Tequila shots haven’t disappeared in Mexico City, but there’s an array of other shots and cocktails trending alongside the classic Mexican liquor these days. Several of the city’s chic neighbourhoods are feeding the demand for new cocktails. Here’s what we recommend you try first, and where to sip it.
Long before keen city hipsters began to adopt this highly artisan, tequila-like drink into their social repertoire, families in the small towns of Mexico – primarily in the states of Oaxaca, Guerrero, Michoacan, Zacatecas and Durango – have been distilling the liquor from agave plants for generations. They safeguard, from generation to generation, the craft of mezcal production using a variety of flavours – from quail breast (seriously) to guayaba to honey.
La Botica in the La Condesa neighbourhood (Alfonso Reyes 120, labotica.com.mx) is a small bar with a grunge-like ambiance and friendly bearded bartenders. It’s the place to go to in Mexico City for a shot of mezcal. Mind you, in Mexico, shots are sipped on rather than downed in one swift action. Try the cedron mezcal – cedron being the leaves of a lemon beebrush plant – for a smooth introduction to this hard liquor.
La Botica also offers the driest mezcal I have ever tasted. When I asked manager David Roman about this staggering range of tastes, he explained that, “where the agave [plant] comes from makes a big difference. Agaves that grow in coastal regions of the country have subtler tastes, while agaves that grow in the desert will result in a mezcal that tastes stronger and dryer.”
In the heart of Mexico City, there are bars wholly dedicated to preparing ginebra, or gin, cocktails. Step into one of these, order a ginebra and a three-minute show begins right in front of you as the bartender suavely adds one ingredient after another into your tall, round cocktail glass.
LVSO Bar in the La Roma neighbourhood (Guanajuato 239, facebook.com/Lvsobar) uses traditional Mexican ingredients such as cilantro, caramelized chile ancho and lime for their cocktails. Caro Garcia, the head bartender at LVSO, explains there is a gin for every customer. “For people that like interesting combinations of flavours … for example, blueberries with ginger, [we use] G-Vine Nouaison gin. This gin is smoother. But sometimes, frequent gin drinkers want something more traditional so we have the Gin JJ on the menu. That one is prepared with Hendrick’s gin, Mediterranean lime, orange and a cinnamon stick. It’s delicious, prepared with a sophisticated gin, and it’s a big hit.”
Originating in Spain, the purest form of a carajillo is espresso coffee with flamed brandy on the rocks. Typically consumed as a digestif, the carajillo is riding a wave of popularity among the young in Mexico City. It is a perfect combination of your afternoon coffee and early evening liquor as it is mostly consumed after main meals in Mexico between 2 and 5 p.m.
Order your carajillo at Ivoire (Emilio Castelar 95, facebook.com/IvoirePolanco) in the high-end neighbourhood of Polanco. The specialty of Ivoire’s carajillos lies in Mexican espresso from the region of Oaxaca, and the brandy is substituted with Licor 43, a Spanish liqueur made with herbs, citrus fruits and spices.
Ivoire is the go-to place for carajillos because of its relaxed atmosphere, with large white sofas, wooden tables and luscious greenery, which makes sipping the refreshing ice-cold, bittersweet drink more enjoyable. The waiter’s performance as he pours the coffee into the liqueur in front of you is also part of the show.
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