Carnaval Cocktail Bar (Lima, Peru)

We visited this bar right after work on a Friday. We sat at the long bar, which stretched the length of the venue. It wasn’t long before the place was completely packed—the sign of any great bar on the Top 50 list (#44).

We looked at the amazing two-fold menu to select our drinks and noticed the “Gran Carnaval” option: a tasting flight of seven cocktails. Yes! (Note: it’s not seven full cocktails 😵‍💫.)

The first drink was the Carnaval, which comes in a paper lamp with a light on the bottom. When our bartender presented the drink, smoke billowed out, the lamp was flattened and our glass was revealed. The light beneath the glass made our drink look like a neon masterpiece.

Drink two was a take on a Screwdriver: vodka and orange juice, but way better. The dehydrated orange as a garnish with red chocolate on it was a stylish and tasty touch.

The beauty of this menu was the variety and surprise of the options. We didn’t know what drinks were coming. The selection was made by the Cocktail Chef.

Continuing with the surprise, our next drink was a Breakfast Martini. Even the name sounds good. Gin, rhubarb bitters, orange marmalade and Cointreau. A playful twist on a classic.

At this point, our twin burgers came. The benefit of the twin burgers was that we didn’t need to cut the burger in half and worry about sharing equally—we each had our own. The fries were also well-seasoned and tasty.

Their Jungle Bird cocktail (our next drink) came in an oblong glass—a unique and different glass choice.

The margarita came as a slushy with a spoon. As I see it, fake margaritas—the ones you drink beachside in Florida—are known for coming from a slushy machine, using a gross mix that is too sugary and being overloaded with salt on the rim of the glass. But the classic marg—that serious cocktail bars opt for—is a combination of tequila, lime juice, simple syrup and maybe Cointreau or Orange curacao. So Carnaval blended the two styles and used green & yellow chartreuse (herbal-tasting liqueurs) to redefine their interpretation of the drink.

Next on the agenda was the Bobby Burns, a scotch-based drink with Drambuie, vermouth and yellow chartreuse. Served up in a Nick & Nora glass, it drank like a Manhattan, as the scotch was mellowed out by its counterparts.

We ended with a White Russian, which was incredible and hilarious. Most of the time a White Russian is a vodka, milk and chocolate disaster. It might taste good, but it’s more of a milkshake than a cocktail. Carnaval made their version with scotch, cold brew, some other ingredients and a playful garnish: cotton candy and sweet cream on a spoon. I drank the whiskey and ate the other stuff casually on the side ( instead of mixing, which could have backfired if the cream decided not to mix 😉).

Carnaval was amazing and the tasting menu made it even more fun! The fast pace of the drinks being served, the surprise of each round, the amazing service from the bartender as he introduced each cocktail, the quality of the drinks in terms of taste and presentation made our experience even more exciting. Carnaval even had great merchandise, ranging from hats to shirts to bottled cocktails. Midway through I bought a shirt and changed into it. In hindsight, I may have gotten a little too into the moment. But then again, Carnaval will do that to you!