The of-the-moment destination for craft beer and cocktail lovers isn’t NYC, London, LA, or San Francisco — it’s Mexico City.

By Laura Sant
October 03, 2019
Laura Sant

There’s never been a better time to go drinking in Mexico City. With a craft beer scene in the midst of an explosion, two of its bars on the World’s 50 Best List, and mezcal surging in popularity across the globe, the country’s beer, wine, and spirits scene is finally gaining the international attention it deserves. Even pulque, a thick drink made from the sap of the agave that predates mezcal, has popped up in the country's hippest bars and restaurants. But it's the capital that is the perfect place to spend a weekend sampling it all. Mexico City is awash in everything from laid-back beer bars to internationally awarded cocktail spots to bottle shops selling high-end mezcals, and it’s both inexpensive and easy to get to from the United States. Here, our guide to making the most of a long weekend in the city. 

Laura Sant

Friday

Start with a delectable egg sandwich or some avocado toast at Cicatriz, a cozy all-day café opened by American brother-and-sister duo Scarlett and Jake Lindeman. Then, slowly wind your way east toward the city’s historic center, which is about a 30-minute walk. Stop at Palacio de Bellas Artes, the architectural marvel bedecked in Neoclassical and Art Nouveau flourishes on the outside and Art Deco details on the interior. It's one of the cultural centers of the city. Inside, there are several works on display by Diego Rivera and other great pillars of the Mexican muralist movement. You'll spot Man, Controller of the Universe, Rivera’s recreation of his controversial mural that was removed from Rockefeller Center in New York City before completion.

After taking in the art, a quick stop for churros and chocolate is in order — you are fueling up for a weekend of drinking, after all. Churrería El Moro makes what are widely considered the best churros in the city. These crispy, cinnamon-coated fried delights are an entire foot long and come four to a package, so you might want to share with a friend. (If you can't manage four churros just yet, the location is open 24 hours so you can get a late-night fix.)

Fried dough craving satisfied, it’s time to continue onto the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square, which dates back to Aztec times and has been the hub for both major celebrations and protests throughout the city’s history. Walk the perimeter and people watch for a while, then head up a block to Templo Mayor, where you can see the uncovered layers of the original 14th-century temple that stood in this area.

There’s plenty to keep you occupied in this area of the city for the rest of the day. A languorous, mezcal-fueled lunch at Azul Historico is a must: their dark, thick Oaxacan mole and chicken tortilla soup are both excellent picks. Within an eight-block radius is MUMEDI, the city’s design museum; Museo de Arte Popular, the folk art museum (be sure to pick up a souvenir or two at the gift shop); the Museo Franz Mayer, which houses decorative art from the 16th through the 19th centuries; and The Shops at Downtown, a collection of luxury stores which houses brands like Flora María, M.A.C., and Carla Fernandez.

By 6 p.m., you should, in theory, be ready for a drink again. Go early and beat the mob at Bósforo, a cozy, intimate mezcaleria with an unmarked entrance off of Calle Luis Moya — it's a favorite spot of the in-the-know crowd. Give the server a little guidance on what you like, or just ask him to pick some of his favorite mezcals for you, so you can taste your way through tobala, madrecuixe, and other wild agave varieties.

It's time to head slowly back in the direction of the hotel. If you’ve managed to get hungry again, hit up Amaya, a chic spot in Juarez that’s well known for its Baja Med food and wonderful natural wine selection (try a glass of something from Bichi, the chef’s own winery). Nearby, Hop the Beer Experience and El Deposito are both excellent spots to while away a few hours as you taste your way through a bevy of Mexican craft beers — be on the lookout for selections from Cru Cru and Cerveceria de Colima.

Saturday

Start the day with brunch at Lalo!, chef Eduardo García’s (Maximo Bistrot, Havre 77) casual breakfast and lunch place. It's a good spot to order everything from huevos rancheros to toast with mascarpone and fruit. Avoid a frustratingly long wait by going early. After breakfast and a flat white, hop in an Uber and head straight to Bazar Sábado, a weekly art and craft market that packs Plaza San Jacinto and the surrounding buildings with local crafts, jewelry, artwork, textiles, and food.

Laura Sant

A 15-minute walk away from the Saturday market is the Museo Estudio Diego y Frida, the iconic pair of houses connected by bridge that functioned as the studio and residence for famed artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Bring cash for tickets, as the museum doesn’t take cards.

Just up the street is the San Ángel Inn, a former monastery-turned-hacienda-turned-restaurant that dates back to the 17th century. The restaurant’s famous margaritas come in a carafe on ice and are meant to be poured into the accompanying small stemmed glass a little at a time, so that the drink stays ice cold. Pair them with guacamole and chips while soaking up the sun and listening to live music in the courtyard amidst tropical plants and flowers. After picking up your tab, take a stroll through the expansive grounds out back, which are dotted with lush flora.

