Tequila? Mezcal? Here's where to find both.
The lucha libre theme at this lively spot goes far beyond mere motif: the Mexican-inspired decor is borderline over-the-top, but you should pay more attention to the pages and pages of tequila. Tequila selections number in the hundreds, and you can pick a bottle for a shot or in one of El Carmen's fantastic cocktails (the lauded El Perfecto margarita is a highlight). Over 25 mezcals are available as well, and you can supplement your drink with flautas, tamales and ceviche.
Yes, Gracias Madre is known more as a vegan Mexican restaurant than a tequila and mezcal bar, but head bartender Jason Eisner is doing amazing things with both spirits. Consider the Matcha Do About Nothing, which mixes tequila, matcha, coconut milk and sesame-infused agave, with tapioca pearls pooled at the bottom and a cherry blossom stick for a garnish. You can get your mezcal fix in a boozy popsicle, a mezcal mule, or a more complex drink like The Dude Abides, made with house-made almond milk horchata, vanilla and cinnammon agave. In a nutshell: this is mezcal and tequila, elevated.
Guelaguetza is best known for phenomenal mole dishes, but the Oaxacan restaurant also has an impressive mezcal and tequila selection. Each liquor has a cocktail list attached to it: for mezcal fans, you'll find drinks like the Flor de Piña or the Mangoneada; for tequila fans, the Cadillac Margarita or the Piedra Antigua are popular orders. You can also peruse the massive list of mezcal and tequila options that are available as shots. The live music may have you up on your feet soon enough—just kidding, that's actually the tequila talking.
Formerly known as the Little Cave, Highland Park's dive-turned-Mexican-cocktail-den morphed into La Cuevita. The theme here is Día de Los Muertos, where skulls, skeletons and upside-down bats unapologetically swarm mezcal and tequila-lined shelves. A full cocktail list with both spirits is enough to make anyone a convert. The Sonoran Sidecar features Sino Reposado, Patron Citronge and hibiscus syrup, while the namesake La Cuevita boasts Del Maguey Crema de Mezcal, St. Germain, fresh lime juice and ginger beer. Then again, you could always go for the Bandera Mexican: a shot of lime juice, a shot of tequila and a shot of homemade spicy sangrita.
This Downtown hot spot comes from craft-cocktail innovator Cedd Moses. Here, Mexican kitsch meets psychedelic rabbit murals with an impressive list of tequilas (a mix of Highlands and Lowlands) and mezcals (there's Illegal and a bang-up selection of Del Maguey) in-between. Well dressed bartenders can talk you through the intricacies of each or, if you name a flavor preference and price point, they'll take care of a selection for you. Try the El Diablo, made with Vida mezcal, sweet vermouth, Campari and an orange twist.
Now with three locations—Santa Monica, Third St and Studio City—Mercado delivers an inventive mix of food, atmosphere and tradition. At the Third St location, a covered patio space and an open air bar provides the perfect spot for relaxing with a margarita and taquitos. Can't make it during the week? Mercado is a bustling brunch spot, too (helloooo, Chipotle Bloody Marys). Take in the colorful artwork, the relaxed atmosphere and, yes, the tequila, and it's like your own private Mexico.
The Hermosa Beach pier is filled with rowdy bars and fast food stands, but Palmilla Cocina y Tequila is a little more dressed up. Suspender-wearing studs man the bar, where tequila flows freely and Hermosa locals sip on margaritas made with farmers' market-fresh ingredients. Authentic Mexican food includes queso fundido and sweet corn tamales, along with your classic fajitas, burritos and quesadillas.
Order a cocktail at Tacoteca and you just might find a cricket perched on your glass. The fried insect isn't cause for alarm, though—it's used as a garnish, and is part of just one of the many beautiful concoctions mixologist Gilbert Marquez has come up with at this mezcaleria in Santa Monica. More than 90 different types of mezcal are behind the bar, and cocktails are taken to the next level with out-of-the-box ingredients like charcoal and avocado. On the first Monday of every month, a new mezcal brand is highlighted along with discounted tasting flights. Pair your drinks with one of Tacoteca's inventive dishes, like a dry-aged chorizo taco or a duck tamale.
It says it in the name: Te'kila is all about tequila. Located in the courtyard of the historic Jane's House on Hollywood Boulevard, this Mexican bar offers more than 100 different varieties of the clear liquor, from blanco to reposado to añejo. Enjoy all that tequila in the house margaritas, the Ay Dios Mio, the Te'kila Colada, a variety of flights, or just straight up shots with a lick of salt and a squeeze of lime. A short list of mezcal is also available...but for a spot called Te'kila, we suggest you go with their namesake drink.