First published on 1 May 2013. Updated on 18 Feb 2014.
In its first week of operation this bar caught on fire – twice. Which indicates the fun to be had here, but it somewhat belies the seriousness of bartender Pablo Ramirez’ cocktails. Ramirez (aka Paul Ramsay) does an excellent marmalade-infused number, and can make pretty much make any classic cocktail you can name using tequila. But the collection of aged tequilas and mezcals here is so good, we reckon your best bet is to take yours straight up with nothing but a spicy side sipper of spicy tomato-based sangrita – aka little blood. Then maybe take a nap in the hammocks up the back.
The young guns behind Richmond’s crazily popular fuchsia-toned taco house Fonda Mexican have opened a far bigger joint on Chapel Street. Which is great news for taco fans, but we’re more excited about the bar upstairs. Head up the grandiose black and white staircase that looks like it belongs to a 1920s Hollywood ballroom, and you’ll find bright floor cushions, $12 Palomas (grapefruit soda, tequila, salt rim) and a helluva frozen margarita. The liquor selection is short and sharp, but they have Don Julio 1942 anejo for sipping, and make a decent el Diablo – blanco (unaged) tequila, with crème de cassis, fresh lime and a splash of bitters,charged with ginger beer. There’s a deck outside for smokers, and a tasty menu of cheesy quesadillas on offer too.
We’re all about getting barside and staying put at this restaurant. Their Tommy’s Margarita (fresh lime, agave syrup and blanco tequila with a salted rim) is one of the most mouth-puckeringly sharp numbers in town. We like their bastardised smoky margarita made with mezcal, lemon, agave and a dash of whisky. It’s topped with an ancho chilli and isn’t unlike eating fire. Speaking of smoky goodness, they’re stocking a full set of the artisan Del Maguey mezcals from Oaxaca and can give you a thorough talking to on the stuff as well – Senoritas hosts regular tequila and mezcal master classes. If you’ve gone too hard, they do good non-booze drinks too, like horchata – a spiced rice-based drink that tastes like rice pudding.
Mi Corazon was one of the first joints to try and redeem tequila’s reputation. Before they came along, tequila was still being consumed as shortcut to hammertown. The red-hatted bottle monsters you might recall from the bad old days aren’t even proper tequila – they’re 51% distilled agave, and 49% distilled sugar cane – a nasty combination guaranteed to send anyone off their rocker. Slowly, and with great patience Mi Corazon built up a bar of over 100 tequilas and mezcals, and began gently urging drinkers to sip instead of shoot, and to appreciate the complexities of the drink. Pull up at the wide bar and go to town with a tequila flight. Hit them up on a Thursday when they have live bands.
The word authentic has been dragged out at every opportunity during the recent surge of Mexican tomfoolery, and for the most part, it’s been misused – we’ve yet to see a single stray dog sniffing around our heels as we smash a taco and (thankfully) we’ve yet to spend a day with eyes peeled for the nearest bathroom (that’s authentic Mexican, friends). But as far as an authentico booze experience goes, we always come back to Los Amates. Owner Arturo Morales runs classes in agave liquor and has a hell of a collection of aged (anejo) and rested (reposado) tequilas from Jalisco. They make a hell of a sangrita here too – that super spicy tomato citrus and chilli drink that you can use to make a potent Bloody Maria (a Bloody Mary with tequila). They even do proper Micheladas – clamato juice (yep, tomato with clam juice), topped with beer. Delicioso.
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