Joining the recent wave of underground bars (Shorty’s, Tico’s Tequila Lounge) comes this agave-fueled grotto, operating on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays below Angelo Sosa’s Tribeca taqueria Añejo. (Abajo translates to “downstairs” in Spanish.) The focus is tequila’s smoky sibling mescal, some aged in barrels, some stored in private lockers (we’ll get to those) and all available to sop up with South of the Border snacks like fried guacamole ($7). Yes, fried guacamole.
DRINK THIS: Potent mescal mixers include El Tranny ($14), which blends prickly pear and Tapatio 110 mescal with a champagne floater, and the wittily named Haas Muzik ($13), cutting the nutty richness of avocado puree with jalapeño-infused tequila, allspice pineapple nectar and cilantro. Get a drink and a side of show with the Church St. Swizzle punch ($14), which has bartenders wielding meat tenderizers to crush ice before stirring in smooth vanilla-tinged Riazul Reposado, house tangerine cordial and fresh mint. And if you’re going gaga over a specific spirit, splurge on a bottle ($200 and up) and have the bartender store it in one of the bar’s lock-and-key liquor cabinets for easy access on your next visit.
GOOD FOR: A spontaneous dance fiesta. A DJ tucked next to a few oak barrels keeps the packed house moving with high-octane tunes and many an inspired Rihanna sing-along. (Eh, eh.) Even the bartenders get into the groove, channeling Cocktail with Cruise-level bottle spinning and shaker flipping. Low lights and flickering candelabras keep the vibe sultry, but street-art portraits and Mexican playing-card–papered walls give the joint some anything-goes grit.
THE CLINCHER: This is not a place to catch up with an old friend, so save the reminiscing for brunch as you try to piece together your agave-soaked evening, a haze of torta burgers and one too many tequila shots. Below street level, it’s easy to lose track of time and place—and down at Abajo, that’s a good thing.
By Alyssa Haak