While many depictions of Rio de Janeiro nightlife focus on flamboyant carnival parades and lively samba parties, the city is also home to some more low-key watering holes. The traditional boteco, or botequim, is a carioca institution, and it's similar in spirit to a British pub.
Botecos are places to eat, drink and make merry, and the soundtrack is more likely to be provided by the chatter of tipsy patrons than by a live samba band.
Rio botecos are lively social hubs — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
At their best, botecos are laidback, lively spots that encourage free-flowing conversation and are great places to meet friendly locals. And as Brazilians don't like to drink on an empty stomach - hence their seemingly superhuman ability to drink endless beers or caipirinhas without getting embarrassingly drunk - botecos are great places to try traditional Brazilian petiscos, or bar snacks.
Perhaps the perfect example of the Rio boteco can be found at Armazem do Thiago in the hills of Santa Teresa. Somewhat confusingly, this neighborhood haunt is uniformly referred to by locals as "Bar do Gomez," but it remains a classic drinking spot by any name. Groups of drinkers gather at the long wooden bar or at the outdoor drinking posts, creating a street party atmosphere on weekends.
Locals flock to the lively Bar do Gomez — Photo courtesy of Lucy Bryson
Bar do Gomez has been open for business since 1919, when a family of Spanish settlers ran the place as a general store - or armazem - that also happened to serve drinks. The bar has remained in the hands of the same family ever since, and in the 1950s came to be known as Bar do Gomez in honor of the charismatic and affable owner.
Today, the bar retains many of the original fixtures and fittings, and, while the "grocery store" items that line the shelves are now more about display than actual shopping, the crowds that flock here continue the tradition of fuss-free, friendly socializing. The bar attracts a mix of locals and visitors, and Friday nights here are always a good opportunity to make new carioca friends.
There's a reasonable wine list and huge choice of cachacas, but the vast majority of drinkers stick to beer - ordered in a large bottle and shared between friends old and new.
The food is worth a mention, too; giant olives can take the edge off your appetite as you mull over the huge list of bar food, ranging from staples like bolinhos de bacalhau (cod and potato balls) to rarer treats such as German sausage and fried polenta with chili flakes.