Drinking Mezcal, Pulque and Cocktails in Mexico City

Bar Mexico City


Drinking in Mexico City is not like drinking in Los Angeles, San Francisco or New York. The spirits and fermented beverages are fairly different. So are the flavor profiles and designs, and we’re not even including cantinas, a category unto itself. If you find yourself in Distrito Federal, here are four bars worth visiting.

On September 30, my first night in Mexico City, after completing a three-stop Condesa pastor crawl, a sign for “pulque” was enough to draw me into Expendio de Pulques Finas Los Insurgentes

Pulque Mexico City
An employee directed me to the third floor of the then four-year-old, brick walled canteen. Upon my arrival in the low-lit room, a group of people had joined hands and appeared to be in a prayer circle. I think I even heard a didgeridoo. Yes, the atmosphere was a wee bit eerie.

Pulque Mexico City
Los Insurgentes features pulque, a low-alcohol fermented maguey sap beverage. They source pulque from the neighboring state of Tlaxcala. Pulque natural is the true form, milky and unfiltered, with a slightly salty finish. My prior moment of pulque consumption wasn’t as satisfying, probably because everybody kept comparing the liquid to spit and mucus, not exactly appetizing. However, at Los Insurgentes, it was refreshing, and not nearly as viscous as it was in my memory. They also flavored the pulque with fresh mamey or pina colada. I opted for the former, which was sweeter and still good, but obscured the beverage’s distinct flavor.

If pulque still isn’t your thing, Los Insurgentes also offers mezcal, crema de mezcal in flavors like cajeta and nuez, and a range of vodka, whisky, rum, brandy, licor, vino and cerveza.

Mezcal Bar Mexico City
after visiting Mercado de Coyoacan, Street Gourmet LA founder Bill Esparza, who joined the fray earlier that morning, led us to Corazon de Maguey, a mezcal bar on the square owned by Los Danzantes.
According to their mission statement, Corazón de Maguey is designed to promote and get to know the culture of mezcal, celebrating the tierra (land), gente (people) and cultura (culture) through una selección de los mejores mezcales artesanales (a selection of the best artisanal mezcals).

Mezcal Mexico City
According to their mission statement, Corazón de Maguey is designed to promote and get to know the culture of mezcal, celebrating the tierra (land), gente (people) and cultura (culture) through una selección de los mejores mezcales artesanales (a selection of the best artisanal mezcals).

Mezcal Mexico City
Glass jugs, traditionally used to store mezcal, became part of the building’s architecture.

Mezcal Mexico City
Esparza gave me a quick overview of the menu, explaining that pechuga is a type of mezcal that incorporates turkey breast in part of the distilling process. Gusanito is the type of mezcal that has a worm in the bottle, and that’s typically a bad sign. We went with two mezcals that are seemingly unavailable in Los Angeles. Nauyaca (110 pesos ~ $9) is a mezcal joven (young mezcal) made from 100% agave silvestre cupreata. Filed under Los Suyos (Los Invitados), this mezcal displayed a deep color and richer flavor than Oh (95), the mezcal of the house, filed under Los Nuestros (de la casa).

Mezcal Mexico City
Corazon de Maguey’s menu also features categories like Real Minero, Pierde Almas and Rey Zapoteco, all from Oaxaca, plus Mezcal de Leyenda (legendary mezcal) and Don Mateo de La Sierra from Michoacan. They also have Los Pulques (natural y curados), mezcal cremas in flavors like cajeta, fresa and pinon. Basically, this was way more choices than we could possibly try in a single afternoon, not that it was our goal.

Food Writer Mexico City
We raised our glasses one final time before continuing across town.

Pulque Bar Mexico City
Pulqueria Las Duelistas has been open for over 92 years near Mercado San Juan on Calle Aranda.

Pulque Bar Mexico City
To call Las Duelistas a dive might be too kind, but it’s a blast to be there. Just pass by the potted maguey plant out front, which is carved with dozens of initials, and you’ll find…

Pulque Bar Mexico City
…a floor to ceiling Aztec mural that blankets the walls, ceiling and urinal, which had been kicked in and resides right in the main hall. It was a raucous scene, even in the afternoon, with singing hipsters and waitresses with more than their share of piercings and tats.

Pulque Mexico City
Los Insurgentes was a totally different experience, laid back, moody. Here, people were downing pulque in mass quantities. Esparza and I passed tarros (pints, 20 pesos each) of yerbabuena (mint) and apio (celery) with that last glass rimmed with sal de gusano (maguey worm salt). Las Duelistas also sells vasos (glasses), litros (liters) and cubetas (buckets). Bottoms up.

Cocktails Mexico City
Pata Negra is a trendy bar in the Condesa neighborhood for twentysomethings who apparently like ’90s American rap. Pata Negra is the kind of place you’d find on L.A.’s Sunset Strip, but with fewer douchebags and more mezcal. Our two mezcal cocktails involved decidedly Mexican flavor profiles, one centering on tangy hibiscus, and the other drink featuring a sweet, sour and spicy combo of tamarind and chamoy, the latter with sal de gusano rim.

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Joshua Lurie

Joshua Lurie founded FoodGPS in 2005. Read about him here.

Blog Comments

Great summary; I need to get back to DF to check out Las Duelistas. 🙂 Glad to see you’re taking advantage of all of Mexico City’s culinary delights!

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