If your idea of Mexican drinking culture stops at tequila shot girls and sandy Coronas, it’s time for a refresher course. Mexico City has everything from craft IPAs to cutting-edge mezcal cocktails to a heritage drink that dates back to the Aztecs. The country’s capital is where you can really drink it all in.
Artisanal beer-making has taken off everywhere, and Mexico is no exception. Here, many brewers experiment with recipes that combine global trends with Mexican ingredients.
To sample some, head to the beer garden on the rooftop terrace of the glitzy Mercado Roma, a multilevel gourmet food market opened in 2013 (Querétaro 225, Col. Roma). With its lush garden setting and hip soundtrack, it’s the perfect backdrop in which to sip a Chupacabra pale ale from Mexicali’s Cucapa brewery. At downtown’s Hilaria Gastrobar, you can try brews like the Hazmela Rusa, an English-style imperial stout from Guadalajara that’s fermented with three types of chiles and organic cacao (Madero 57, Col. Centro).
We love a good sipping tequila as much as anyone, but there are too many other exciting agave spirits on the market now to limit ourselves to just one (no offense, Don Julio). In recent years, mezcal—tequila’s smokier cousin—has been bewitching bartenders in Mexico City and beyond. Made by cooking the heart of the agave plant in underground ovens, mezcal can be mixed into cocktails or sipped all by itself.
Celebrated mixology mecca Limantour uses it as the base for drinks like the Mercado Carmín, made with beet syrup, grapefruit juice and egg white, and garnished with a sliver of fried beet (two locations: Alvaro Obregon 106, Col. Roma, and Oscar Wilde 9, Col, Polanco). Slip behind the velvet curtain at downtown’s Bósforo, meanwhile, and you can sample some 40 different types of small-batch mezcal from throughout the country while munching on fried crickets—a traditional snack of Oaxaca (Luis Moya 31, Col. Centro).
More adventurous tipplers should get acquainted with pulque, the pre-Columbian drink of the gods that may date back as far as the year 200 A.D. Made from the fermented sap of the agave plant, pulque has a sour-tangy flavor and a viscous texture. It’s lightly alcoholic and definitely funky, which is why it’s often mixed with strawberries, beets or other more palatable flavors.
Behind the swinging saloon doors of Roma’s La Nuclear (Queretaro 161), you’ll find pulque spiked with mango and guayaba, but for a truly old-school experience, head downtown. With every inch of its walls covered with colorful murals, Las Duelistas serves pulque in flavors ranging from coffee to celery to peanut butter. It won’t take long to understand why the place has been in business for more than a century (Aranda 28, Col. Centro).