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Washington D.C.'s Best Bars for Sipping Tequila and Mezcal

It may have a reputation as the bar shot that leads to bad decisions, but tequila, the Mexican spirit made from the blue agave plant, has a lengthy history and as many different varieties and tastes as the finest wines. Mezcal, tequila’s smokier-flavored cousin, is made from the maguey plant and is gaining in popularity as a craft cocktail ingredient. Below are some of our favorite bars in Washington, D.C. for enjoying tequila, mezcal and creative cocktails that are made with them. 

El Chucho (3313 11th St. NW; 202-290-3313)
Brought to you by the same folks behind Jackie’s, this cute taqueira has one of the lengthiest tequila and mezcal menus in the city as well as some hilariously-named cocktails: try the Señor Clusterf**k: mezcal, talisker, dry vermouth, barenjager and house-made peanut tincture. Did we mention they also have margaritas on tap? Only $4 a glass during happy hour and you get a choice of regular or chili-lime salt.

Casa Oaxaca (2106 18th St NW; 202-387-2272)
Diners rave about Casa Oaxaca’s Tres Moles–the Mexican dish with a chili-chocolate sauce–but the real standout here is the lengthy mezcal list. Bartenders can help you select mezcal with tasting notes like “spicy with light smoke,” “sweet, fruity nose with mango and cinnamon,” or “vanilla, figs and burnt honey.” Each glass is served with orange and sal de gusano, a Oaxacan salt made with chili peppers and ground worm larvae. 

Bandolero (3241 M St NW; 202-625-4488)
One thing is certain in this town: Mike Isabella knows what he’s doing — Bandolero is serious about their tequila and mezcal. Choose from 40 different tequila varieties for sipping or try one of their smoky, spicy mezcal cocktails like the Jesus Malverde, made with fidencio mezcal, agave. cucumber, lime, cilantro, and hellfire bitters. Happy hour runs all day on the 5th of May. 

El Centro D.F. (1819 14th St NW; 202-328-3131)
Tequila aficionados know to come here for a fix: El Centro has close to 200 different kinds of tequila and tastings that focus on different different family distilleries or aging techniques. House tequilas are aged with fresh fruits and vegetables like cilantro, tamarind and cucumber/watermelon. 

Oyamel (401 7th St NW; 202-628-1005)
When the tequila menu stretches beyond 15 pages, you know you’re in expert hands. You could start with one of the eight different margarita varieties, but if you’re serious about learning your agave drinks, skip to the themed tasting flights like Vintage Tequila or the Stories of Mezcal. The Rare and Collectible sampler features the Del Maguey ‘Pechuga’ Mezcal which is aged for 15 years and limited to just 650 bottles.

Poste Moderne Brasserie (555 8th St NW; 202-783-6060)
Lest you think you can only get great tequila at a Mexican place, the bar at the Hotel Monaco features some strong tequila cocktails. Try the Winter in Jalisco, with Corralejo tequila, Benedictine, Tia Maria, Angostura and egg white, or the Locofoco with the Herradura Reposado, Aperol, Averna, Dolin Blanc and grapefruit.

Masa 14 (1825 14th St NW; 202-328-1414)
Like El Centro, Richard Sandoval’s other 14th St place has an extensive tequila selection, carefully curated tasting flights and twists on classic cocktails like the spicy cucumber margarita, made with cucumber infused blanco. The Masa Smoked Cider is also a must-try — the smoky mezcal mixes perfectly with cinnamon-infused whiskey and apple cider for a strong and spicy sip.

Photo: Getty Images

 


Tags: Cocktails, Holiday, Spirits
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