This is a guest blog post from our mezcalerbro Chris
Oaxaca is one of the most magical places in the world, with its art, amazing cuisine, good vibes, and most importantly… its mezcal. I’ve been accompanying Jonny and Tyler on the Mezcal Reviews annual trip to Oaxaca since 2017. This is a list of some of our favorite mezcalerias in Oaxaca Centro. This list includes great places to start your evening, get educated about mezcal, try a new mezcal cocktail, get a bite to eat, and party the night away.
This appointment-only mezcaleria is probably the most well known in Oaxaca. This is a great first stop when you visit Oaxaca. It is an educational experience that will provide foundational knowledge which can help you enjoy and understand mezcal for the remainder of your trip. The vibe here is serious. It’s a quiet bar that will remind you of an old library with it’s all-wood interior. They will typically ask you if you would like between 3-6 pours. You should let them guide you. But, if there is something specific you want to try, just ask. Like a ski mountain, there are different degrees of difficulty, enjoyable for novices and experts alike. If you’re ready for a double black diamond, ask for one of their puntas, which is very high in alcohol percentage, typically over 60%.
Mezcaloteca works with producers from villages all over Oaxaca. I really enjoy their stuff from Miahuatlán, made by the Cortes and Ramos families specifically. Mezcaloteca is one of the pioneering brands to put all of the production information on the front label of their bottles. Recently they have controversially taken the production town and last names of the mezcaleros off the label. Some of their mezcal is imported into the US under the Mezcalosfera label. They have plenty of bottles to sell. If you’re lucky they will have your favorite of the night.
Mezcalería Cuish has two locations; the original is a bit off the beaten path and their new location is in downtown Oaxaca. This is a great mezcaleria to check out during the day. Some of the locals have told me the original location is not the greatest area at night. Cuish has a small bar with a courtyard lounge area. They offer around 10-15 varietals, which change often. They source their mezcal from various mezcaleros/mezcaleras from all over Oaxaca. I discovered one of my favorite mezcaleras, Reina Sanchez, here. When I visit with a small group, we like to share and try them all. They typically have bottles to sell in various sizes, 250ml, 500ml and 750 ml. This is a stop a mezcal connoisseur must make.
This is a great place to drink mezcal while enjoying top-notch food. On the first floor is the bar area as well as the main dinning area. There is also a rooftop taco bar. Here you will find 5 Sentidos mezcal. Both the restaurant and mezcal brand are owned by the amiable, Jason Cox, and his business partner Joseph Gilbert. Their brand is taking off in the United States, where they’re releasing some of the most unique mezcals on the market. All of the labels are artistic renditions of photos that Jason took at each of the producer’s palenques. Jason took us out to visit one of my favorite producers, Alberto Martinez a couple years ago. You can read more about our experience visiting Alberto and El Destilado in Jonny’s blog: Cinco Sentidos and El Destilado
The owners of the brands, El Jolgorio and Nuestra Soledad, own this intimate, woodworked, candle-lit bar. If you’ve always wanted to try El Jolgorio with their beautiful labels, but haven’t because of the price, this place is for you. You will be greeted by friendly bartenders who could be from anywhere in the world, who are in Oaxaca becoming mezcal experts. Besides El Jolgorio, the namesake house brand, Mezcalogia, is absolutely worth trying. They also sell bottles of what they have on their bar. Mezcalogia has a great cocktail program and even pulque if you need to change it up. They often have live, mellow music. This is a great place to wrap up your night after a delicious Oaxacan dinner.
When you step inside the small intimate bar, In Situ, owner Ullises Torrontera, and his welcoming wife Sandra will greet you. Behind the bar you will see their wall lined with a couple hundred beautiful clear blue bottles. They sell every kind of mezcal you’ve heard of and never heard of. Only Ullises knows how old some of those bottles are. Their mezcal is curated from various Mezcaleros around the state of Oaxaca. Just recently, their mezcal has been imported into the United States under the name Farolito. Ask for recommendations or tell them what type of agave you enjoy. They also sell bottles to take home, on my most recent trip there I purchased one of the best Jabalis I’ve ever had. Their hours vary; they may not necessarily be open when Google says they are. If you’re a serious mezcal drinker you must visit.
Right next door to In Situ is Archivo Maguey, which has an upbeat celebratory vibe. Archivo Maguey sources their mezcal from their own producers around Oaxaca. Their menu is great for visitors who aren’t experts with the various agaves. The menu has a key with flavor descriptions, each mezcal on the menu has symbols that let you know the flavor profile. There isn’t much seating at the bar, most guests are seated at tables. Enjoy the full food menu or hit the dance floor. At night, especially on the weekends, there is a DJ or live band playing booming dance music. This is where you go when you want to keep the party going after the other mezcalerias close.
This bar and restaurant has a diverse selection of mezcal that aren’t associated with any particular brand. Sabina Sabe has something for everyone-mezcal, cocktails, cerveza, and basic Oaxacan food. This is a great place to try the expensive bottles you’ve seen in the states but avoided, because of the price. It’s good place for a group of people, the bar is spacious, and there is also table service.
In addition to these mezcalerias, there are small, private tasting rooms all over Oaxaca City. Some of them are associated with a brand, like Vago or NETA, while others are related to different producer collectives and associations, like Maestros del Mezcal. Many of these smaller tasting rooms are invite-only, but if you’re lucky enough to get an invite, you should absolutely go. Have you been to any of these mezcalerias or tasting rooms? What did you think?