Brazil’s largest city is a playground for vibrant, sexy nightlife experiences, and the cocktail bars in São Paulo aren’t excluded. From underground, cave-like experiences under the city’s historic theater to inventive drinks leveraging Brazil’s abundant tropical fruit and fauna, São Paulo’s best cocktail bars reflect the diversity of the South American country.
I had no idea mixology in São Paulo existed the way it does until I befriended a city local who happened to recently be named Brazil’s best bartender all the way in Paris at Little Red Door (another standout cocktail bar).
With his recommendations in hand, I found myself exploring humble neighborhood bars and flashy nightlife clubhouses during my whirlwind of a solo trip to Brazil. This year has really been such an unexpected adventure.
Due to my limited time in São Paulo, I was only able to visit Bar dos Arcos, Santana Bar, and Seen. The rest of the bars on this list come at the combined recommendation of my bartender friends in Brazil (somehow, there are multiple), and authorities within the industry.
Edifício Copan – Av. Ipiranga, 200 – Térreo, 69 – República, São Paulo – SP, 01046-925, Brazil
Chic Fel is a favorite among local bartenders in São Paulo. The snug bar focuses on “forgotten classics,” mixing up drinks based on vintage recipes.
For example, the Clover Club, made of Plymouth, Martini Extra Dry, lemon, fermented raspberry syrup, and pasteurized egg whites, is based on Paul E. Lowe’s Drinks – How to Mix and Serve from 1909.
Fel is nearly always full unless you’re at the bar early. While you’re waiting for a free stool, look up and admire the Copan, the Oscar Niemeyer-designed building that Fel is located in.
R. Simão Álvares, 952 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05417-020, Brazil
On Guarita Bar’s exposed terrace, boozy cocktails flow, crave-worthy drunk food like pizza and fried egg balls are served, and good times roll.
One of the best cocktail bars in São Paulo, Guarita Bar doesn’t deal in pretentious attitudes and exclusivity like some. Instead, the indie bar keeps the vibe cozy, intimate, and laidback like your favorite neighborhood spot.
Though it’s known for its craft cocktails, Guarita also offers an interesting beer list for the cocktail-averse. Soak up your cocktails with the pizza—some have labeled it among the best in the city.
Bar dos Arcos
Praça Ramos de Azevedo, s/n – República, São Paulo – SP, 01037-010, Brazil
During my time in Brazil, I had three clearly defined moments of stress-free bliss: walking along Copacabana Beach in Rio at sunset with a pair of Havaianas fresh off the rack in one hand and a cheap Caipirinha in another, my two night stay at the Belmond Hotel da Cataratas in Foz do Iguaçu, and listening to a string trio with my close friend from college, Henrique, over phenomenal craft cocktails at Bar dos Arcos.
I’m a high-strung, type-A personality—I go years without having those moments. In Brazil, I got three.
If there’s one cocktail bar in São Paulo you make time for, make it Bar dos Arcos. Located in the city’s historic center underneath the beautiful Theatro Municipal de São Paulo, the cavernous bar feels like an intimate secret haunt, even if it is one of the most popular bars in São Paulo.
I started the night with A Mulher do Diabo, an unexpectedly salty, savory, pepper-infused creation, before moving on to Um Co(r)po Todo Seu, a cachaça-based number. My final song of the night, A Tropicalista, was by far the standout. The banana cocktail was a far cry from the typical frozen drinks banana appears in, in the best way possible. Other honorable mentions from the night include A Rara, a cherry and cacao tequila drink, and A Mulher do Fim do Mundo, a simple mango invention. Service was able to expertly guide us through the menu, offering recommendations and tasting notes.
Don’t pass on the food—the ceviche vegano (vegan ceviche) was among the best I’ve ever had, using lychee to imitate seafood in a bright, citrus base. Delicious canapé de cogumelo (mushroom croquettes) are rich and indulgent, and even the basic charcuterie board offered a quality taste of Brazil’s famous local cheese.
I’d come back in a heartbeat. After visiting some of the best cocktail bars in the world, the fact that Bar dos Arcos doesn’t currently have a spot among them feels like a robbery.
R. Fradique Coutinho, 153 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05416-010, Brazil
If you’re craving a good drink and something heartier than another tapas-style small plate, turn your attention to Tan Tan.
São Paulo is home to a large, thriving Japanese community, which the bar and restaurant firmly takes advantage of. Serving up pan-Asian plates, it’s Tan Tan’s expertly made ramen and katsu sando that earns this sleek underground bar the hype with locals.
The drink program is creative and led by unexpected pairings, like the Yo Yo, which pairs shochu with artichoke amaro and dry vermouth alongside chocolate and lemon bitters. It’s these flavor-focused combinations that have given Tan Tan the ranking of 62 on World’s 50 Best’s 100 Best Bars in 2022.
R. Rego Freitas, 441 – República, São Paulo – SP, 01220-010, Brazil
Dimly lit Regô is an industrial, hip hangout with a refined menu of bar bites and sandwiches alongside a robust cocktail menu divided into classic drinks and signature creations.
Drinks are aromatic, using a variety of flavors ranging from fruity and tropical to delicate and tea-based. There isn’t a particular emphasis on a specific type of liquor—you’ll find vodka, tequila, whiskey, rum, and of course, cachaça amongst others on the menu.
Notably, prices are fair, especially compared to other trendy bars in the city. A cocktail can be found for just $30 real ($6 USD).
