It’s often observed that, while cariocas (Rio natives) like to indulge in the odd caipirinha, they rarely get embarassingly drunk. This ability to drink strong cocktails while remaining fully in control of their faculties would appear to be, at least in part, due to the locals’ habit of soaking up the booze with something substantial to eat.
Brazilians love their food, and social gatherings usually revolve around feasting as well as drinking. As such, there is no shortage of opportunity to find something good to eat in Rio whatever the hour. The city is famous for its botecos – informal bar/restaurants that typically serve food well into the small hours. Alongside bar snacks such as the ubiquitous bolinhos de bacalhao (fried bals of cod, potato and herbs) and pasteis (pastries stuffed with anything from cheese to shrimp), you can usually find heartier dishes such as plates of chicken or meat with rice, beans, salad and fries or aipim (fried yucca).
Even the most informal street party will present ample opportunities to buy something to eat, be it a staple snack like pizza or a tasty acaraje, a traditional dish from the northeast of Brazil that sees a bean flour patty split open like a sandwich and filed with shrimp, tomatoes and, if desired, a fiery pepper sauce.
No matter how late at night or early in the morning, you’ll find stands selling hot dogs and burgers topped with all manner of goodies such as quail eggs, corn and olives, while the juice bars that can be found on every street corner in Rio sell sandwiches, burgers and salgados well into the wee small hours.
So that resolves the question of how Rio locals manage to drink without becoming drunk – how they manage to drink huge quantities of beer washed down with calorific snacks and still retain those toned, tanned and terrific beach bodies is another question altogether.
Picture: late night drinking and dining in Santa Teresa, courtesy of Lucy Bryson