Thursday, October 7, 2010

Traditional Beverages & Infusions

SUBMARINO (Submarine)
It is a classic in Buenos Aires cafés and bars, an ideal drink for those cold mornings or afternoons of winter time.
Very simple: a big glass of hot milk and a chocolate bar (dark, plain or milk chocolate … what you prefer!). We dip the bar in the milk and we begin to dissolve the chocolate till it completely melts. You can add sugar, cinnamon or drink it just like that.
The submarine glasses are unique: tall and with the top part wider than the base. And they come with a special spoon, longer than usual.
Having it with “medialunas”, “tostados” or “churros” is a very good idea!

It was the typical infusion of colonial times. That is why it is mostly drunk for national public holidays like 9th, July and 25th, May.
These are days that coincide with our winter, the perfect time to have a hot chocolate.
Its Spanish origin brings us back to the immigrant influence in our culture.
An inseparable friend of this drink is the “churro”. You can see it advertised in bars and cafés: “Chocolate and 3 churros”. An Argentinean secret: dip the churro in the chocolate!

It was brought into our lands by the European immigrants. They have left such a big influence here, that in our slang we use the word "birra" (beer in Italian language).

In 1880 Emilio Bieckert, coming from France, began to sale his beer and became the first Argentinean manufacturer.
In 1852 the German Otto Bemberg, settle down in Quilmes city, in the Buenos Aires province. In 1890 he started the beer business launched the famous beer that would take the name of that city: Quilmes, considered by many people "the Argentinean beer".
Since the 90s, the foreign or imported brands became more popular: Brahma, Isembeck, Warsteiner, Schneider, Budweiser, Heineken and Stella Artois.
But the real Argentinean beer is the one that we call "artesanal" (handmade). Because they are prepared by the people from the countryside and it is based on the authentic German recipe. They obey the "Purity Law": barley malt, water and hop (the yeast was added later).
The oldest brewery "artesanal" is Antares, located at Mar del Plata city, in the Buenos Aires province. After some time, it will set up its pubs and bars in Buenos Aires city (Palermo neighbourhood) and in the Argentinean countryside. It is a very good option to know something else of Argentina. (

Buller, in Recoleta neighbourhood, is another "Brew Pub" that offers the preparing of the beer in plain view. (

When you are in a bar or restaurant you can chose between draught beer or bottled beers.
For draught beers the sizes or measures are:
Balón: it is a round glass, known also as “Norwegian glass”, of which quantity is between 300cc and 500cc.
Chopp: it is the typical German beer mug. It holds about 330cc.
Liso: it is a thin and tall glass, very common in our pizzerias. Usually, when you order a bottled beer it is served in this type of glass.
Pinta (pint): it is an English measure and it holds about 500 cc. It also exist the “media pinta” (half pint).
For the bottled beers you can find the Porrón (bottle of 330cc), a three quarters one (between 660 and 750cc) or a litre one.

* When you order a beer in a bar or restaurant, it is usually served with some salted peanuts or potato chips.

The CAFE (coffee)
Being important coffee drinkers is another influence of the Spanish and Italian immigrants. The habit of going to have a coffee with friends, fellows or neighbors arrived with the boats that brought the immigrants.
Drinking a coffee in a Buenos Aires Café is one of the duties of every foreign visitor. Why? Because you will learn a lot doing what a “porteño” (BA inhabitant) does every dat. I highly recommend it!

Buenos Aires is the city of old Cafés. It is said that the city used to have a Café in each corner and that the neighbors used to go from one into the other at night! They are so many, and they were even more, that there is a committee that protected them because of their historical, artistic and architectural value. The Cafés that are protected are declared "Bares Notables" (Remarkable Bars), and there are almost 60. The oldest one, of 1858, is still working: the "Gran Café Tortoni".
The city Cafés have worked as a meeting point for every field artists: musicians, tango singers, writers, painters. They were born and they have grown in these Cafés. They were the bohemian and literary Cafés of BA. Lot of tango songs has the name of one of these Cafés or their lyrics tell a story that happens in one of them. Maybe, in those days, the landscape in a Café it is different: there are notebooks, Wi-Fi connection, cell phones on the tables, the Cafés are located inside bookshops or big malls ... but their essence is still the same. Seating on a coffee table and see the city life from the window, talking with the waiter that already know what to bring us when we ask "lo de siempre" (the usual), reading the morning newspaper, just before going into the office, share a "feca" (word for coffee in our slang) with friends ... All this, is and it will be one of the little pleasures of a "porteño" life.
For the Argentineans, the Cafés are part of our daily life. Not only for a Buenos Aires inhabitant, also for people from the countryside. We can say they are like a second home ... a place for a meeting with our friends, family, clients or oneself...
We mostly drink here the Arabic variety, which is considers the highest quality one in the world. Coffee in Argentina is in general "torrado" (toasted with sugar), except the espresso that we have in bars.

