For a long time, it was the mezcal and tequila cantinas that ruled the nest of the Mexican capital’s drinking scene. But a spate of new cocktail bars is changing the way locals and foreigners alike are imbibing in Mexico City. The destination has long-since established itself as a culinary mecca, and the city’s cocktail scene is finally catching up. Just like the country’s local chefs, Mexico’s native mixologists are scouring markets and ancient cookbooks for interesting ingredients—whether it’s hibiscus or worms—and later transforming them into handcrafted cocktails. Below are five watering holes that are leading Mexico’s cocktail revolution.
1. Fifty Mils
This boozy hangout inside the ritzy Four Seasons Hotel has been given a total makeover under the new name Fifty Mils. Worn-leather couches, sexy velvet chairs, dark wood furnishings, and a glossy marble bar give off a stylish new vibe. Mica Rousseau, whose resume includes stints at Nikki Beach and Mexico City’s very own Buddha Bar, now oversees the beverage program, which boasts a more modern spin on classic drinks. The cocktail list includes drinks that are set on fire to give them smokier depth and whimsical upgrades to old favorites like the Blooming Martini, a tea-based vodka martini with a flower bulb that blooms in the glass as you drink it.—Av. Paseo de la Reforma 500
2. Licorera Limantour
With two locations in town (one in Polanco and another in La Roma), Limantour has become one of the most well-known cocktail destinations in all of Mexico City. Its bartenders have won countless accolades; Mafer Tejada, for one, was named Mexico’s best bartender at World Class 2015. Their current menu is called “Around the World in 15 Cocktails,” in which every drink is a combination of global flavors. The Lassi Orwell, for example, is modeled after a traditional mango lassi from India. The grown-up version at Limantour is spiked with Gin Beefeater 24, Galliano liqueur, fresh lemon juice, greek yogurt, homemade honey syrup, mango, cardamom, and turmeric.
—Álvaro Obregón 106; Calle Oscar Wilde
3. Gin Gin
While this stylish La Roma bar can whip up any trendy tiki drink or time-honored classic with ease, the gin cocktails are where the bartenders truly get crafty. Gin Gin carries over 30 different labels of the juniper spirit that are then paired with housemade bitters which are created using the best botanicals found in Mexican markets. One of the local favorites is the eponymous Gin Gin, which features a gin-and-ginkgo-biloba infusion at the base. But a plethora of other ingredients (Heineken, ginseng, cardamom, peppermint, and more) combine to create a complex flavor that’s simultaneously sweet and sour, with a layer of spice, too.
—Av Oaxaca 87
4. Maison Artemisia
The team at this Belle Epoque-inspired Roma boîte obsessed with absinthe. So much so, in fact, that a producer in France creates a brand of absinthe exclusively for the establishment. But not every cocktail is mixed with absinthe at Maison Artemisia. The Ultimo Guerrero Azteca is a perfect balance of its four main ingredients—mezcal, chartreuse, creme de cacao, and lemon juice—which creates a smoky, but refreshingly herbaceous and absinthe-free cocktail. The gin-based Deep South has muddled mint, simple syrup, and lemon juice and is topped with a spray of absinthe for added Parisian flair.
5. Jule’s Basement
This speakeasy-style bar hidden underneath a nondescript taco joint in Polanco delivers some of the edgiest visuals: dark leather walls, studded ceilings, and large white decorative skulls tucked inside the glass boxes that double as tables. The futuristic atmosphere seems jarringly in conflict with the bar’s raison d’etre—classic Prohibition era cocktails—but really, avant-garde is the true spirit of Jule’s Basement. The mixologists here play around with standard recipes to create unexpected combinations like using mezcal to smoke up a Negroni. Elsewhere on the menu, try the Mr. San, which features a Guatemalan rum and has a nice tanginess thanks to tamarind vinegar and a melange of citrus juices. Just make sure you RSVP, because if you’re not on the list, you’re not getting in.—Julio Verne 93