Mezcal (Cocktails) in Manhattan
New York City bars and restaurants are mixing up some inventive mezcal-based cocktails you won't want to miss.
You can determine the caliber of a bar or restaurant these days by the presence of a mezcal cocktail on the menu. This Mexican spirit distilled from up to 30 varieties of agave (unlike tequila, which can only be distilled from the blue agave plant) has a characteristic smokiness that comes from the process of smoking agave in underground coals to make mezcal. Many bartenders are pairing mezcal with berries for a sweet balance, or even amping up that characteristic smoky taste with smoked salt. Ready to sample some of this unique spirit's charms? Check out these cocktail-forward New York City cocktail locations for a sip of this trending spirit.
Smokin' Margarita at The Lamb's Club
There’s no reason to limit that favorite of summer cocktails—the margarita—to a tequila-based drink. The other agave spirit, mezcal makes a great addition, as seen in the Smokin’ Margarita with a float of egg white froth and a black lava salt rim to play up the mezcal’s smokiness. This pretty drink is featured at the theater district mezzanine bar at the The Lambs Club. With a fabulous view of the Hudson Theatre marquee, The Lambs Club definitely capitalizes on its prime location, integrating Broadway in every sense into its cocktail menu. In addition to a roster of classic cocktails like the Vieux Carré and the Last Word, the bar’s charming beverage manager Adrienne Smith creates cocktails themed to current shows like the Rhibbons Down My Glass in honor of Hello, Dolly!, a refreshing sip featuring a rhubarb shrub or the Violet Beauregarde featuring gin, blueberry and lemongrass served in honor of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Lambs Club also features non-alcoholic cocktails like a genuinely delicious Cucumber Cooler and an assortment of satisfying bar bites like silver-dollar sized pretzels and calamari sprinkled with nicoise olives and served with an addictive Fresno chili aioli.
Smoke on the Water at Joe's Pub
Worthy accompaniments to the novel entertainment at Joe’s Pub in the illustrious Public Theater are the cocktails you can sip as you enjoy a musical or cabaret performance, in our case the raucous talent show Champagne Jerry featuring some delightfully oddball up-and-comers. Megan Hanrahan is the creator of these cocktails including the packs-a-wallop Smoke on the Water, featuring Los Amantes mezcal, yellow chartreuse, fresh lime juice and chili salt. For a truly novel addition, Hanrahan includes a watermelon puree ice cube that slowly melts, infusing the cocktail with an entirely different flavor profile as the drink progresses. Go soon and you might even run into Keegan-Michael Key and Oscar Isaac in the Public lobby, performing in Hamlet through Sept. 3.
Bolt Bramble at Empire Diner
Recently revitalized with a wonderful new American menu (don't miss the burger or the wedge salad) under chef John DeLucie an interesting cocktail program is made even more so by its set up in this historic 1946 Art Moderne diner. One of the featured cocktails at the Empire Diner is a summer-perfect refreshing blend of high-quality Illegal mezcal, the spicy, wonderful spirit Ancho Reyes Verde distilled from the ancho chile, blackberry and cassis. Served with a spear of plump blackberries, it is a bright, colorful burst of summer flavors, not too sweet, but a nice balance of fruit, tartness and smoke.
Sphinx of Savoy at the Living Room in the Park Hyatt
A gorgeous, art-filled space, this elegant lounge on the second floor of the Park Hyatt feels like a refuge from the street-level madness below, a living room out of your fantasies or a high-style classic Hollywood film. Cocktails come with tiny dishes of briny olives and impeccable service to enjoy with the decor. One of the incredibly inventive cocktails in the Living Room bar’s cocktail repertoire is the Sphinx of Savoy, a bright, bracing, perfectly balanced sip served in an etched tumbler and—best of all—with a tiny envelope secured with a miniature wooden clothespin. Surprise! Inside, there’s a sidecar of fried crickets in deference to mezcal’s Mexican origins and the local preference for “alternative” proteins. That may make this the wittiest mezcal cocktail in all of Manhattan.
Oaxacan Old Fashioned, The Bar Room at the Beekman Hotel
This glorious, beautifully restored 1881 hotel is worth a trip for the interior design alone. But if you want to really reward yourself for the journey to lower Manhattan, be sure and have a drink at The Bar Room where a smart craft cocktail menu is presided over by Jarred Roth to pay homage to the hotel’s historic luster. With a nod to NYC’s history of importing spirits, the menu begins with old world cocktails based on rum and brandy before moving into 20th century novelties like vodka and agave, introduced more recently into the city’s spirit library. There are many delicious sips to choose from, but if you are looking for an interesting spin on a classic, you could do no better than the Oaxacan Old Fashioned, which brings a new savory dimension to that standard thanks to nods to Mexican ingredients like both tequila and mezcal, agave and Bittermen’s Xocolatl Mole. Served in a heavy crystal tumbler with two leaves of lemon peel this is one to sip slowly as you enjoy your surroundings.