How to order a cooffee in Buenos Aires?
- Cappuccino: it is an espresso with frothy milk. The “Capuccino al Italiano” (Italian capuccino) comes with whipped cream, grated chocolate and cinnamon. For summer, we have "frapuccino": ice, chocolate and caramel. It can has honey or "dulce de leche".
- Expreso (espresso): boiling water and ground coffee. It has a stronger flavor.
- Café irlandés (irish coffee): it has some whiskey.
- Café con leche (regular coffee or white coffee): same quantity of coffee and milk.
A typical Argentinean breakfast that you can see advertised in bars and cafés is the: "Café con leche and 3 medialunas".
- Cortado: black coffee "cut" (cortado) with a dash of milk. It is known in other places as "macchiato coffee".
- Lágrima (which means "tear"): it is the opposite way of the "cortado", hot milk with a coffee tear (just a little). It is known in other places as "latte macchiato".
- Descafeinado (decaffeinated coffee, decaf): it is not very popular between us. And it may be not offered in some bars or cafés.
- Solo (black coffee): small and strong.
- Americano (American): large black coffee.
“En jarrito” (little jug) or “doble” (double) means a narrow and tallest cup than the traditional, that is called "chico" (small) or “pocillo” (little cup).

* In the Argentinean bars and cafés, the coffee is served with a glass of fresh water.

In the morning, in the afternoon, after having lunch, before going to sleep ... the "mate" has no time neither reason.

It is a typical infusion of Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and the south of Brazil.

We call "mate" all the beverage in general, but also "mate" is the name of the container where we put the herb that creates the infusion. This container must be made of pumpkin or gourd. Anyway, it can be drunk in other types of materials like wood (more typical of Uruguay).

The herb of this beverage it is called "yerba mate". It is a plant that grows in the north-east of Argentina. This herb was consumed in old times by the Guaraníes Indians who used to live in this region of the country. They believed that it was a gift from their god Tupá to keep them in good health and vigorously. The Indians chewed the leaves, like a chewing-gum, or they put them in a gourd where they pour inside hot water. They drink it through a cane.
When the Jesuits occupied the Argentinean north-east region, and began to create their missions, discovered the “yerba mate” plant. Later, they started with the process to cultivate it and sale it abroad.
The "yerba" has powder, leaves and small sticks that are the result of the plant drying and grinding.
Today, we buy the "yerba mate" in any grocery store or supermarket in small bags or packet. There is a huge variety of sizes and a great number of brands and styles: with more sticks than leaves, with less powder, light, diet or flavoured (lemon, orange).

A very important element to drink the mate is the "bombilla".
The "bombilla" is a drinking metal straw that has lots of tiny holes in the bottom part so that you don't drink the leaves, it works as a filter.

The water that it is poured in a mate must be heated up between 70/80 Celsius degrees
(158/176 F°). It never has to be boiled. If it is boiled, the herb gets burned very quickly, so after drinking two or three "mates" we have to change the herb. Also, it loses its properties.
How we can notice that we have to change the "yerba"? When the little sticks begin to float in the water the mate is coming to an end. Someone would say: "Está lavado" (literally, it means: it is washed). At that time we have to throw out the old herb and put inside the gourd the new one.

The "ronda del mate" (the mate circle).
The fact of sitting down in a circle to drink the mate makes easier its circulation. This is a tradition that comes from the countryside, where the "gauchos" sat down around the bonfire.
In this group of people the "cebador" has the most important job: to make that every person has the mate in due time and form. The "cebador" is always the same person. He or she is the one that serves the mate. The word comes from "cebar" that is an expression that we use for serving a "mate". The word "cebar" means to keep the mate all the time in appetizing and pleasant conditions.
The "cebador" is also the one who has to remember which person does not want any more mates. The person that does not want any more mate, when he or she finishes the last one, has to give the mate back to the "cebador" and say to him or her: "gracias" (thank you).

The mate is an infusion that we do not find in any restaurant or bar menu because it is an infusion that we have it mostly at home, in parks or squares, in a picnic, on the beach, in the car or a bus during long trips.
Why? Because it is a social drink: we share the same gourd, everybody drinks through the same "bombilla”. This is something that invites people to conversation and thinking.
Do you want some mates? - It is what we ask when someone arrives at home. And after that, it would be: With or without sugar? A good answer would be: Like you have it!
That is why nowadays there is a fashion: the mate-bar, a place where we can go to drink some mates!
We can drink also the mate alone, without any company. Usually when we are hungry or while we are studying or working.
Here in Argentina, we say that someone is already grown up when it takes his or her first mate alone.

