Nine must-visit bars in one of the world’s greatest cocktail cities
Handshake has changed locations, but its stellar cocktail game remains the same and the hospitality here is extraordinary. Behind a lucky-13-numbered door to the left of the NH Collection Hotel entrance on Calle Amberes (there’s a bell, but also an entry cam, so they’ll spot you lurking) in the Zona Rosa, it’s tiny but packed with cocktail innovation. Order all four of the “snacktails” immediately: they’re mini-glass tastes to busy your palate while you wait for your order. Handshake was the Best Bar in Mexico in 2022 and the Mexi-Thai (coconut-washed tequila with lime, tomato and basil flavours) is the most famous drink on the menu.
Hanky Panky was the highest new entry on last year’s World’s 50 Best Bars list, entering at No. 12. You’ll want to reserve via social-media message to get the exact location in the Juarez neighbourhood and specific entry instructions (no spoilers here, but don’t rely on older co-ordinates online). Though there are a few small tables and booths, sit at the huge, cushy bar thrones to see the deep back bar and theatrical mixology. The game here is to describe what you feel like drinking and allow the barkeep to riff on it. A request for a bitter, better Negroni arrived deeply amari-scented.
The First and the Next
Licoreria Limantour is the O.G. of the cocktail renaissance in CDMX, already open for a decade. The sidewalk tables are some of the best people-watching places in town, and the current menu is packed with collaborations with other world-class bars and ’tenders. Cocktails go way beyond riffs-on-classics to offer the truly inventive, like the Breakfast of Champions: Johnnie Walker Black infused with peanut butter and banana. Some of the most innovative are on the Otros page near the back of the menu, like an Americano Trufado (truffle-washed vermouth and coconut-washed Campari) or an Oregano (a milk punch-style drink with green Ancho Reyes, mezcal and the herb itself).
Named for one of Darwin’s old Galapagos stomping grounds, Baltra Bar is so chock-full of global-explorer vibes you’ll want to take a stroll around the room and gawk at the artifacts. It’s also the place to be in Condesa on a Tuesday, when it’s Martini Night. The Gala cocktail is poured directly from a chilled bottle of Malfy gin that’s been infused with olive oil, house-made vermouth, clear tomato essence and spices. An unexpected standout is the Simone, with gin infused with coffee, tawny Port and citrus.
The Woman-powered Places
Bar Brujas is one of several fun spots on the lively Plaza Rio de Janeiro square, but it’s the only one that runs on witch-power! This bar is woman-run and located in an iconic goth building known as the House of the Witches (or in Spanish, Casa de las Brujas, because a Mexican shaman reportedly once lived there). Its seasonal Apothecary Potion Book (menu) concept is botanical-influenced concoctions that resemble spells or remedies with their local herb, bark and floral ingredients. Spookiest among them might just be the current Grimoire, a witchy coupe of gin dark with cuttlefish ink, vermouth and brine.
Kaito del Valle, an offshoot of a sushi restaurant in the southern Benito Juarez neighbourhood, is a female-powered izakaya (named for the woman pearl-divers of the Izu peninsula) that embraces kawaii cuteness. Drinks are playful and beautifully presented, like Pikachu garnished with a fortune cookie, which embraces the best of Mexico (mezcal and pineapple) and Japan (sake and wasabi) in weird and wonderful ways.
The Hi-Fi Bars
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An offshoot of the famous Japanese location, Tokyo Music Bar in Mexico City’s Little Tokyo micro-hood has the recipe for a night out: vintage audio plus Japanese-style mixology. Seats at the brass-and-green bar have the best view of the vinyl collection. You’ll want to sample from an amazing collection of Japanese whisky and other spirits here. Café de Nadie also has a 1,000-plus vinyl collection and top-notch sound in a minimalist room. Here, drinks are actually inspired by songs, like a Riders on the Storm with housemade chai and sotol (an agave-like spirit).
The One to Watch
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Rayo, inspired for the agave-spirit creation legend (in which a lightning beam or rayo struck an agave plant) is a buzzy new Roma joint that creates top-shelf cocktails with premium spirits in a neon-glow room.
—by Charlene Rooke