Every two months, guests who stumble into Buenos Aires’ Boticario have the opportunity to embark on a novel drinking experience. The rotating cocktail menus explore an array of conceptual motifs, from botany and medicine to climate change and zero-waste principles. With each new theme, Boticario, whose name translates to “apothecary” in Spanish, delivers experimental drinks, all while pushing the boundaries of flavor, technique and process.
The bar also places a heavy focus on seasonality and locality. “Where and how we source our products and components is crucial in our bar,” says Nahuel Chenquelof, lead bartender at Boticario. “We work with the best suppliers who can provide us with fresh and seasonal products.” In addition, the bar makes its own ingredients in collaboration with local breweries and distilleries, such as the Elixir, a signature beer that changes with the seasons, and Gin Salvador, an Old Tom gin made with regional medicinal botanicals. Boticario’s desire to constantly innovate drives the cerebral nature of its drinks, and the latest menu built on the concept of “ocean exploration” aptly embodies this approach.
“With our most recent drinks and menu, we investigate the five oceans and their contribution to the coasts of each continent, from cultural exchange to gastronomic influence and the different histories that were traveled by each one of them,” explains Chenquelof. For the Ártico y Antártico, an on-the-rocks Martini made with a layered malt and wood distillate, housemade vermouth and a sea salt foam, the Boticario team drew inspiration from two places close to the Arctic Ocean—Canada and Denmark—and the unique story of the 50-year “whiskey war” that ties both of the countries together.
The base of the cocktail is an infused vodka that mimics the flavor of whiskey, but keeps an aesthetic clarity that channels the Arctic’s glacial ice. “We infused vodka for two days with ‘Caramel 60’ malt, wood chips and other accent ingredients such as pear, green apple, Lapsang souchong tea, honey and cocoa nibs for depth of flavor,” says Chenquelof. The spirit is then re-distilled in a copper-pot still to clarify it, retaining the flavors, but not the color, imparted by the infusion.
The intricate base distillate is paired with “fresh grapes” vermouth, inspired by Canadian ice wines that are made from grapes that have frozen on the vine. To make the dry-style vermouth, Chenquelof and the team combine the juice of previously frozen fresh grapes, chardonnay, absinthe, chamomile, burrito (a native Argentine herb with a citrusy flavor) and lemon verbena. The mixture is vacuum-sealed in a bag before being gently cooked through immersion circulation in a water bath for three hours. “We wanted to make sure we were using the ingredients properly to get the best out of each component,” says Chenquelof. “Several tests and distillation times were needed to reach the desired products, but we got there after some R&D.”
Boticario serves the Martini simply, over a large rock, finished with a float of sea salt foam. Not only does the airy texture and salinity amplify some of the Ártico y Antártico’s subtle flavors, but the garnish melts and disappears while drinking it, intended to represent melting glacial ice in the Arctic.
The cocktail balances flavors from both land and sea—earthy wood and grain, paired with a plethora of orchard fruit and top notes of citrus and herbs. To the attentive drinker, the harmony of each element invites contemplation, without forcing the message; with the Ártico y Antártico, any bargoer is also simply in for a damn good take on a Martini.
“Our motto is to be in constant investigation and learning of new processes, topics, techniques, products and work tools,” says Chenquelof. “With this approach, we don’t only provide good service and a delicious product to our guests, but also a total knowledge of each cocktail we serve at the bar. For us, that’s the 360-degree experience.”