Seen – Restaurant & Bar
Alameda Santos, 1437 – Jardim Paulista, São Paulo – SP, 01419-001, Brazil
Seen is a place to see and be seen. There are few rooftop bars in São Paulo that can compare.
Hidden away at the top of the Tivoli Mofarrej São Paulo Hotel, sophisticated Seen was my introduction to São Paulo after a stressful flight from Rio de Janeiro.
The expansive space offers a view of the city skyline as a backdrop to the restaurant-bar’s elevated Japanese cuisine by chef Olivier de la Costa, sommelier-curated sake list, and an extremely drinkable cocktail program with a special emphasis on gin and tonics.
If you’re not in the mood for Japanese, Seen also offers Italian-inspired pasta and classic bar bites like a burger and fries. I opted for the Goat Cheese Ravioli and the Caipirinha Seen, the restaurant’s take on the national drink. I couldn’t imagine a better welcome to the city.
R. Lisboa, 294 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05413-000, Brazil
Pizza, cocktails, music, and art come together to form Picco, a beloved nightlife spot in Pinheiros. The eccentric space is adorned with graffiti from local street artists and offers live performances every night ranging from jazz to Brazilian music.
Cocktails are familiar classics with a breath of fresh air, made for the cautiously risk-taking traditional cocktail connoisseur and meant to be paired with one of the bar’s Neapolitan-style pizzas or pressed paninis.
R. Delfina, 163 – 1º Subsolo – Vila Madalena, São Paulo – SP, 05443-010, Brazil
In true speakeasy style, SubAstor, a New York-esque cocktail bar in São Paulo, is hidden underneath the Vila Madalena location of the city’s popular bar chain, Bar Astor.
Located in a former bank vault, the sultry space is decidedly far more worth a visit than its buzzy upstairs sister, as deemed by locals. A quick glance at its drink menu paints a picture of a more ambitious offering.
SubAstor’s recently updated cocktail program is based on Brazil’s six biomes, using natural ingredients to allow imbibers to travel through the country with each sip. The Açaí Punch leverages Brazil’s famous superfood by combining it with Irish whiskey, añejo rum, Aperitivo Rosato, pineapple, vanilla, and whole milk.
R. Joaquim Antunes, 1026 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05415-001, Brazil
After running into one of Santana Bar’s previous bartenders at Little Red Door in Paris (more on him here), I knew I couldn’t leave São Paulo without giving this cocktail bar a try.
Santana Bar is an unassuming neighborhood spot with a down-to-earth atmosphere that lands somewhere between underground Lower East Side hideaway and your cool best friend’s living room. It’s a space perfectly suited for two or three, save the large group for elsewhere.
The bar, tucked away in a former townhouse in hipster Pinheiros (the Greenpoint of São Paulo, if you will), Santana Bars cocktail program is filled with an extensive list of seasonally-rotating concoctions, and a shorter menu of signature drinks.
Both seasonal sips and signature cocktails are inventive (read: I couldn’t decide what to order), balancing a lighthearted playfulness with serious technical savoir-faire.
Of our two rounds, the Pistacchio, a green drink made of French vanilla-infused Ketel One Vodka, pistachio, Sicilian lemon, and egg white was the knockout. It’s a must-order to close out your tab on a sweet note.
R. Costa Carvalho, 84 – Pinheiros, São Paulo – SP, 05429-000, Brazil
From the creator of SubAstor comes Guilhotina Bar, a quintessential São Paulo nightlife spot. The hotspot reached number 15 on The World’s 50 Best Bars 2019.
The clubby bar has become a go-to in the city for the young cosmopolitan crowd, mixing up a limited menu of concoctions ranging from fresh plays on old classics to bright, experimental drinks.
Despite its accolades, some of my bartender friends in Brazil have suggested that a visit to Guilhotina Bar is best when you’re looking for a scene-y night out with above-average drinks, rather than truly the best cocktails in São Paulo (hence why I chose to skip it on my last trip).
JK Iguatemi: Av. Pres. Juscelino Kubitschek, 2041 – Vila Olímpia, São Paulo – SP, 04543-011, Brazil
Oscar Freire: R. Oscar Freire, 163 – Jardim Paulista, São Paulo – SP, 01409-003, Brazil
Paulista: Av. Paulista, 1100 – Bela Vista, São Paulo – SP, 01310-100, Brazil
Vila Madalena: R. Delfina, 163 – Vila Madalena, São Paulo – SP, 05443-010, Brazil
Bar Astor is by far one of the most well-known cocktail bars in São Paulo. The ultra-popular chain of stylish, modern-retro bars has now expanded to four locations in the city, each serving a wide range of approachable cocktails, none of which feels too experimental to be alienating.
The cocktail bar is also a popular pick for their lunch and dinner entreés, which bridge international cuisines as Brazil’s culinary scene does so well.
Bar Astor’s many locations make it an easy pick if you’re spending the night with a group of friends or want to meet others, but if you’re looking for a more unique cocktail experience, I’d head elsewhere.
Av. Brigadeiro Luís Antônio, 4700 – Jardim Paulista, São Paulo – SP, 01402-002, Brazil
The bar is a favorite with tourists, mostly for its incredible views and well-balanced, sippable cocktails. Food leans towards fine dining with plates like tartare and sushi, though you’ll also be able to find pizza and small bar snacks.
Skye is open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. For dinner, a DJ is brought in daily to invite a party atmosphere.
Come to enjoy the view at sunset over a solid cocktail, but based on comments from local reviewers, those seeking gastronomic food and drink may find other establishments more amusing.
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