When you think of liquors from Mexico, tequila is almost always the first one that springs to mind. You may love it, you may have had too much of it one night in College and hate it, but you still probably think of it first. Some may also think of creamy cool Kahlua, but nowadays there is another liquor vying for your attention from south of the border, and that liquor is Mezcal. Mezcal is an agave based liquor like tequila (and in fact tequila is a type of Mezcal, but that’s not important right now) and it’s been showing up on more and more trendy menus around the world lately and so when we arrived in Oaxaca, the de facto home of Mezcal, we just had to try it out at a few places around town.
Here’s my pick for where to find the best Mezcal in Oaxaca.
La Casa De Mezcal – Flores Magón 209
This place is what you envision when you hear the word cantina. This is the kind of place to drink, drink some more, get rowdy, and maybe even get tossed out through the swinging doors. For this reason, we felt a bit intimidated standing outside, but once we went in, we felt very, very, welcome. The menu was extensive without being overwhelming and the place was a touch rough, but in a welcoming way. I asked the waiter what his favorite mezcal was, and he brought me one of those. He said it was “sauve”, which if you remember your 90’s pop music correctly, means “smooth”. It was indeed smooth and smoky and when followed up with a little orange, hit the spot. As with all mezcal, the move is to cooly sip it, not to do it as a shot.
Cuish – Diaz Ordaz 712
People love to talk about “hole-in-the-wall bars”, well Cuish is literally located in a hole in a wall. Walk about ten minutes from the town center and you will find it smashed between two other buildings. On the inside though, it is the furthest thing from a dive bar as the interior is decorated super hip, and I actually was glad I wore a collared shirt. The mezcal I chose there let me down a bit as it wasn’t too “suave” but I’ll take the blame on that as I may have accidentally on purpose ordered the cheapest one. I would recommend this place for atmosphere alone as you feel like you are inside a New York Times article or on camera with Anthony Bourdain. They make the Mezcal themselves and do lots of artisan and organic things too.
La Farola – Calle 20 de Noviembre
This bar has been around since the early part of last century, and although they don’t focus on Mezcal alone, we got some for free there, so I had to put them on the list. We were just minding our own business at the bar, chatting with the bartender when he grabbed a dusty bottle of the shelf and poured us both a shot. I liked it almost as much as the Mezcal at Casa De Mezcal and the since the vibe at this bar is more cantina meets Chili’s, it’s a great starting point.
Other places in town that are known for Mezcal that we didn’t have time to visit are Los Danzantes and Mezcaloteca. We will get to them next time.