On a recent excursion throughout Central and Eastern Mexico, Beautiful Booze discovered 2 amazing speakeasies. Craft cocktails in Mexico weren't very popular until 2011 when a venue in Mexico City really led the way and since then many others have followed, yet the speakeasy trend is only just catching on still and we were lucky to discover 2 of the best Mexico has to offer.
While these bars are both providing a unique atmosphere and astounding cocktails, what we liked most about these venues was the service. We never wanted for anything without someone being there to provide for us and felt like we had a personal waiter during the entirety of our visits.
We were initially drawn to Mexico for the 2016 Tales of the Cocktail on Tour, which was being held in Mexico City. While conversing with local bartenders and hospitality professionals, we caught wind of a beautiful European-style speakeasy secreted away where you need a reservation and directions from someone who has visited the venue previously. With our reservation made by Joanne from the St. Regis Hotel and very detailed directions from Chef Maycoll at Huset Restaurant, we made our way over to the venue only to get completely lost and later realize we had walked past the entrance many times without even knowing it. With a few additional indicators from another friend, we made our way into a small taco shop and asked the cook if he knew where Hanky Panky was; of course he did because this was the entrance. Once pleasantries had been exchanged and our reservation was confirmed by the chef/security, we were escorted down a small hallway that lead absolutely nowhere; that is until he reached around a little nook and unsealed the hidden door which led into this elegantly bedecked venue. As we took our seats at the bar where we could watch all the action, Walter (the owner) greeted us and after talking us through the menu and offering us a taste of his Fortuna Mezcal, we ordered the first few cocktails and watched the amazing staff stir, shake and throw cocktails one after the other, making it look so easy; although I doubt it is. The talented staff here can make you any classic you desire, though while visiting we highly recommend tasting a few from their house cocktail menu which we considered to be creatively crafted in a collaborative effort by the entire team; current and past.
A few weeks later we found ourselves in Mérida, a beautiful colonial town in northern Yucatán. While the craft cocktail scene is still very limited here, there is one venue where you can find cocktails comparable to anywhere else in the world. A little over a year ago now, Malahat Speakeasy opened their doors thanks to the collaborative efforts of the current manager Arni Murillo alongside the Apoala Restaurant management team. Malahat frequently features live musicians who are on display on their mezzanine; the music varies and on the evening we were attending, vocalist Gina Osorno along with some exceptional instrumentalists were performing lovely covers of international artists and later in the evening a local French Horn player who just happened to be there drinking joined in for a few songs. The design of this venue appears to be American Prohibition styled with limited seating and a librarian's ladder along the back bar, assisting the staff to reach the venues extensive liquor collection. The cocktails here are first class, we began by ordering from the menu as always, though after a few delicious libations we asked Arni to create something unique with a bottle of Ancho Reyes I spotted on the back bar. The resulting cocktail was incredible and I found this to be where Arni flourished; operating with house made ingredients and fresh provisions, he developed a perfectly balanced passion fruit cocktail, flawlessly fusing with the flavor of the Ancho Reyes liquor. When Arni found out James was from Australia, he was excited to show us a bottle of West Winds Gin he recently received from a friend. As the night wound down Arni took a moment to sit with us, bringing a bottle of Apoala Mezcal for us to enjoy together while we discussed the ideals behind his inspiring venue.
The wonderful flavors do not stop with the cocktail program in either of these venues; Hanky Panky and Malahat contain respectable kitchens, providing delicious fare for their guests to enjoy while imbibing. Mexico is rapidly becoming a premiere destination for craft cocktails with new exciting venues opening up frequently. Don't delay; you don't need an excuse to book your next vacation in Mexico to explore the developing craft cocktail scene.