Austin's best tequila and mescal bars
Above the popular cocktail bar Whisler's sits Mezcalería Tobalá, a small, speakeasy-style one-room bar with a large selection of mescal. It can be intimidating to walk in here without a base knowledge of the spirit, but the bartenders are happy to guide you (through a flight, perhaps?). Varieties include Mexicano, Arroqueño, Tobalá and others, and you can opt for a half pour in a clay copita or a full pour in a veladora glass once you've found a favorite.
Named after one of Mexico City's trendiest neighborhoods, La Condesa serves a hip take on traditional Mexican fare. An over-sized mural frames a dining room where trendy Austinites and visiting hipsters dig into three-day mole chicken breasts, and the patio overlooking Guadalupe Street is a true happy-hour destination. Speaking of happy hour: La Condesa's tequila and mescal collection is highly impressive, with more than 50 types of tequila and 15 types of mescal. Flights of both are also available if you can't land on one pick.
The team behind recent L.A. transplant Seven Grand has opened Las Perlas, a mescaleria dedicated to the smoky spirit. Settle into the green-hued, candlelit space (a patio out back is shared with Seven Grand) and sip on copitas of top-notch mescal, or order a handcrafted cocktail like the smooth Oaxacan negroni, the Jarritos Paloma on draft or the Spiced Daisy—a Las Perlas original given some extra oomph with fresh-pressed jalapeños.
Techo is the only rooftop bar in the Cherrywood area and, though it’s quite small, it packs a punch. Located above the iconic My Madres, the intimate bar heavily (but not exclusively) focuses on mescal while also serving agave- and beer-based cocktails. The space is littered with specialty commissioned art from Mexico and touches like scalloped metal chairs and succulents. If you find yourself waiting for a table, grab a taco downstairs.
Since it's recent opening, Suerte has been drawing raves for its stunning design. But the Mexican restaurant on the east side isn't just a pretty face—the masa-focused dishes and hefty mescal and tequila list are just as impressive. Choose from copitas and full glasses of the agave spirits, plus sotol (local company Desert Door makes an appearance) and raicilla. As for cocktails, we're fans of the Rosalinda made with Union mescal, Dolin blanc, hibiscus apertif, Lustau Fino and rose water.
Spoiler alert: You're going to find plenty of really good margaritas and tequila at 508 Margarita & Tequila House. Located in the Red River District, this lively bar (with a bomb patio) offers a massive tequila selection and a variety of margarita options, including a blood orange frozen margarita that offers some much needed body temp control on a summer afternoon. The bar is small but lively, and the bartenders are happy to help whip up whatever marg you're craving.
El Naranjo's owners are Oaxaca ex-pats (they still return to lead regular culinary tours) and their interior Mexican roots shine through in plates like seasonal ceviche and a pair of mole dishes (lighter amarillo and 30-ingredient negro). But if you're here to drink, you're in luck, too. A lengthy list of margaritas and other tequila cocktails populate the menu, like the Durazno: Cimarrón silver, white peach purée, naranja liquor and fresh squeezed lime juice. Around 50 tequila and mescal options are available for a pour as well, whether you're in the mood for sipping or shooting.
A tiny cantina on Austin's east side has transformed into La Holly, a bar where tequila and mescal preside over all other liquors. Enter the cozy space and you'll be greeted with a menu that focuses on agave spirits, like the Oaxacan Wipeout with Kimo Sabe mescal, absinthe, lime, cinnamon and pineapple, or the Levitation made with tequila, creme de Violette, maraschino, lemon and Luxardo cherries. Outside, a spacious patio is flanked by the Taco Flats and Dee Dee food trailers, where you can nosh on tacos and sticky rice with mango while enjoying La Holly's cocktails.
Tucked behind Clive Bar on Rainey Street, Bar Ilegal doesn't exactly stick it to the law (as its name might suggest), but it's secluded enough to still feel a little illicit. Specializing in mescal, the candle-lit stone house is a small, sexy space where cocktails are made with the smokey spirit, using the small production variety Illegal Mezcal. Victoria Beers are also available for drinking between smokey sips.
Tacos and Tequila—more commonly known as TNT—might be best known for its $22 brunch buffet, a gargantuan spread that includes a taco bar and make-your-own omelet station (not to mention the mimosas, agua frescas and other beverages that come with the meal). Flights include half shots of premium tequila with a sangrita chaser, and classic cocktails are given a tequila-focused twist, like a Mexican Mule made with Blue Nectar silver tequila.
You'll find 400 Rabbits nestled next to the Alamo Drafthouse on Slaughter Lane, a friendly cocktail lounge where tequila- and mescal-based cocktails populate the menu. Choose from drink sections titled "Fun and Flirty," "Mild Mannered" and "Big and Brash" depending on your mood; the Despertar Los Muertos, made with mescal, grapefruit liqueur, lillet rose, grapefruit juice and absinthe, is a real doozy. A selection of wine and beer is also available, as are flights of agave and shots and copitas of straight-up tequila and mescal.