The Diario Sirio Libanés was a daily newspaper for the Levantine community in Buenos Aires, founded in 1929, and published bilingually in Arabic and in Spanish. I spent a few days in Buenos Aires perusing through the music sections of the newspaper’s 1930s editions, and came across these remarkable alcohol advertisements. The ads can be grouped into two kinds: 1) ads for Western alcohol, the kind consumed by other Argentines (Quilmes beer and Dewar whiskey) and 2) ads for Levantine-made ‘araq, which is translated as “anis”. ‘Araq is distilled from grapes, but the strongest flavor is that of aniseed, hence the name.
Quilmes is the worst and most popular beer of Argentina, found everywhere. It tastes like nothing. Sparkling water with transgenic corn. It’s now owned by Brazilian mega-corporation Ambev, which holds the shares of other equally insipid brands such as Skol, Brahma, Antarctica, Original, Polar, Budweiser, and Stella Artois. Maybe in the 1930s it was slightly less terrible.
2. Dewar Whiskey
Dewar’s is another top-seller, a well-respected Scotch Whisky* (Scots spell whiskey without “e”).
3. Anis Turco
The text above the white odalisque being served ‘araq by black slave:
ارضاء الممواطنين السورين
ولشدة ميلهم لشرب العرق
السوري المصنوع من عصير
العنب اعتمدنا على استجلابه
من اشهر المضانع في سوريا
و من اشهر و افخر انواعه
The most approved by Syrian citizens
and the vigor of their inclination to drink araq
produced in Syria from the juice
of grapes pressed by us, we import this
from the most renowned producers in Syria
and from the most renowned and glorious varieties
This authentic ‘araq from Syrian producers was sold by “Inchauspé & company.”, Inchauspé being a name of Basque origin, with there being “Inchauspé liquors” in Argentina since 1905. Not sure how they got into the niche market of ‘araq.
4. Anis de Uva Schami
This is the best ad typography-wise. “Schami” (also transliterated as “Shami” or “Chami”) was a common Jewish Syro-Lebanese surname in Argentina, and also just means “Levantine”. I found the label on Ebay, and it also features nice type:
5. Anis Flor de Siria
This is the only ‘araq linked to a Syro-Lebanese company, the Albaca Hermanos. Formed in 1906, they also provided loans to other community members of Tucuman, which was an important centre for Syro-Lebanese immigration. In other words: get them drunk, then put them in debt!
Finally, I found an image of an actual bottle of Argentine ‘araq on Ebay, Anis Tipo Turco “Algada”. It’s from Guillermo Padilla distilleries, Buenos Aires, which opened in 1934 and produced many different kinds of liquor. الغدة means “(delicate) young woman”, and the girl in the picture is cute. If I were out looking for ‘araq in 1930s Buenos Aires, it’s the probably the one I’d pick. Sadly, most Arab newspapers today probably won’t advertise ‘araq.