This Enchanted Speakeasy Takes You Through a Revolving Door Back to the 19th Century
Billy Hankey and Colette Dein are two of the nicest and most knowledgeable bar owners in town. They also happen to have a nicely curated collection of mezcals. Allow Billy to recommend one (or four) to you and listen to him wax poetic on the process, the region, and the tasting notes. “When you’re drinking mezcal, find out what varietals are used in the production of that bottling and the process by which it was made," says Hankey. "All that information is generally printed on the bottle. Also, try to be aware of who is producing the mezcal and their story. Is it a major liquor company or a family?”
Upstairs from Mi Madre’s is the cool little mezcal bar from the same owners as the Tex-Mex restaurant. Here you can enjoy the spirit neat or in one of its cocktails. Mezcals work well in just about any cocktail (Old Fashioneds, Negronis, etc.) as long as it’s balanced. Try the fresh, herbal Verdito made with mezcal, absinthe, basil-serrano, and lime juice with agave.
This intimate bar carries a broad selection of wild-variety mezcals including mexicano, madrecuixe, arroqueño, tobala, ensamble en olla de barro, and some rare espadin, and is served two ways: guests can order a half-pour (3/4oz) in a clay copita, or a full pour in the traditional veladora glass. Downstairs at Whisler’s, the well mezcal, El Silencio Espadin, is showcased nicely in the Oaxacan Prayer (El Silencio Espadin mezcal, Cocchi Rosa, Licor 43, lime bitters, and acid phosphate).
East 7th St
Right around the corner from Takoba’s main entrance is Cantina El Milamores. It has a great menu of Mexican appetizers and cocktails, including many made with mezcal, like the mezcal Old Fashioned. It also has seven very reasonably priced mezcal flights, like the agave varietal ($12) which comes with copitas of Tepeztate, Sierra Negra Mezcalero #4, Madre Cuishe Wahaka, and Espadin Alipus San Baltazar.
Not only is El Naranjo home to some of the best interior Mexican cuisine in the city, but it has a killer selection of mezcal and other agave-distilled spirits (including tequila, sotol, and bacanora). Try Fidencio’s Tobalá, which is foraged from wild agave, or the savory, salty Wild Karwinskii from Real Minero Largo -- regarded as one of the finest mezcal producers.
La Condesa is THE Downtown hotspot for modern Mexican food and dangerously deliciously cocktails, like the DÍa de Los Muertos No. 2 (Alipus San Juan mezcal, Cointreau, Lillet Blanc, lemon). Feeling adventurous? Order the $45 pour of Del Maguey Pechuga, which is distilled with a chicken breast suspended inside the still in order to balance the mezcal’s fruit flavors.
It’s hard to believe that the go-to Tex-Mex restaurant for lunch with co-workers or weeknight dinner with the fam would have such an impressive selection of mezcal, but it really does. Over 30 bottles from distillers like Del Maguey, Alipus, and Los Nahuales make VIVO a bona fide destination for mezcal lovers. For a refreshing take on a margarita, try the Haz Me Pronto! made with Los Nahuales Reposado mezcal, Ancho Reyes, tamarind, honey syrup, fresh lime, and a Tajin rim.
Rounding out the mezcal landscape, just behind Clive Bar, Bar Ilegal is the tiny cottage serving everything from mezcal mules to flights of the smoky spirit. Keep in mind, it is only open on weekends. Consider putting a few back with the traditional toast that’s given when drinking mezcal: "Para todo mal mezcal, para todo bien tambien," which translates to “for everything bad, mezcal... for everything good as well.”