Mexico City is the hottest place to drink on the continent right now. From the glitzy bars of Polanco to the mariachi-filled cantinas of Coyoacan, this metropolis has a watering hole to suit every taste. For foodies and fashionistas, the capital city’s most happening spots can be found in the tree-lined streets of La Condesa and La Roma, the buzzing, creative neighborhoods just south of the historic center. Venture a little further afield and you’ll find yourself in the bohemian oasis of Coyoacan, once home to Frida Kahlo.
Here, drinking is not only restricted to after-dark; sipping on a mezcal or two over a long weekend lunch is standard practice. When the sun goes down, chilangos tend to go out late, then stop for tacos on the way home in the early hours of the morning. This means that bar snacks, or botanas, are essential, especially in traditional cantinas where they are sometimes offered as a complimentary accompaniment to your drink. A 10 percent tip is standard, but more is appreciated for good service.
With a huge urban population, Mexico City’s residents and visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to nightlife. This roundup of the best bars in Mexico City will help you make the most of your visit.
Best Speakeasy: Jules Basement
Jules Basement's main access point is via a refrigerator door in the back of a cafe, but it’s somehow an open secret in Mexico City. Hidden in the heart of Polanco, Mexico’s most glamorous neighborhood, Jules is confidently chic. Expect pumping tunes, neon lights, exquisite cocktails, and a moody, low-lit ambience. This futuristic speakeasy fills up quickly on weekends, so arrive early or make a reservation to beat the queue.
What to Order: The cocktail list features impressive, historically inspired mixes like La Cucaracha (Mexico City, c. 1930) and the Mary Pickford (Cuba, c. 1920). Of the contemporary offerings, the Flor de Sangre is top notch, incorporating traditional Mexican ingredients with a twist.
Best Mezcalería: La Clandestina
With over 40 varieties and knowledgeable staff, the dark, bottle-crowded bar of La Clandestina in La Condesa is an offering at the altar of mezcal. Like tequila, mezcal is made of agave, but that’s about where the similarities end.
Technically, tequila is a particular type of mezcal that is only made from one type of agave in certain areas of the state of Jalisco. Mezcal, on the other hand, can come from lots of different agaves and offers a much wider range of flavor profiles. It’s smoky, complex, and all too easy to drink once you get the hang of it. If you’re not already a fan, a night at La Clandestina will have you converted in no time. Arrive before 10 p.m. to snag a table.
What to Order: Whichever mezcal the bartender recommends, served with chili powder-covered orange slices.
Best Pulquería: La Nuclear
Once you’ve become acquainted with mezcal, pulque should be next on your list of traditional Mexican beverages. Made from fermented instead of distilled maguey sap, pulque has around the same alcoholic content as beer and a disconcertingly viscous texture. It was Mexico’s go-to drink from pre-Hispanic times until the 20th century when beer began to take its place.
At La Nuclear in Roma, traditional pulquería has been given a refreshing update with a more modern take. Both natural pulque and flavored curados (cured pulque) are served in hand-made ceramic mugs, and mezcal and beer are also on the menu. From the swinging saloon doors to the colorful interior mural, it feels like the designated spot to kick off a night of bar-hopping.
What to Order: Pulque flavors come and go at La Nuclear due to the drink’s relatively short shelf-life, but try the kiwi if you can get your hands on it.
Best Bar Snacks: Mercado Roma
A lazy afternoon in Mexico City calls for beer, snacks, and sunshine and Mercado Roma delivers on all three. Less painfully trendy than Condesa, Roma retains its local charm, and this market is an updated, gourmet version of its traditional predecessors. On the ground floor, you’ll find a cornucopia of food stalls with Mexican and international influences while the upstairs German-style Biergarten is an ideal place to settle in for the day or night.
What to Order: Craft beer and fresh, fruity cocktails dominate the menu at Biergarten, but the St. Andrews gin and tonic is hard to beat. The ice creams from Bendita Paleta are the perfect snack on the way home.
Best Whiskey Bar: Wallace
Wallace is a signature example of Condesa’s hipster rebrand, mixing vintage charm with Mexico’s tongue-in-cheek sense of fun. Pizzas, sandwiches, craft beer, mezcal, and gin accompany a menu of over 200 different whiskeys, sourced from Japan, the U.S. and Scotland.
