Where to drink in Mexico City

Great food. Excellent cocktails. Mexico City has shed its former reputation as a den of cartels and kidnappings to a metropolitan hotbed of fine dining and innovative bars.

Our bar adventure in Mexico was mostly one of accidental good fortune. We ended up stumbling upon 2 of the top ranked bars in the world – without premeditation.

The plans were fairly vague. We arrived with hopes to try some craft mezcals and learn more about sotol. The one solid plan was made under the passionate insistence of a friend, who coerced us to refresh the Pujol reservation website hourly for days until a 9:45 pm slot finally opened up for the Tuesday night that we landed. Later, we discovered two things: 1) our friend had never been to Pujol – or for that matter, Mexico – and 2) the reservation we made was actually for two weeks later.

Licoreria Limantour: Down-to-earth atmosphere, with cocktails that span from the spirit-forward and smokey to the light and easy sippers. Extensive menu.

Licoreria Limantour: Top 14 out of 50

To pass the time before our (supposed) 9:45 pm reservation, we ended up at a nearby bar: Licoreria Limantour. The bar is small, not notably opulent and almost empty when we arrived on a Tuesday at 9pm. Having done next to no research on bars to visit while in Mexico City and relying instead in blind faith that Mexico City’s bars have never let us down before, I was a bit apprehensive about the lack of clientele and whether or not the drinks would be good. That instantly changed when we were promptly presented menus.

The menu was drink porn, with full two-paged spreads of a few featured cocktails in vivid colors, followed by pages with lists of a specific spirit on one side and a list of cocktails using the spirit on the other side. We selected two cocktails and two mezcals.

Menu at Licoreria Limatour – Chencha cocktail
Menu at Licoreria Limatour – Inframundo cocktail
Chencha: Pox Siglo Cero (Mexican liquor), Aperol, Ancho Reyes, Chica morada, and Angostura bitters. Inframundo: Ron Valdeflores, Ancho Reyes Verde, Bitter lima & lemon. Neither were too sweet – just perfect.

While we sat enjoying our cocktails, we chatted with the bartender and a fellow bar patron, who recommended a number of other bars to visit: Hanky Panky (a members only bar but he gave us a tip that foreigners were often welcome – provided you messaged them on facebook ahead of time – then they’d provide the location), Fifty Mils, Bactra, and Carmela y Sal.

I wish we had spent more time at Licoreria Limantour so that I could more completely review it. The menu is extensive and there is certainly something for everyone. The bar patron enthused about almost every drink on the menu (he had tried them all). However, we left for our reservation at Pujol (which did not exist but as luck would have it, someone had cancelled and we got to dine anyway!). It was only until a few days later that we realized that Limantour is ranked #14 out of the top 50 bars in the world for 2017 – and considered the best bar in Latin America – while also finding out Pujol was ranked #20 in the world. It was actually quite refreshing going to both without knowledge of either ranking. Both were excellent – but from our brief visit, I much more agree with Limantour’s ranking than Pujol’s.

The Takeaway: Unpretentious approachable bar atmosphere with a beautiful artistic menu. A huge range of cocktails in its encyclopedia-like book. Hard not to like.

Fifty Mils: Top… 61 out of 50 (technically not a top 50 bar but impressive as a new entrant!)

On a subsequent night, we noticed that Fifty Mils (located in the Four Seasons) would be on our walk back to our hotel. Already buzzed from a healthy dose of mezcal during dinner, we entered the ritzy, gleaming hotel lobby and, with best effort to appear stone cold sober, nodded very carefully and deliberately to the hotel staff while desperately scanning for the bar. Our measured stroll through the lobby led to a manicured courtyard with tables and glowing heat lamps and, beyond that, to large windowed doors that opened up to the beautiful lounge of Fifty Mils, with its plush suede couches and a soft-lit bar.

 This photograph does not do Fifty Mils justice. This bar is gorgeous.
This photograph does not do Fifty Mils justice. This bar is gorgeous.

We started out with two cocktails that immediately captured our imagination:

  1. The Bugs Bunny (one of their most popular cocktails), made from carrot juice, gin, lemon grass syrup, cactus, chile bitters, salt, and fernet perfume
  2. The Ant Man (probably not… one of their most popular cocktails), made of meczcal, avocado/ant mix, egg white, hoja santa bitter, lemon grass syrup, soda water, and a “garnish” of a massive male ant… which was to be eaten with the cocktail

I can’t particularly say I liked the Ant Man (it is beautiful though) but it wasn’t unpleasant. Because we had been imbibing mezcal all evening, it tasted mostly like a foamy avocado drink. That’s better than tasting like a foamy ant drink though, so I’ll take it.

Bugs Bunny (left) and Antman (in the prism). Upper right – the menu. Lower right: the prince ant on the Antman that you are to eat. The ant itself was mostly bland – just oddly crunchy. 
Menu at Fifty Mils
The giant ant on the Antman cocktail

The bartenders at Fifty Mils are dynamite to watch and chat with. We ended up particularly taking to a young, cherub-faced female bartender named Fatima, who would expertly shake up a cocktail in one hand while stirring deftly with the other, all while chatting in earnest about her love of trinidad sours, amari, and scotches. She tailored a peaty amaro drink for us, which was quickly downed, pausing only to politely sip out of the still-quite-full Antman coupe.

The Takeaway: Sexy interior with a range of bold, creative cocktails and brilliant bartenders. If something on the menu doesn’t appeal to you, talk to one of the bartenders and you can get a bespoke one that you’ll like.

The entire trip inspired us to try to visit all 50 of the top bars in the world. Stay tuned as we explore the rest of the world! (and review our own hometown haunts that also have made the list)

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