Theres’s a new phenomenon in Rio’s botequim scene. Until some years ago, running one of these small bars was something done exclusively by immigrants from Portugal, Spain and Brazil’s northeast. But ever since botequims became extremely popular among the carioca middle class, new players have gotten into the business: the customers themselves.
Since the beginning of the 21st century, it has become more and more common to hear about botequim customers who decided to buy the bars they used to frequent. Initially, it might be to help the former owners and to keep the bar from closing due to financial problems. But then they might notice that running a botequim in Rio can be enjoyable –and also good business, if the job is well done.
That was ultimately the case for Fernando and Romulo Torres. In 2013, these two young cousins who always loved the carioca eating and drinking scene decided to buy an old, rundown botequim just a few meters away from the sands of Copacabana Beach.
“My cousin and I always loved parties, ever since we were kids. We used to organize all the family events, making the food, preparing the drinks and then working as waiters,” Romulo told us. “In college, I decided to become a nutritionist. Fernando worked some years at a hotel and at a restaurant, as manager. Then, in 2012, we finally were able to fulfill our dream: having our own botequim.”
“We picked this old Copacabana bar and decided to renovate it – but without making it lose its bohemian soul,” said Fernando. “We created a modern and cultural look, but neither fancy nor upscale. This way, we were able to keep the old customers as well as get new clients, especially young bohemians.”
The name, Os Imortais, means “The Immortals” in Portuguese. In this case, it refers to unforgettable pop-culture personalities and characters – from American movie stars to popular Brazilian composers. The walls of the bar are crowded with pictures of famous people, which lend the place a cosmopolitan air.
But that’s not what has kept this place alive; the food here is cleverly conceived. Typical Brazilian, of course, but with international touches made to please the many, many gringos who pass by. The best examples are the arancini, Italian-style stuffed rice balls, and Os Imortais’s Brazilian version, which are made with beans instead of rice so that they’re exotic enough to be embraced by foreigners while also remaining recognizable to cariocas. Both kinds come with numerous fillings, including dried meat, pumpkin, shrimp, heart of palm and the must-try jiló, a kind of eggplant from Africa and Brazil that is a symbol of botequim gastronomy.
Os Imortais is also a great place to have good beer, with more than 100 kinds on offer, including the bar’s own draft beer, the Imortais, offered in three different kinds of fermentation.
At this botequim, the music is always at top volume and soccer games are the priority on the TV during weekends and Wednesday nights. It’s a bar for the young, the young-at-heart and for food and beer lovers of all ages.
Editor’s note: Since the temperatures are rising and the days are getting longer in Rio, we thought it was worthwhile to rerun this 2016 story on a renovated Copacabana bar.
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