Made from the roasted hearts of the maguey plant, mezcal boasts a distinctive smokiness, which makes it fantastic for mixing into cocktails. Check out how local barkeeps are using this newly trendy spirit, because, as they say in Mexico, para todo mal, mezcal; para todo bien, también (for everything bad, mezcal; for everything good as well).
El Take It Easy
The cocktail list at this North Park gastrocantina makes copious use of mezcal in drinks like the Aguacaliente; named after Tijuana’s fabled racetrack, the drink pairs mezcal with Damiana, sweet vermouth and lime. There’s also The Long Goodbye, a mezcal-flavored twist on Raymond Chandler’s drink of choice, the gimlet. 3926 30th St., North Park, 619.291.1859.
Though most famous for its tequila selection (250-plus bottles), this spot also carries eight single-village Oaxacan mezcals. Sip it on its own or splurge on a Chilango Margarita. Made with a host of high-end spirits including Clase Azul Ultra, Grand Marnier 150, Del Maguey tobola mezcal, the rare Palo Cortado aged sherry and fresh lime juice, the drink sells for a whopping $300 apiece. 815 J St., East Village, 619.236.9420.
Craft + Commerce
Try the Tequila Gumption at this Little Italy hotspot, a stirred drink made with tequila, mezcal, maraschino liqueur and two kinds of bitters (orange and Angostura). 675 W. Beech St., Little Italy, 619.269.2202.
Located on Tijuana’s hip Sixth Street, this was the first bar in the region to spotlight the spirit, pouring 20 different types, both flavored and non. If the straight stuff is too much, try a creamy mocha mezcal slushy served over crushed ice in a copper mug. Calle Sexta #8267 (between Av. Revolución and Madero), downtown Tijuana.