Say what you want about Cinco de Mayo—overhyped, overproofed—but the fifth of May is a fantastic time to throw back a tequila drink—as is just every other day of the month, and the year, for that matter. These 11 bars and restaurants are serving the best agave-based cocktails to drink right now.
Besos de Mezcal (Madre, Los Angeles)
El Nopal owner Ivan Vasquez goes all-in at Madre in Torrance when it comes to the food and drink of his homeland. Mezcal flights help educate drinkers in the wide-ranging agave spirit, while house-made molés and tlayudas show off some of the best dishes of Oaxaca. The Besos de Mezcal is a collaboration between Vasquez and bar manager Feisser Stone, a peppery and tart kick of mezcal joven, lime, Ancho Reyes Verde chile liqueur, falernum and tamarindo syrup.
Come One, Come All (Pinewood Social, Nashville)
Pinewood Social, a beloved bowling alley on the Cumberland River, is a restaurant, bar, lounge, coffee shop, all-day hangout and Nashville drink pioneer since opening in 2013. Matt Tocco and his talented team have steered the ship from day one, which means crowd pleasers like a Mezcal Mule or Vanilla Paloma coexist alongside stunners like the Come One, Come All, a blend of Combier kümmel and Del Maguey Vida mezcal, made frothy when shaken with honey, lemon and a vibrant house-made pepper shrub of serrano, habanero and chipotle peppers.
Mistic (Horsefeather, San Francisco)
Recently celebrating two years, Horsefeather is a neighborhood gem where the food is stellar and the teal blue and wood design artfully recalls the American Arts & Crafts period. Bar manager Dzu Nguyen and Sevan Araneda continue to craft inspired cocktails, like the refreshing Mistic. This drink of tequila, Ancho Verde chile liqueur, Carpano Antica Formula vermouth, grapefruit and lime is vegetal and tart with a nice toasty depth that comes from the addition of genmaicha brown rice tea syrup.
Despacho (La Mezcaleria, Vancouver, B.C.)
With two locations, La Mezcaleria brings a rare authentic Mexican vibe to the chilly Northwest. At the cozy Gastown location, settle in for hefty bowls of traditional queso served in a molcajete. Wash it down with the Despacho, a creamy, tart tequila cocktail given creaminess from coconut, tartness from lime, a spiced perk from Inca bitters and a silky, sweet tortilla finish with blue corn.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
Portrait of Marevna (The Solo Club, Portland, Ore.)
The Solo Club invites Portlanders in for an extensive amari selection and bites like brown butter hummus and salt cod fritters. Bar manager Michael Harding crafts drinks like the Portrait of Marevna, an homage to Diego Rivera's early studies of Picasso and Spanish Cubism. Peppery Siete Leguas reposado tequila, Bodegas Hidalgo Manzanilla sherry, Cappelletti sfumato rabarbaro amaro, Caperitif apéritif and a house-made radish simple syrup meld into a vegetal, herbal sipper that finishes equal parts nutty, briny and grassy.
Agave Americana (The Dawson, Chicago)
On the menu at Chicago gastropub The Dawson, the Agave Americana plays off a classic Margarita, made with activated charcoal to give it a dramatic black color. Tromba reposado tequila, Copper & Kings Destillaré orange curaçao and Ancho Reyes Verde chile liqueur form a vegetal, spiced base, balanced by burnt agave-lime syrup, with citric acid brightening up the gritty charcoal.
Hidalgo (Loquita, Santa Barbara, Calif.)
Loquita is a slice of Spain in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone, serving tapas with Spanish-style Gin & Tonics in an olive-tree-lined patio. Pair paella and tortilla Española with a menu of sherries, Spanish wines and vermut, while on the cocktail side, the Hidalgo may look like the upmteenth Negroni variation, and to some extent it is. But this bracing beauty balances blanco tequila and Campari liqueur with Amaro Nonino Quintessentia, bringing it home to Spain with a splash of Atxa vermouth.
Toy Soldier (Bastion, Nashville)
Bastion’s inviting warehouse space is strung with little white lights and set to the soundtrack of an extensive vinyl collection. The Toy Soldier is a house classic that at first might seem obvious. Pineapple has long been a happy partner to tequila and mezcal. Here, that pairing is balanced yet amped up with cardamom, citrus and a sugar-chipotle-salt rim.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
Little Sparrow (L’Abattoir, Vancouver. B.C.)
Since 2010, L’Abattoir has been a Gastown staple and Vancouver favorite for chef Lee Cooper’s top-notch Pacific Northwestern-meets-French food and the quality cocktails. (The cozy space was once the city’s first jail.) Head bartender Katie Ingram crafts playful yet refined drinks like the Little Sparrow, which contrasts reposado tequila with strawberry and marigold rooibos chai, balanced by lemon and Bittered Sling Plum & Rootbeer bitters.
Tony Wonder (The Douglas Room, San Francisco)
Is there a happier pairing to reflect California spring than kumquats and tequila? It’s new to the menu at The Douglas Room in Tilden Hotel, where chef Glen Schwartz’ smoked duck pho and proper Philly cheesesteaks pair with Brian Felley and Mo Hodges’ cocktails. The Tony Wonder goes down bright an easy—a blanco tequila drink kicked up with kumquat syrup made with local honey and given nuance with Lo-Fi sweet vermouth and acidic structure with a touch of citric acid.
Drink Your Vegetables Margarita (Ever Bar, Los Angeles)
Just a stone’s throw from the Capitol Records building and Hollywood Boulevard, the new Kimpton Everly hotel is a respite from the bustle below, with a rooftop pool and soothing rooms. Downstairs is the sunny, all-day Jane Q café, while upstairs is Ever Bar, located in a lofty, massive space blessed with tons of natural light. Lead bartender and certified cicerone Dan Rook crafts cocktails that appeal to L.A.’s warm weather, such as the Drink Your Vegetables Margarita, which starts classic with reposado tequila, Cointreau liqueur, lime and agave, then surprises with a savory umami-fresh blast from a house-made gai lan broccoli black garlic shrub.