Where to Drink Tequila and Mezcal in L.A.
The city’s best agave-centric bars.
It’s little surprise that a city that loves its Mexican food loves its Mexican spirits as well. Anything distilled from agave—primarily tequila and mezcal, with lesser-known spirits including raicilla and bacanora as well—is a huge draw for Los Angeles drinkers.
Jason Eisner, currently the beverage director of Gracias Madre and Gratitude, is a true tequila fan, with plans in the works to open up his own tequila-mezcal bar in Northeast LA in late 2017 or early 2018. We asked him his current favorite places to sip the spirits; here’s what he had to say.
A Downtown LA destination for mezcal cocktails, sampling pours of unusual spirits, and sharing cervezas by the bucket. “Head to the bar and ask for my buddy Gabe Huerta; he'll fix you right up,“ says Eisner. “And it’s nearby other great cocktail programs in DTLA, so you don’t have to go far for more killer drinks. It’s a good start for a fun night on the town.” 213hospitality.com
“I live in Highland Park, so I have to mention La Cuevita,” says Eisner of this Día de Los Muertos-themed Mexican cocktail den, with a killer happy hour on mezcal margaritas and more. “Get there early to get your agave fix, and then take a stroll on over to Block Party on York to chase it down with a craft Mexican lager.”
Tex-Mex fare isn’t always taken seriously, but “chef Josef Centeno kills the Tex Mex game” through his own interpretation of the cuisine, according to Eisner. “There’s a lovely array of authentic agave spirits here”—dozens of tequilas and mezcales, plus sotol and bacanora for good measure. Sample a few at once in one of the house flights. bar-ama.com
A Koreatown favorite well-known for its legit Oaxacan fare and its spirits collection. “You can often find me cozied up to the bar at Guelaguetza,” says Eisner. “It doesn't hurt that they have the best mole in town. If you are looking for an authentic Oaxacan experience, this place is pure heaven.” ilovemole.com
“When in West Hollywood and looking to get turned up, check out El Carmen,” according to Eisner. The low-lit venue is “a super fun bar with great music… and the tequila flows like water.” elcarmen.com
Equal part bar and restaurant, Ray Garcia’s “authentically inauthentic” taqueria excels at both. “Get a Tequila 123 Diablito served neat,” recommends Eisner, “and order any food item. Blue corn tortillas, hand-pressed to order: That’s all I have to say.” bstaqueria.com