30pm opening time, leaving the odd seat at a high, central table and standing room only at which the chattering crowds quaff from an impressive lists of national and international espumantes (sparkling wines). Order a bottle of the Gran Legado Champanoise (R$78), the first Brazilian bubbly to win gold at London's International Wine Challenge in 2011, and team it with one of the cheese platters or the excellent steak sandwich (R$21), elegantly served on a silver tray (albeit in a paper bag). The bar doesn't open at weekends, so time your visit carefully to get the most out of the charming, surprisingly reasonably priced hideaway.
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BeerJack HideOut, Humaitá
If there is one thing that cariocas take seriously it is the temperature of their beer, but now they are developing a taste for some of the world's award-winning brews, too, thanks to the likes of BeerJack HideOut. Found in Humaitá near some of the city's best new restaurants, BeerJack not only imports the more interesting drops from Europe and around the globe, but also runs tasting courses so that beer-lovers can get to know a wider selection of the 180-plus varieties on offer a little better, and at a lower price. The owners have conjured up their own recipe for the house chopp, too. Don't let the fruit-juice name put you off. A glass of Hi-5 (R$10) is a refreshingly pale ale-flavoured dark draught beer that makes a nice change from the Belgian-centric Trippels and tempting bottles of Fullers.
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Under the creative control of award-winning mixologist Sandra Mendes, doiZ leads the way as Rio's most adventurous drink-thinker, with a comprehensive list of classics and original creations at its disposal. The 'Drinkz' section gives a house twist to classics like the Bloody Mary (reincarnated as the 'Redhouse Blues' and complete with doiZ's own tomato recipe, R$23), whilst among the 'Deluxz' efforts, the 'Aruenda' (R$27) combines Don Julio tequila, chai, pear and agave nectar to fine effect. As well as occasionally conjuring up little shots of a new combination for willing guinea pigs sat at the bar, the sheer variety of gins, vodkas and unlabelled jugs of fresh mixers Mendes wields behind the counter tell their own story.
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Aconchego Carioca, Praça da Bandeira
The pioneer of the bolinho de feijoada, the little balls of the national dish served at Aconchego close to the Maracanã may not sound like much to write home about, but the presentation and flavour they pack win the day. Right down to the addition of a shot of caipirinha on the side, side of pork scratchings and chopped couve (greens) within, be sure to drip a little of the home made hot sauce on top of this perfect accompaniment to a cold chopp beer. More recent additions include a chickpea and bacalhau version, and the main meals are also excellent, accounting for the almost unavoidable wait for a table at this classic Zona Norte spot.
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Bip Bip, Copacabana
A legend in his own opening times, the ever-present owner of Bip Bip, Alfredo, may have mellowed of late, but that doesn't mean he takes his music any less seriously. The small indoors space is almost entirely taken up by the roda de samba, the gaggle of constantly changing musicians sat around a table with a line up that has seen legends like Beth Carvalho sidling in for an impromptu singalong. There is just about room to get to the fridge, though, which is important since there is no waiter service - this is a strictly help-yourself outfit, with Alfredo keeping tabs on the bills as he keeps time with his nodding head. Just remember, no talking during the performances.
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Bar Urca, Urca
One of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Rio even before you consider the various knockout views it boasts, with Sugarloaf Mountain lurking above and the gaping Guanabara Bay to the side, Bar Urca was built for chilled, weekend afternoon drinking. Watching the sailing boats cut through the waves and the fishermen hooking their bait, it is all too easy to forget that behind you is a booming city. In which case, best arrive in good time, order a garrafa of Original (600ml) with several glasses, perch on the sea wall and avoid making any plans for the rest of the day.
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Bar dos Descasados, Santa Teresa
The Santa Teresa Hotel is the sleek, exclusive retreat of choice for those looking to escape the tried and tested beach-front hotels. On the pool-side terrace overlooking Centro and Guanabara Bay, the public Bar dos Descasados is also the perfect sunset-spot, serving up acceptably expensive cocktails of the highest order. Just try the BMW, with its well-balanced blend of sake, tomato juice, soy sauce, wasabi and pepper, or play it as safe as you dare with a house caipirinha. Featuring every fruit under the sun, the watermelon and lemongrass or the strawberry, chocolate and chilli combos deserve serious consideration (R$22).
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Of all the Zona Sul's lively neighbourhood bars, Jobi takes the award for the die-hard, late-night classic. Perennially busy, by early evening the precious few outside tables are long taken by the after-beach and after-work crowd, leaving the street as location of choice at which the chattering masses take their chopp draught beer. One of the best in the city, trays of the stuff are continuously brought from within but are never enough once the night hits its stride, and, after a little flow and ebb, that stride usually reaches all the way until 5am, seemingly regardless of the day of the week.
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Opened in March 2011, Leviano arrived in Lapa with a somewhat smarter approach to late-night fun than its neighbours, underlining the dramatic shift in the neighbourhood's fortunes (Lapa was granted official bairro status and independence from Centro in 2012). That's not to say that it doesn't know how to let its hair down, though, with regular nights like 'Clubbing' taking over the third floor with house and techno until the weekend sun is up and well over the arches across the street, as well as salsa (Thursdays), jazz (Tuesdays) and dub nights aplenty. The large, road-side patio is the perfect place for ordering up a house cocktail and watching the streets fill on a Friday night, too.
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