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Sipping Through Santiago

Bellavista, Santiago

Chile and its cosmopolitan capital of Santiago are definitely having a moment. The country was named the No. 1 destination in the world for 2018 by Lonely Planet, and it’s no secret that Santiago boasts a food and wine scene second to none. But what you may not know is that the same creative energy and wealth of resources are now also transforming the city into a world-class cocktail hot spot.

During a recent visit, I had my own “spirits guide,” master distiller Sebastian Camorino. I met the burly, easy-going Camorino a year earlier in Chile’s wild and wondrous Patagonia region. That’s where “Seb” handcrafts the small-batch artisanal spirit TRÄKÁL, an 84-proof, 100 percent Chilean liquor made solely from ingredients sourced near the slopes of the Osorno volcano. Introduced just last year in Chile, TRÄKÁL—its name derived from a Mapuche Indian word meaning “first warrior into battle”—has become a huge hit and source of national pride across the country.

Over a few evenings, Seb and I tour the city’s buzzy bars and restaurants, from hipster havens where tatted bartenders spin shakers and pour pizzazz, to swank bistros with cocktail programs as jaw-dropping as their wine collections.

Our first stop takes us to the crowded and lively Providencia neighborhood. Sidewalks here pulse with activity as locals grab a cocktail, glass of wine or tasty sánguche (sandwich). Off a pedestrian walking street, we take a seat at open-air 17˚ 56˚ Cocina y Bar. A bar-cocina (bar-kitchen) that prides itself on pouring and plating all things Chilean, this is where you can try top-shelf piscos and other national spirits such as TRÄKÁL in creative drinks listed on a chalkboard. I opt for a game-changing mojito that uses Seb’s pear/apple spirit infused with botanicals. For me, it upgrades the tropical classic, giving it an herbaceous blast. And for the perfect pairing, tasty entrées here are also infused with spirits. Case in point: savory asado de tira, a local beef cut, sautéed for 24 hours with nothing but salt and TRÄKÁL. You won’t even need a knife—you can slice it with a spoon.

Next we head to posh Nueva Costanera, home to swank boutiques and a famous mall brimming with luxury brands. Our focus is liquid gold, so we sidle up to Brunapoli, an elegant space noted for its wow-worthy Chilean wine list, inventive cocktails and delicious Italian fare.

We decide to keep it classic and on-theme and opt for a molto Italiano Aperol spritz before walking a few doors down to the 3er Piso Restaurante (3rd Floor Restaurant). Housed inside a high-end wine and spirits shop called La Vinoteca, it’s the type of place that makes you go weak in the knees if you’re into wine and spirits.

Once inside the low-lit and lounge-y bar, we discuss the resurgence of Chile’s artisanal pisco (a brandy-style spirit claimed by both Chile and Peru as their own) over flights of some of the country’s best, like an aged El Caminante, followed by absolutely seductive pisco sours. We then navigate up two flights of stairs to a stylish private dining room where we have an exquisite, multicourse meal. (Pro tip: Order the tasting menu!)

The next evening, it’s time to kick it up a notch. Imagine a Chilean version of Brooklyn’s Williamsburg or LA’s Silver Lake and you get the vibe of the Bellavista neighborhood. Known for its creative energy and nightlife, that’s where we enter Santiago’s temple of tipple: Siete Negronis. Serious flair is on display, as bartenders occasionally flip bottles and tins—but make no mistake, here it’s all about what’s in the glass. A negroni is a must, so I wade through the deep selection ranging from aged negronis to clever and complex riffs like the one I choose: Tanqueray gin infused with black tea, Campari and Cinzano rosso and garnished with smoked local cypress. Yum. If it’s late and you’re hungry, the kitchen serves a delicious pork belly sandwich.

We wrap up the night and tour with a stop at a place as exuberant and eclectic as this vibrant city—Sarita Colonia. Yet another excellent restaurant with a serious bar program, the décor alone is a dizzying experience: a Baroque, bohemian fantasy of folk art, antiques and a wall of small catacombs used for art installations. I order the Pindy in honor of my spirits guide—a savory wonder made with TRÄKÁL, housemade bitters, lemon juice, herbs and red peppers—and raise my glass to Seb, the cocktails and the spirited city of Santiago.


Where to Stay

An art deco-era gem designed by (and named after) one of the city’s most famed architects, Luciano K is a chic boutique hotel set in the leafy, walkable Lastarria neighborhood. Inviting spaces with high-touch elements like original ironwork and marble mesh beautifully with modern accents and amenities in the 38-room property.

Where to Shop

A city of neighborhoods, Santiago is filled with areas defined by their own unique aesthetic and energy. And among savvy locals and visitors, one always on the short list is the boho-chic enclave of Barrio Italia. Originally home to Italian immigrants and artisans, it’s now a place of patios and walkways where you’ll find art galleries, bookstores, one-off boutiques and home furnishing finds like Taller Sofia, as well as cafés to refuel (Café de la Candelaria is a fave). 

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