10 essential bars and the drinks you need to try in Mexico City

Ben Mintz - 06/04/2023

The second edition of North America’s 50 Best Bars, sponsored by Perrier, takes place in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on 4th May. The country’s capital, Mexico City, is home to some of the continent’s very finest bars – if you’re passing through on the way to the 50 Best events or simply planning a trip, check out this guide to the city’s hottest hostelries

For nearly eight centuries, Mexico City reigned as a capital of the Americas. In the last few years, cocktail culture has woven itself into the fabric of the city alongside a fast-paced and idiosyncratic fine dining scene and the legendary artistic legacy of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Recently, word got out: international tourism to Mexico City jumped about 20% to 66 million visitors in 2022 alone, according to the Mexican government.

Amidst this flux of visitors, Mexico City’s cocktail scene has grown in stature on an international and cross-continental level. Bars in CDMX are a celebration of earthy Mexican spirits produced from agave as well as native flavours like cacao and ceylon. The city’s vibrant bars focus on an expression of the rich local heritage and indigenous flavour. Here’s a delicious flight of bars to visit, as well as inside information on what to order up when you’re on the ground.

Licoreria Limantour
NA50BB23-Limantour Exterior 1
Must-try cocktail: Margarita Pastor

Mexico City’s increasingly vaunted cocktail scene found its genesis with Licorería Limantour over a decade ago and the institution is still going strong, regularly achieving a top ten listing in The World’s 50 Best Bars. Founder Benjamin Padrón and bar manager José Luis León deliver a congenial party vibe alongside a legendary drinks list. Fresh produce such as mangoes, grapefruits, and nispers (a fruit with a flavour that combines notes of apricots, apples and plums) provide the basis for a cocktail programme heavy on bright, fruit-forward libations like Mr. Pink (gin, rosemary syrup, grapefruit, lime) or the signature Margarita Pastor (tequila, lime and ‘Taco Mix’, which includes pineapple juice, agave syrup, coriander, mint, basil and chilli). The ingredients may be complex, but the service prides itself on keeping the details accessible to all guests. Limantour is bright and festive and an ideal first waypoint on a bar tour of Mexico City.

Av. Álvaro Obregón 106, CDMX

Handshake Speakeasy
Must-try cocktail: Mexi-Thai

True to name, Handshake Speakeasy is a mid-century modern oasis of brass and blacks hidden behind an unmarked door in Colonia Juarez and sits proudly as the bar which currently reigns supreme with the title of North America’s Best Bar, sponsored by Rémy Martin, in The World’s 50 Best Bars awards. Set behind the copper-framed backbar is a laboratory producing perfectly balanced syrups and clarified concoctions. However, to the uninitiated, bar director Eric Van Beek’s creations look like unassuming classic cocktails served in carefully curated crystal coupes; upon sipping, the imbiber is greeted with an explosion of unexpected flavour. The signature Mexi-Thai presents as Martini, but instead delivers coconut-washed tequila, makrut lime distillate, clarified tomato cordial and basil oil – a taste of Southeast Asia in confluence with Mexico. Purists will find solace in a celebrated spirits list offering hundreds of rare bottles across several categories.

C. Amberes 65, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, CDMX

Baltra Bar
NA50BB23-Baltra Team
Must-try cocktail: Martini

Situated in the trendy Condessa neighbourhood, Baltra Bar’s couches, low tables and curio-covered shelves offer the feel of a living room. And, for many of the city’s elite bartenders, the lounge does serve as an off-shift home. Under bar director José Luis León’s watchful eye, the drinks programme soars. At this sister property to Licorería Limantour, Martinis, a perfect dance of gin and vermouth, are the signature go-to for regulars. But the full list offers much more complexity. An almanac-inspired menu features perfectly balanced flavours by drawing on Baltra’s expertly curated collection of herbs, spices and botanicals from around the globe. The floral drinks are comforting; at Baltra, comfort is the point.

Iztaccihuatl 36D, Colonia Condesa, CDMX

Hanky Panky
Must-try cocktail: Hanky Panky

This is the speakeasy craft bar in its most superlative form. After gaining entry through a false wall in a kitchen stockroom, guests are thrust into a small but glamorous modern lounge. Bar directors Gina Barbachano and Ismael “Pollo” Martinez along with their extremely hospitable team make each guest feel like a VIP, but their greatest skills are manifest on the drinks list. The eponymous 1906 classic Hanky Panky (gin, Italian bitters and sweet vermouth) is a great starting point and the list only blossoms from there. The team offer superb riffs on classic cocktails as imagined using local flavours and freshly grown garnishes from the city’s myriad markets. The offering at Hanky Panky is more refined than the markets on its doorstep, but no less bountiful.

