San Franciscans are getting in touch with their Mexican roots (after all, the Golden State was part of Mexico only 160 years ago) with frequent pilgrimages to Oaxaca and a wide-armed embrace of all things agave. If you can’t travel South of the Border, head to these local bars for some of the largest mescal selections in the United States.
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Mescal bars in San Francisco
Worried about your roommates stealing sips from your mescal bottle? Store it at Mezcalito, which offers special bottle lockers for regular patrons of the Polk Street bar. In the lofty, wood-lined space, you can chow down on Oaxaca-inspired fare like classic queso fundido and fish tacos while tasting mescal flights that include wild, rare concoctions and sweet, fruit-infused varieties.
Alongside tortaguesas (a hamburger-torta mash-up) and pastrami tacos, this intimate tribute to agave spirits offers more than 200 different bottles of the good stuff. Bartender Candice Jae showcases mescal in bright cocktails, such as the Cumbia Beets (mescal, Campari, beets, lemon, egg white, St. George absinthe); and in mescal flights, including a vegan pechuga flight that replicates the fats, oils and unctuousness of pechuga mescals (mescal that is redistilled with fruits, grains, nuts, and a raw chicken or turkey breast) without any animal products (raw or otherwise).
Behind the tile-lined bar at this cozy Cole Valley cantina lives an extensive mescal collection that creates tasty cocktails like the La Copa Verde (mescal, cilantro, chipotle, lime). Enthusiasts can join the Copita Club to receive 10 percent off all agave purchases and early word on any new mescals to hit the bar.
You’ll find Oakland’s best mescal selection at this colorful Uptown spot, thanks in part to the Oaxacan roots of executive chef Octavio Diaz. Enjoy it in the traditional style—a shot served with orange wedges and sal de gusano (agave worm salt)—or in cocktail form (we like the El Arte de Miguel Cabrera with apple-infused mescal, Spirit Works gin, and lemon, cranberry and apple syrups) while filling up on tasty tlayudas (Oaxacan pizzas) or the authentic mole negro; the recipe comes from Diaz’s abuela.
It may not win for biggest mezcal selection but El Techo is the San Francisco bar with the best view for drinking mezcal from its heated rooftop perch in the Mission. Over pounds of proper Mexican chicharrones, sip a mezcal Margarita or drinks like Te de la Tarde: pu’er tea-infused mezcal, lime, Cherry Heering, orgeat and grapefruit.