Some might think of mezcal as the whiskey of agave-based spirits, or a smokier version of an aged tequila. That is to say, this is not a spirit that is served in shot glasses, and chased with salt licked off of one’s arm. But then, we don’t recommend imbibing anything in that fashion—officially, anyhow.
Here, five bars where you can become privy to mezcal's smoky charms, learn the wonder of a house-made sangrita, and stay out of trouble with some stomach-buffering food specials.
Lots of food and drinks during happy hour, 3–6 every day, including the $10 Elote y Mezcal special: a can of Modelo Especial can, a 1 ounce pour of Del Maguey Vida mezcal, and grilled corn on the cob. Up next: a nacho special that comes with a can of Modelo and an ounce of Wahaka Espadin mezcal. But the best way to appreciate spirits director Casey Robison's mezcal obsession is stopping by on a Monday night. His entire selection of mezcal (and tequilas) is 50 percent off when ordered neat or by the flight, plus there's housemade sangrita to sip in between.
Every day from 3–5, munch on free chips and salsa while sampling the Greenwood bar’s selection of 20-ish different mezcals. Happy hour specials include $4 Mexican draft beer, $5 drink specials, and $5 food specials, like flautas, veggie tacos, and fresh guac. Oh, and the bar has like 100 tequilas, too.
This is not a typo, we fact checked: Weekdays from 11:30am–6pm, margaritas and house cocktails are $2 off at the Capitol Hill centro de fiesta. Included in the list of drink specials are the Oaxacan old fashioned (Montelobos mezcal, Ancho Reyes chile liqueur, cinnamon bark agave, chocolate bitters, on the rocks with orange peel) and a mezcalarita (agave, lime, and El Jolgorio mezcal with salt and rocks). Not on special but still special nonetheless are flights like a trio of single-village mezcals, or mezcals distilled from three distinct species of agave. We hold anyone able to drink mezcal that seriously in high esteem.
It feels a little weird to say this 15th Avenue cocktail bar is known for its selection of mezcal, since it's also known for its selection of just about every other spirit out there. But the mezcal list is ridiculously extensive, and makes regular appearances in well-balanced cocktails, which are at least $1 off every day between 4 and 7. A chef's choice sushi roll goes for $4 during happy hour, and well spirits are $3.50.
Yes, we mentioned this late night happy hour a few weeks ago, but the wedge-shaped Capitol Hill bar has an after-work happy hour from 5–7 as well. One with $6 drink specials, and food specials from $5–$6.50. Mezcal makes a frequent appearance on the cocktail list.