People in Mexico City don’t drink like people in the United States, which is just one more reason to visit the world’s third largest metropolis. They down mezcal like it has the power to sustain life (maybe it does) and frequent bars devoted exclusively to pulque, the fermented, often-flavored beverage made from maguey sap. Of course a city’s drinking habits have more to do with what’s in the glass, as evidenced by the proliferation of cantinas.
The often-humble establishments are frequented by people after work, or people who have/make time to relax with friends and family. If you visit a cantina in Mexico City, plan on ordering three drinks. It’s not like a comedy club, where they force you to order a set number of drinks, but it’s pretty well understood. The tradeoff is a selection of complimentary botanas, alcohol-friendly appetizers.
My recent trip to Mexico City with Bill Esparza (Street Gourmet LA) involved several cantina stops, including one upscale, another that isn’t even worth mentioning, and one of my favorite stops of the entire trip, Cantina La Mascota. We met up with Lesley Tellez (The Mija Chronicles) and her husband for an overflowing “happy hour” in a popular Centro Historico cantina, which featured a raucous atmosphere and solid food.
Jay-Z has the 40/40 sports club in Manhattan, and La Mascota has glasses of 30-30 tequila for 55 pesos (less than $5). Mine came with a sangrita, a tequila chaser with tomato juice, lime juice and salt. Cantina La Mascota stocks over 20 different tequilas and also have Preparados (cocktails), including margaritas, Rusos Blancos (White Russians) and Pina Coladas.
Of course we split a number of botanas while we drank. Why not, since they were complimentary.
Carnitas y chamorros featured an obscene amount of pork, including an entire shank and cubes fried in hog fat. The meat was a little overcooked, but it’s hard to argue too loudly with what must have been two pounds of pig.
In case any cantinagoer wants more to eat, La Mascota sells tortas, including a simple jamon, a more composed Cubana, or a Tampiquena, by far the most expensive non-alcoholic menu item at 65 pesos. La Mascota also sells a quartet of postres, including peaches, mangoes or pineapple, plus chongos, whatever that is. The food was pretty good, and the tequila was certainly welcome after a long day of traversing the massive city, but really, it’s the total package that makes La Mascota worth visiting.