Laura Sant

If you haven’t quite gotten your Kahlo fix yet, head over to beautiful Coyoacán, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Mexico City and a famous haunt of Kahlo’s. Visit Casa Azul, the striking cobalt-blue house where she lived much of her life and which has since been turned into a museum honoring the artist and her work. Nearby, Corazon de Maguey is an excellent spot for tasting through some mezcals.

Then it’s up to Navarte Poniente, a neighborhood about a 15-minute Uber ride away, for more beer tasting away from the tourists. Cerveceria Crisanta GarageEl Deposito, and Hop the Beer Experience 2, a wide-open quasi-outdoor space with more than 40 beers on tap, are all within walking distance of each other and will afford you a wide survey of the best in Mexican beers. The food might be tempting as well, but you’ll want to save your appetite for El Visilto, a part-auto repair shop, part-taco stand that serves some of the best al pastor tacos in the city. (This also makes a welcome late night stop, if you wind up bar hopping until the wee hours.)

Sunday

Head to Panadería Rosetta for coffee and some of the tastiest pastries in town. Chef Elena Reygadas and her team take great care with the breads and pastries here, The guava roll is a standout — it's a buttery, flaky pastry filled with barely sweetened cheese and a dollop of guava paste. After caffeinating, wander towards the Fusión Design Market, an indoor-outdoor collection of stores selling beautiful local clothes, jewelry, art, and other items. Taste some mezcals and pick up a souvenir or two from design shops like Manuel Sekkel, which sells shoes made in collaboration with indigenous communities.

After shopping, head down to Roma Norte and have a drink and snack at local brewhouse Escollo. In addition to stocking their own beer, they also offer a nice selection of other Mexican brews and a wide array of mezcal options — though you may want to save the mezcal drinking for MisMezcales, a diminutive shop on Calle Coahuila that mezcal expert Omar Trejo stocks with some of the best bottles to be found in Mexico. Tell him what you like and he’ll lead you through a tasting that might just change your mind about what you think mezcal is. You might sip from bottles like Don Mateo pechuga, an earthy, smoky expression that’s cooked under a mix of meat and spices, or the floral, mineral El Jolgorio madrecuixe. (Definitely snag some to bring home — you won’t find most of these in the States.)

Afterward, it’s to the Trappist for more beer — this tiny bar open to the sidewalk is stocked with everything from Belgian lambics to local brewery collaborations. Next door, La Clandestina is a fun spot to taste a few more mezcals, if you’re in the mood. Even more beer and mezcal can be had at nearby El Grifo, with the bonus of take-out pizza from Pizzas Nosferatu being available directly next door. And before you call it a night, a final drink is in order at Baltra Bar, a cozy, intimate spot with a Darwinian theme and an understated, creative cocktail menu that changes frequently.

Where to Stay

Stara Hamburgo

This 60-room boutique hotel is our pick for a long weekend. Nestled in Juarez, a leafy neighborhood filled with old colonial homes and scores of bars and restaurants, it’s located close to most of our favorite spots in the city. The rooftop breakfast area, which opens to the outdoors in nice weather, makes a perfect home base to sip coffee and map out your plan each morning. Rooms are simple yet stylish (and spacious), with separate sitting areas, small balconies, and luxurious showers.

The Bottles to Bring Back

Before you leave, don’t forget to stock your suitcase with a few treats for back home.

Mezcal Real Minero Largo

Real Minero is a family-run mezcal brand which has built up a fanatic following under the current head of the distillery, Graciela Angeles Carreño. Made with 100 percent largo agave, this mezcal has lots of herbal, green notes with a touch of soft sweetness.

El Jolgorio Madrecuixe

Laura Sant

Made in Oaxaca with a wild variety of agave called madrecuixe, this mezcal has mineral, floral notes on the front and a beautiful smooth finish.

Don Mateo Pechuga

Laura Sant

This pechuga from Michoacan is made with Cenizo agave. Like other pechugas, for the third distillation, meat is hung over the still — in this case, the owner’s wife’s special recipe that includes chicken, deer meat, and a blend of spices. The result is smooth, earthy, smoky, and rich.

Bichi Rosa

Laura Sant

The winery of Amaya chef Jair Téllez, Bichi is devoted to making wine using organic and biodynamic methods — something still fairly uncommon in Mexico. Their rosé is of an undetermined grape variety that drinks bright, light, and acidic and pairs beautifully with a wide variety of foods.

Cru Cru Porter

Laura Sant

A rich beer from Mexico City brewery Cru Cru, this porter has notes of chocolate and coffee with just enough bitterness on the finish to keep it refreshing.

Cervecería de Colima Piedra Lisa

Laura Sant

This easy-to-drink session IPA comes from Cervecería de Colima, a brewery located in the state of the same name. Citrus hop flavors and a light finish make it the perfect accompaniment to a warm Mexico City afternoon.

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