Cinco De Mayo is here and you’re likely tempted to celebrate Mexico’s victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla with a half-dozen margaritas. Why not dig a bit deeper this Cinco de Mayo and explore the marriage of Mexican spirits and U.S. cocktail culture?
Los Angeles bartenders aren’t messing around when it comes to offering up unique cocktails with agave spirits. Below are seven suggestions for some of the most interesting margarita alternatives to taste around Los Angeles.
1. Mezcalero :: Oaxaca Shame
510 S. Broadway, DTLA
The first word that comes to mind when visiting Mezcalero and reading through the cocktail list is “fun!” One of the standout cocktails (among many) Oaxaca Shame. This drink is roasted corn infused mezcal, Hendricks gin, creme de violette, dry vermouth, hojo santo leaf tincture & absinthe. The standout ingredient, other than the corn infused mezcal, is the hojo santo leaf tincture. It’s a common ingredient in tamales and adds a spark of sweet anise flavor to the drink.
2. Gracias Madre :: Sour T-essel
8905 Melrose Avenue, West Hollywood
The Sour T-essel is such a fascinating cocktail. This is one of Gracias Madre’s three cannabis cocktails, but it rises to the top due to all of the unique ingredients they pack in. It starts off simple with tequila blanco, agave, lime, and mint. But then they go all in with matcha, aquafaba (chickpea brine or what vegans use instead of egg whites), and, of course, cannabidiol oil. Surprisingly, it somehow all works.
3. Everson Royce Bar :: Yo LA Tengo
1936 E 7th Street
If you’re ordering off the daily menu ERB’s Yo LA Tengo is a perfect sunny summer sipper for an evening on the bar’s patio. Ingredients: mezcal, Aperol, ginger, lime, ruby red grapefruit, and soda. If you’re at ERB on No Mames Monday, I’m not even sure where to start. Pop’s is a kick ass drink with mezcal, yuzu, chocolate chili & mole bitters, and grapefruit peel. Yet, the Chica-Maria is something special with pork belly infused los javis mezcal, lime, house made smoked chili & spice mix, and chicharron garnish. Pro tip, you can also get that pork-infused mezcal in a shot.
4. Harlowe :: Into The Garden 7321 Santa Monica Blvd.
If you like having a delicious herb garden in your mouth you’ll want to go straight to Harlowe. One of the bar’s newest arrivals is the aptly titled Into the Garden composed of Herradura Blanco Tequila, Saffron, Thyme Honey, Lemon, and Sauvignon Blanc.
5. Corner Door :: Pineapple Lamp
12477 W Washington Blvd
Not to make this personal but the Corner Door has two of my favorite cocktails in all of Los Angeles: the Lumber-Jack Liquor Cabinet and the Campsite #15 (yes, I definitely have a type). You should totally come back and drink those after Cinco de Mayo (or on Cinco de Mayo! I’m not the boss of you!). For the purpose of this cocktail listicle I’m steering you to the Pineapple Lamp. This cocktail is the best use for pisco outside of a pisco sour. Ingredients: tequila, pisco, lime, egg white, pineapple, basil, and cucumber.
6. Fishing with Dynamite :: General Moondragon
1148 Manhattan Avenue Manhattan Beach
Fishing With Dynamite is one of the few drink programs in Los Angeles playing with the Mexican spirit sotol. This spirit, related to but not agave (see the MezcalPHD link above), has caught fire in New York City and is starting to catch on in San Francisco. The current sotols on the market (most commonly Sotol Por Siempre or Hacienda De Chihuahua ) have a taste profile that’s less smoky like a mezcal but more earthy. FwD is working with Hacienda de Chihuahua in the pleasurable General Moondragon. It’s a riff on a Mexican 75 (which in itself is a riff on the French 75) and features Amaro Santa Maria, pineapple, sage, and sparkling rose. We don’t have a photo of this cocktail so here’s a picture of FwD’s to die for Key Lime Pie.
7. Norah :: Earl Grey Buck
8279 Santa Monica Boulevard, West Hollywood
Norah has an Earl Grey-infused mezcal and it’s a shockingly perfect marriage. It’s the base spirit in the Earl Grey Buck which includes herbaceous liquers, pineapple, lime, and ginger. There isn’t a photo of the drink so here’s a delicious Swordfish.
[Featured Image by Polina Beregova on Instagram]