Mate varieties:
* In summer time it is common to drink “tereré”. The only difference is that we pour frost water or very cold orange juice. We put a small ice cube inside the “yerba” also.
* For winter, we have “mate de leche” (milk mate). Instead of hot water we pour hot milk with sugar.
* Other option is the “mate cocido”. Once the “yerba mate” is boiled in water, it is put in a tea strainer. It is more common to find it in tea bags. The “mate cocido” we can drink eat hot or cold, just like the ice tea.
* Inside the “yerba mate” we can add: sugar, honey, cinnamon, coffee beans, orange or lemon peel, etc.

“… Drinking mate is more than drinking a liquid through a metal straw, it is a feeling, a sensation, a tradition, a company …”

Typical food to have with a mate:
tortas fritas, bizcochitos de grasa, chipás, churros, pastelitos.

VINOS (Wines)

Drinking wine in Argentina dates back when the first grapes were brought to America by the colonizers. In the last years, our country has won a very important place in the international market revealing many varieties and wineries.
It is the best partner for an “asado”, a cold meat or cuts “picada”, or some good home-made pasta. Anyway, it is also very common to drink the wine alone, just for shearing a good time with family and friends.
The wine was, it is and it will be part of the Argentinean culture.

The wine-making region in Argentina is located between the 22° and 42° South latitude, at the foothills of the Andean Mountain Range over 2,400 km. From the Province of Salta to the Province of Río Negro, the variety of climates and soils makes each region unique.
The regions dedicated to vine cultivation are arid and dry. Its low level of rain and humidity it is very important for the grape’s health. The abundant sunny days and the region thermal amplitude favor the grain a good maturity and a concentration of bouquet and color.
The highest soils quality and the wineries professionalism make Argentina one of the first wine making countries in the world, in spite of its young wine history.

Red Wine Varieties (vino tinto):
* Cabernet Sauvignon
Due to its great capacity of adaptation to all kinds of weather, it is considered the king of red wines. Its grape, native from Burdeaux, France, produces an acidity and rough wine. It is grown along the entire Argentinean wine route.
* Malbec
Originally grown in the Southeast of France, this grape has turned into the premier Argentinean wine. It has found here the most propitious ecological features for its development. Argentinian malbec has become worldwide known and has been awarded well-deserved medals in enological contests. In the area of Maipú, Mendoza, it reaches its highest development. It produces wines of pleasant taste, medium body and an intense purple color.
* Syrah
This grape of 3,000 years old was originally grown in Shiraz, Persia and introduced later in Europe. Another version assures it comes from Southern France. It is a light and fresh wine with an intense bouquet.
In our country, it is gaining remarkable acceptance in the Province of San Juan.
* Tempranillo
This Spanish grape is one of the most widespread varieties in Argentina. It produces wines of medium alcoholic content, well-balanced and aromatic. It grows mostly in Mendoza province.
* Merlot
This grape was originally grown in the Southwest of France. It develops very well in the Province of Río Negro, Mendoza and San Juan. It is generally used as a blend in the making of Cabernet Sauvignon, to which it provides a soft touch of roundness to harmonize its harshness.
* Pinot Noir
Originally from Bourgogne, France, it produces an extremely soft, fresh and fruity wine. As this grape requires cold weather to manage good results, in our country, it grows in Mendoza and in Patagonia. This wine is exported or used to make sparkling wines.
White Wine Varieties (vino blanco):
* Chardonnay
It is called the queen of white grapes. It is the main French white variety. Because of its bouquet of fresh fruits and flowers, and its balanced flavor, some people say that this wine consolidated the introduction of ladies in the wine world.
In Argentina it is used as the base for most sparkling wines. It is mostly developed in the Province of Mendoza and the Alto Valle del Río Negro.
* Torrontés
It is the representative Argentinean grape in the international market. Originally, it comes from Malvasia, in the Mediterranean area. Its recognition is the result of wines produced in the Valley of Cafayate, in Salta. The microclimate of this area gives the grapevine an exceptional development. Wines are fruity and tasty, with a long aftertaste.
*Sauvignon Blanc
Originally grown in Southwestern France, it generally produces a dry fresh wine, with remarkable acidity. In our country, it gives excellent results in the Mendoza province.
* Semillón
Grown in Southeastern France, in that area it is attacked by a fungus that causes the natural grape sugars become highly concentrated. This effect enables to produce sweet and creamy wines. Outside its place of origin, it is used to produce varietal wines. This grape of cold areas is grown in two Argentinean regions: the Valley of Río Negro and the Valley of Uco in Mendoza province.
Its wines are dry, full-bodied and with a fruit taste and an interesting touch of honey.

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