Turín 52, Juárez, Cuauhtémoc, CDMX

686 Bar
Must-try cocktail: Aviator

The Roma Norte neighbourhood’s Em Restaurant exploded on the CDMX scene in 2022, nabbing headlines for a unique fusion of Mexican and Japanese influences. Upstairs from the dining destination, Em’s sister bar 686 built its own name with a take on fusion-driven, modern takes on classic libations. The handsome bar evokes the Roaring Twenties: the chic, low-lit art deco space projects classic cocktails. Meanwhile, the skilled staff delivers with a dazzling display of beautifully executed and presented staples such as Sazeracs, French 75s and an excellent Naked and Famous. Italian influences are manifest through knowledgeable use of vermouths and amari to deliver complex, earthy flavours. A limited snack menu offers an excellent opportunity to sample some of chef Lucho Martínez’s celebrated cuisine from down below.

Tonalá 133, Roma Norte, Mexico City
Kaito del Valle
Must-try cocktail: Godzilla

Kaito takes its name from the legendary female pearl divers of Japanese lore. In modern Mexico, this izakaya’s all-female bar team serve up a different range of gems. The minimalist space is concrete, but the drinks and vibe is all kawaii. Under the watchful paws of lucky maneki-neko cats, bar manager Claudia Cabrera’s crew mixes up whimsical takes on Japanese ingredients and culture. Sake and highballs are top notch, but the creativity shines through in menus inspired by 1990s TV shows DragonBall Z and Captain Tsubasa’s Super Champions. Kaito’s marquis offering pays homage to another big influence: Godzilla (a wasabi pea-garnished blend of gin, sake, wasabi syrup, lemon and lemongrass). For those looking for international flavour, Kaito is a hotspot for takeover events by visiting bars.

C. J. Enrique Pestalozzi 1238, Col del Valle Centro, Benito Juárez, Mexico City, 03100

Must-try cocktail: Pepe el Toro

A celebration of the myths and folklore surrounding the agave plant juxtaposed with a very contemporary take on drinks and décor, Rayo opened 18 months ago to rave reviews. On weekends, a swank crowd lounges in the chic, multistory room accessed by a spiral staircase, illuminated by neon renderings of the goddess Mayahuel’s blue lightning bolts. Each cocktail is inspired by a piece of mythology, but created with the most modern techniques. Creative director Tito Pin-Perez and his team employ molecular methodology to draw out the best of local spirits and ingredients delivering masterpieces like its trademark Pepe el Toro (whisky, lemon, pineapple, cooked agave mix topped with soda). The list is split between Classics with a Twist, Signatures and Mocktails. A massive spirits list rounds out the offering.

C. Salamanca 85, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX

Must-try drink: Mezcal, straight up

In the home of agave, mezcal is ubiquitous but Bosforo’s programme shines even in this crowded field. Situated on a nondescript side street in the bustling la Reforma locale, the small room offers a large list of rare mezcals, pulque, bacanora, raicilla and more. Specifically, Bosoforo buys directly from producers, which grants the bar access to expressions that are often not available to retail customers. Accordingly, a chalkboard, updated daily, serves as menu. Given the specialised beverages, guests are best served to trust their selections to the encyclopaedic knowledge of the passionate bartenders. Bosforo is a side project of chef Sofia Garcia Osorio. Her high standards arrive evident in the spirits as well as the Oaxacan menu shared with her flagship restaurant next door.

Luis Moya 31-local 2, Colonia Centro, CDMX

Fifty Mils

Must-try cocktail: Hansel and Gretel

An all-star team of bartenders holds court in this chic London Club-Meets-Rancho space in the city’s Four Seasons Hotel. Yet, Fifty Mils is no simple lobby bar. Beverage director Nicolas Castro keeps the well-heeled crowd sated with an innovative programme inspired by the Brothers Grimm. Castro’s sharp leather apron-clad team springs off this base theme into fantastically complex drinks fusing a wide spectrum of flavour. Consider the signature Hansel and Gretel (vodka macerated with gingerbread cookies, hazelnut liqueur, Italian bitters, milk, cream, brown sugar syrup and lemon garnished with golden popcorn). Simpler sips are detailed in Fifty Mils’ extensive selection of rare spirits. The programme is massive, but service is fast and the team will help beginner or pro navigate the experience with joy.

Av. Paseo de la Reforma 500, Juárez, CDMX

Cafe Ocampo

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Must-try cocktail: Negroni

Ocampo is an elite Italian cafe that just happens to be situated at the edge of Mexico City’s Colonia Cuauhtémoc. The smart interior features seating for about two dozen, but being a cafe, the outdoor tables are prime seating. In the morning, roaster Carlos de la Torre’s offers some of the city’s best coffee, sourced directly from Fair Trade-certified growers. In the afternoon, Spritzes and Negronis take over. The bar, run by partners Santiago Tron, Joseph Mortera and Juan de la Campa, makes them right. Guests still craving coffee can opt for an excellent carajillo. The staff feel like neighbours – who just so happen to be world-class experts in Italian drinks.

Plaza Melchor Ocampo 14, CDMX

Miss last year's ceremony? Catch up on the inaugural reveal

North America’s 50 Best Bars will be revealed at an event in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico on 4th May at 8.30pm local time. The ceremony will be livestreamed on 50 Best Bars TV YouTube channel and 50 Best Bars Facebook page. Follow us on FacebookInstagramTwitter and YouTube to stay up to date with all the news and announcements.