If I’d known that Buenos Aires was capable of serving up the drink of my dreams I would have moved to Argentina when I was five. Your average guidebook was definitely missing a trick in my younger days. I just checked my 2005 edition of the Lonely Planet Buenos Aires City Guide and I can’t find a single obvious reference to the smoothie from heaven: gotta say I hope they’ve put that right now, or Buenos Aires could be going without streams of much needed tourist ‘dinero’, and your typical ‘extranjero’ will be leaving town not even realising that whole sections of most traditional café menus are devoted to offering an ‘orgasm in a glass’.
The ‘licuado de banana con leche’ is in my view, the absolute bees knees. If magicked up by the licuado maker to meet my exacting standards it will be ice cold so that water droplets form on the outside of the glass in the summer heat; it will offer there-really-is-a-banana-present caresses to my tongue; it will slide creamily down my throat to cool me on the inside from lips to belly; and it will definitely be in a glass that is bigger than my head. If it’s served in a jug that’s the size of an obscenely massive Starbucks coffee bucket, then even better. If so, it can be a decent potassium and calcium fired meal, pre milonga energiser, post supermarket queue de-stresser… oh hell, who needs a reason?
Unfortunately the price of ‘liquid sex’ has rocketed of late, and so it has become my mission to seek out quality ‘maximo’ for pesos ‘minimo’. Less than $10pesos and you’ll be able to spot me in the corner looking manically enthusiastic above my straw (see above). In Las Cañitas, Palermo or Theatreland Corrientes you’re probably looking at more like $15pesos (which rather alarmingly is around three UK pounds) and a far smaller glass, although it is not impossible to land value for less cash, if that is, you are armed with the secrets that all licuado lovers like me have collected over gallons of research. I’ve got three and I’m willing to share them right now… God I sound like one of those professional blogging websites… next I’ll be sending out weekly emails with the hottest Cool Tip for Licuado Lovers, or signing you up to pay me money to learn of The Top Ten Lugars for LLs. Ah now there’s a thought!
I’m nice so I will spill the beans for free, but you gotta promise me that if you come to Buenos Aires and find the perfect licuado pit stop, you’ll write a comment and give me the address. Or if you’re really rich and generous, then one way to prove it would be to offer to buy me a licuado in exchange for the joy of reading the delicious information in this post. If you do, and you can convince me that you ain’t some psycho who wants to steal my licuado secrets and sell them to the News of the Screws, then you could end up on this page or some other page that I’m fantasising about writing… let me interview you over a liquid banana and stash the story of the moment in my future projects file along with a photo of you (if you crave stardom), the licuado and the licuado magician who created it. What d’ya reckon? Yes, maybe I’m in dreamy creamy land here, but I’m finding myself fancying turning my weekly licuado expeditions into a little more than the selfish pleasure sipped from the glass…
Thing is, the lovely Julia Cameron says let your inner artist play, and frankly right now I’m sick of serious writing projects that leave me feeling that I am in fact the ‘not very talented woman’ that some kind soul drew my attention to in a comment on one of my ‘I’ve been dancing tango one year’ You Tube videos a few months ago – and yes the video does make me cringe a bit, but it is almost eighteen months old and we all know there’s only one professional in it. So instead of restricting myself to things I thought I wanted to write about, I’ve decided to go for optimistic creative play in the city I love, over pressure in the head I can sometimes hate, and see what happens. One thing always leads to another right?
And that brings me very neatly to the fact that if you really do fancy a damn good licuado in Buenos Aires you will by now be desperate to know those secrets I mentioned, and pretty annoyed that so far you haven’t received them. Well, here they are then:
THREE SECRETS FOR LICUADO LOVERS THIRSTY IN BUENOS AIRES
- The best licuados are born in traditional Porteño cafés mainly frequented by Porteños. Look for waiters dressed in long aprons and bow ties, and a bar complete with fabulous but well-used coffee machines, juice squeezers and liquidisers. If you can see fruit on display, all the better. In these places licuados are often served in a jug; you get the entire contents of the liquidiser to yourself. Plus, the menu is usually posted up in the window so you can check the price before committing. In my experience, anywhere that looks as if it’s been down the ‘Let’s market ourselves to tourists’ route is to be avoided: the quality may be OK, but you’ll probably only get a small glass, and the price can be heading for $20pesos. Truly, the more spit and sawdust a venue, the better the licuado can be, and the price could be as low as $8pesos: posh exterior does not guarantee top notch product. Just so you know, La Faena, one of the most exclusive hotels in Buenos Aires, was charging $30pesos for a glass, not a jug, in December 2008 and it was thin beyond belief… not exactly the cream of the licuado crop.
- When ordering your ‘licuado de banana’ you must remember to utter the two vital words ‘con leche’. If you don’t, then I’m afraid you will be getting a glass of banana, sugar and water only and you might be complaining that the licuado was not at all creamy and far too skinny. I think if you choose banana as your fruit inside then you really must add the milk to it. I’ve never tried one without, and I have to say I don’t really want to. Course, with other fruits such as melon, or peach, maybe the watery variety will be deliciously refreshing… What you do need to know is that ‘con leche’ means a price hike of $2pesos on the base price. It usually states this fact in the menu, under the list of flavours, but you might not notice it. When ordering say, “Un licuado de banane con leche, por favor,” and you’ll get the milk version, and hopefully a smile on your face.
- My money saving tip if there are two of you, is to order one licuado to start with and see how big it is. Then, if it comes in a jug you can always ask for another glass, explaining that you are going to share, “Otro vaso, por favor. Vamos a compartir.” Mind you, don’t try this little trick if you’re buying me one. Steaks I am happy to share, but licuados…. no.
Oh I know I said three secrets, but here’s a bonus tip to ease the path to contentment:
You shouldn’t have to say this when ordering because the licuado magician who knows, knows. But if you find yourself in a place where you suspect the goods may not live up to the promise, you could always add the words, “Bien frio, por favor,” and that should help to ensure that you get cold, rather than luke warm… nothing worse than room temperature milk when you’re hoping for that orgasm in a glass is there?
His is the coke, mine’s the rest. The way it should be. Punto.
Photo credit (the one of me) goes to Caroline who understands my obsession.
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