Let’s be honest: tequila has a certain… reputation. It’s associated with wild nights, hard mornings, and embarrassing novelty t-shirts purchased on college trips to Cancun.

Plenty have sworn it off entirely after too many agave-fueled nights ended on the bathroom floor. Others are willing to dabble alongside their chips and guac, but haven’t explored tequila as a serious spirit.

There’s a time and a place for frozen margaritas in vessels larger than a Kardashian ass, but there are also moments when something more sophisticated is required. Although the magical Mexican elixer is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of NYC’s craft cocktail scene, it’s rapidly becoming a respected spirit worthy of your tastebuds’ attention.

Whether you’re into traditional tequila, smoky mezcal, small-batch sotol, or don’t even know what those words mean, we’re counting down the top 10 New York City bars that are doing it best.

 

10. Leyenda

221 Smith St.

A post shared by Leyenda (@leyendabk) on

 

What people are saying: “Excellent creative cocktails and food in a relaxed yet elegant atmosphere, located in the sophisticated stretch of Smith Street. The bartenders here really know what they are doing, and for $12-$13, you can enjoy a truly unique and perfectly crafted cocktail. Ivy and Shannon were both excellent bartenders and fun to talk with.” –Alyssa F.

What people are drinking: The Bottled Paloma, a spin on the classic, with the house’s own grapefruit juice, served, of course, in a bottle.

9. Gabriela’s Restaurant & Tequila Bar

688 Columbus Ave, New York, NY 10025  (map)

gabrielasGabriela's Restaurant & Tequila Bar
What People Are Saying: “I’m happy to report that the bar scene is actually pretty cool. The last time I was at Gab’s, I sat in a corner spot with a friend and ordered some obscure tequilas. The bartender, sensing that I love me my tequilas, brought me another brand to try on the house. He did this twice so by the time I left I was feeling pretty good.” –Andy T.

What People Are Drinking: Go for a simple margarita – they’re large, colorful, strong, and come in a variety of flavors like strawberry and mango

8. Los Feliz

109 Ludlow St #1, New York, NY 10002  (map)

Los-Feliz-FBFacebook / Los Feliz
What People Are Saying: “After a couple nights of hardcore drinking, I figured I had to pace myself. Unfortunately I picked the wrong night to pace myself because this was a really good tequila bar with a knowledgeable bartender. Always nice to see bartenders who know their tequilas.” –Carlos P.

What People Are Drinking: The Hibiscus Margarita (Milagro Silver, chef prepared hibiscus reduction, fresh lime juice, organic raw agave)

7. Casa Mezcal

86 Orchard St, New York, NY 10002  (map)

casa-mezcal-FBFacebook / Casa Mezcal
What People Are Saying: “Grabbed a drink at the bar with a friend. Let me tell you… they were bomb ass margs. Try the Mezcal one if you are into are looking for a drink with a smoky bite. The bartender was very friendly and welcoming. I asked about their special salts. The salt rim on my mezcal margarita was made with a special ingredient of dried grasshoppers – I didn’t believe him, so he surprised us with two whole ones for my friend and I to try out!” –Anthony X.

What People Are Drinking: Look for the blue-bottled “wild mezcals” – these come from artisanal distillers deep in the Oaxacan mountains and can’t be found anywhere else in NYC

6. Añejo

668 10th Ave, New York, NY 10036  (map)

anejo-fBFacebook / Anejo
What People Are Saying: “The tequila selection is extensive, and as a lover of good tequila I definitely recommend coming here and trying a few of the harder to find selections. All in all, this is a great spot to check out if you like tequila. I will definitely be back! The restaurant is small with a great ambiance and everyone from the hostess to the busboys are very friendly and nice.” –Anastacia S.

What People Are Drinking: The Mole Noche (Tanteo Cocoa Tequila, Bourbon, Averna, arbol chile, mole bitters)

5. Ofrenda

113 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014  (map)

OFRENDAOfrenda
What People Are Saying: “Feeling up for an imbibing adventure? Not sure what to order? The experts behind the bar squeeze all fresh juices and keep many different exciting, fresh ingredients on hand to quench your thirst – and your appetite for a different type of tequila (or other) cocktail. The mixologists also give away a ton of free tastes and occasional shots. They also mix one helluva margarita is you’re feeling traditional.” –Erika A.

What People Are Drinking: Ofrenda’s Old Fashioned, a twist on the classic with Pavoneo Añejo Tequila, maple syrup, and mole-orange bitter

4. La Esquina

114 Kenmare St, New York, NY 10012  (map)

la-esquina-fbFacebook / La Esquina
What People Are Saying: “The brasserie and tequila bar are amazing. When you go into the restaurant, there’s a girl with a list and a door person that will let you in down some stairs to… well, HEAVEN. The corn, tacos, quesadilla, and taquitos are great. The food is spot on and the tequila! OH, the tequila. I’m not a huge tequila fan, but let me tell you, you’ll find one here that you like.” –Stephanie C.

What People Are Drinking: The Pepino Diablo (jalapeño-infused Tanteo Blanco Tequila, cucumber puree, citrus, agave nectar)

3. Agave

140 7th Ave S, New York, NY 10014  (map)

agaveAgave
What People Are Saying: “I’m not a person to be posting on Yelp but I had to write this review. I went with a group of friends for dinner and drinks. I have never been a tequila snob but I have to say, they have one of the most impressive tequila selections I have seen. I ordered their tequila flight which was excellent and my friend ordered one of their signature tequila drinks which was great as well.” –Karl A.

What People Are Drinking: The Electric Feel (Siembra Azul Reposado, fresh pineapple, lavender sugar) or classic margs at the two-hour bottomless brunch

2. La Biblioteca

622 3rd Ave, New York, NY 10017  (map)

la-bibliotechaLa Biblioteca
What People Are Saying: “Classy and tequila don’t usually mix for those of us in the early twenties. This place turns that on its head. Elegant and sleek plus 400+ brands of tequilia! They even had my favorite: ALACRAN! I would definitely recommend this place for the working young adults who want to re-acquaint themselves with tequila as a mature possible relationship versus trashy one night stand.” –Cat C.

What People Are Drinking: Tequila flights, selected from La Biblioteca’s diverse collection of more than 400 tequilas and mezcals (plus a few other obscure agave-based spirits)

1. Mayahuel

304 E 6th St, New York, NY 10003  (map)

Mayahuel1Mayahuel
What People Are Saying: “The Unofficial Tequila and Mezcal King of New York City*, Mayahuel proudly serves dozens of interesting cocktails. They also have a dizzying array of sipping mezcals and tequilas they serve neat, or with an addictive sangrita (tomato water) on the side. The spirits selection is unparalleled and their bartenders are mixing masters.” –Lawrence H.

What People Are Drinking: The Hit Or Miss (pineapple-infused mezcal, jalapeño-infused blanco, cilantro, lime, and agave nectar)

*We’re making it official.

Originally posted April 23, 2015. Updated on July 23, 2017 by Nora Kistler.

[Featured Image: Mayahuel]


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