Perhaps you’ve noticed: Agave spirits are trending in Chicago. The city now boasts four bars and restaurants—Mezcaleria Las Flores, La Mez, Masa Azul and Leña Brava’s bar—that are dedicated to mescal. While each of these locations serves the Mexican liquor, the goal is different for each—whether it’s catering to the neighborhood or serving drinks alongside food.
Mezcaleria Las Flores offers a very relaxed atmosphere, with old school hip-hop, laid-back servers and well made cocktails that aren’t as expensive as they could be at $10 a piece. For the quality, they’re worth the price. The bar is in the old Flower Shop Bar space attached to Johnny’s Grill, serving the restaurant’s food menu in addition to its own concoctions. It fits into Logan Square, where you could throw a rock and hit a cocktail bar—delivering good drinks and a pleasant vibe to the 20- and 30-something crowd. I fell for it immediately.
We didn’t set out to drink the whole menu during my visit, but that feat was easier than expected. The seven cocktails on the menu (plus two margaritas) are ranked by their level of spirit-forwardness, smokiness and adventurous-ness to help steer you in the right direction. In that way, we were the perfect group to try a bit of everything—a sugar fiend, a smoke fan, a sucker for anything refreshing and someone who will try it all.
I tend to fit into the latter two categories and don’t usually prefer much smoke in my drinks, but one of my favorite cocktails of the night was ranked intensely for smoke. The Shook Ones Pt. 1—made with Del Maguey Vida mescal, Kailani coconut, lemon, St. George absinthe, cacao and sesame—blew me away. It came in a clay mug—all the cocktails come in interesting vessels—and was rimmed with unsweetened cacao. Of all the cocktails I tried that night, this was the one that you couldn’t pry out of my hands. It has a sweet anise smell from the absinthe, but the mescal and fruits make it easy to sip.
Even non-tequila lovers can find something on the menu, though. The sweet Falconry Demonstration adds calvados to mescal with a blood orange cordial and maraschino, which roughly translates to “crowd-pleasing cocktail with a smooth egg white.” Agave fans should look through the mescal and agave menus, because beverage director and owner Jay Schroeder serves pours of the spirits in a small clay disc with lemon and a pile of spices to enhance the spirits.
If you’re looking for a relaxing night with great drinks—Mezcaleria Las Flores is a great bet. It’s a fun spot with interesting cocktails without all the pretense. Whether you drink a margarita or three or opt for a few different cocktails, no one’s here to judge, making it the perfect spot to kick back or get an education in agave.
Atmosphere: Bright blue walls make it feel like it’s always summer at the bar. There’s Irish moss hanging from branches and leafy green plants in the window that scream “agave lounge.”
What to eat: The menu from Johnny’s is available and we’re partial to whatever the house-made Pop Tart of the day is or the burger.
What to drink: There are seven cocktails on the menu, not including two margaritas. You can’t go wrong with any of them, but the one you may have seen is the Magnetic Pole Reversal—it’s the most refreshing thing on the menu. There’s also a hefty mescal and agave spirits list along with a five-tap draft list and bottled and canned beers and ciders.
Where to sit: You’ll probably be sitting at a blue barstool regardless of what seat you pick, but there’s a decent amount of seats at the bar. Dates and groups of four should pick one of the high tops opposite the bar.