By Jack Arnhold, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Inconspicuously ensconced inside a bustling shopping center in downtown Rio, Uruguayan bartender and mixologist Walter Garin is approaching 2019 with the same drive and innovation that has made his bar, Shake Speakeasy, one of Rio’s best-kept secrets.
“In 2019 we hope that we will gain the reputation as the best cocktail bar in Rio.” comments Walter Garin, co-owner, head bartender and mixologist at Shake Speakeasy. His bar, which is located in the same shopping center (Terminal Menezes Côrtes) as the similarly innovative Curto Café, is a one-of-a-kind in the Cidade Maravilhosa: an intimate cocktail ‘speakeasy’ that offers top-quality cocktails at competitive prices.
Garin explains how the bar actually started as an experiment inside his bartending school, which ran a ‘secret bar’ every Thursday for a maximum of 15 people. “We worked like that for about a year and a half, a year and eight months.” He explains, “So the idea matured until it became a real bar. Before that it was an experiment.”
As for inspiration, Garin’s experience as a globetrotting bartender and mixologist have helped bring an international flavor to the establishment, which has English-speaking staff, while also celebrating the best of Brazilian produce and ingredients, including plenty of Cachaça-based cocktails, such as the refreshing and zesty ‘Cachaça sour.’
“The inspiration comes from those bars I saw in London, Ireland, the Netherlands, Italy, lots of places.” He adds, “Also because I saw a need in Rio for a different kind of bar, in terms of cocktails, service, even the structure itself: the concept, the décor, it is very different from anything else in Rio.”
Since opening, Garin has had a challenging time sticking to his vision; but the stark difference of Shake Speakeasy to many of the bars in Rio is also what makes it stand out from both the botecos and the high-end, pricey boutique bars.
“What you usually see in Rio is open-air bars with lots of beer and loud music. Our project goes in the very opposite direction.” Garin explains, “Here we play more intimate, ambient music, with an emphasis on jazz, electro-swing, and blues.”
He also has made a point of not selling Brazil’s most-consumed alcoholic beverage. “We don’t sell beer, which can also be very difficult. To sell only cocktails is something quite innovative and new.” He continues, “But I’ve always believed in this product, even in the hardest moments, because of the quality, because it is an innovative project.”
2019 is set to be an exciting year for Garin, with a new happy hour menu featuring cocktails from R$20, plus plenty of surprises such as guest bartenders and a new drinks menu coming in March.
As for his relationship with the Cidade Maravilhosa, Garin seems to have found the perfect place hidden away in Rio’s city center. “It’s a place I love. Today I can’t see myself anywhere else. I’ve lived in many places around the world but Rio captivated me. I don’t want to live anywhere else.”
He concludes, “I’ve found the perfect place for me, and at the same time to open a bar as a gift to Rio with a new concept is great. I think Rio deserves a bar like Shake.”
For opening times and more information, head to the bar’s Facebook page.