There’s live music or DJs most nights and a gorgeous upstairs terrace to explore. Wallace can get very busy on weekends after 10 p.m., so time your arrival wisely!
What to Order: The house cocktail combining whiskey, ginger and cucumber.
Best Craft Beer Bar: Fiebre de Malta
Mexico’s growing craft beer industry can be sampled at one of Fiebre de Malta’s two locations, in Polanco and Cuauhtemoc. While national beers like Tecate and Dos Equis have long been the drink of choice in Mexico, cerveza (or chela in Mexican slang) has undergone a renaissance in recent years, with small-scale, experimental outfits popping up all over the country.
With an extensive menu of local and imported brews bottled and on tap, as well as tacos, sliders, and sandwiches, Fiebre de Malta attracts a sophisticated crowd throughout the afternoon and evening. Offerings from the regional breweries like Cervecería de Colima and Cervecería Primus are particularly popular.
What to Order: The eight-beer sampler board is a pretty good place to start.
Best Neighborhood Bar: La Celestina
Open Tuesday to Saturday across the street from the Coyoacan Cathedral, La Celestina is an all-rounder. The tables on the sidewalk are well-positioned to soak up the afternoon hustle and bustle, while the modern Mexican food menu keeps things interesting. Local and International DJs hit the decks with disco, indie rock, techno, and even funk from 9 p.m., but that doesn’t mean you can’t immerse yourself in good conversation in the corner.
What to Order: Mezcal de la casa straight up, or the mezcal cocktail if you need a slightly sweeter introduction.
Best Wine Bar: La Xampañería
Although Mexican wine is becoming increasingly popular internationally, chilangos themselves remain largely unconvinced. Most bars only offer a brief and uninspiring wine list, preferring to stick to beer and spirits. Condesa’s La Xampañería, known as La Champa, is the exception, buzzing with trendy 20-somethings sipping bubbly in the early evening. This bar offers a romantic but relaxed atmosphere and a great tapas-style menu. Drop by on Tuesday night for live jazz.
What to Order: There is an extensive list of Spanish sparkling wine, or cava, available. The Vilarnau is sure thing.
Best Cantina: La Coyoacana
Old-school cantinas are increasingly hard to find in D.F., but La Coyoacana is proudly carrying on the tradition. After a visit to Frida Kahlo’s blue house or the crafts market of Coyoacan, settle in here for lunch, dinner, or drinks. Arrive early on weekends to get a table in the courtyard where multiple mariachi bands serenade the crowd throughout the afternoon and evening. The menu is fittingly traditional with a barbecue on Sundays.
What to Order: A shot of Don Julio 70 tequila to sip and a couple of songs from the mariachi band (around $10 for three).
Best Live Music Bar: Pata Negra
Pata Negra is an unpretentious, affordable Condesa institution, made up of a happening bar downstairs and a live music venue upstairs. With contemporary hits and old favorites pumping from the speakers at the bar, it’s a guaranteed good time. Upstairs is more of a mixed bag, from salsa classes on Wednesday and Saturday to rap, rock, and funk performances on other days. Entry is usually free, and the upstairs queue can stretch around the block, so head there around 9 p.m. to catch a show. There’s also a Pata Negra outpost in the historic center.
What to Order: Pata Negra has a Spanish-influenced food menu, but beer remains the favored beverage. Start with a Modelo Negra if you prefer darker beers or a Victoria for something a little lighter.
Best Modern Bar: Balmori
Many bars try, but few succeed to combine restaurant-quality food with a late-night atmosphere. Balmori is one of the few, with both bar and table service, plus house beats emanating from the DJ booth in the middle of the restaurant terrace after dark. The high-end design touches and long communal tables contribute to the cosmopolitan vibe, high above the busy streets of La Roma.
What to Order: With a seasonal, Mexican fusion menu, Balmori always has a surprise up its sleeve. The mussels in white wine are reliably excellent, as are the monthly cocktails using local mezcal.
Best Views: Miralto Bar
The Torre Latinoamericana is CDMX’s most iconic skyscraper. Completed in 1956, the Torre has famously withstood three serious earthquakes, though it was never the city’s tallest building. There’s a viewing platform at the top, but the Miralto Bar, a couple of floors below, is much more comfortable. (Plus, entry to the viewing platform costs about the same as a cocktail at the bar.) The panoramic views are best at sunset and accompanied by a cheese board.
What to Order: Due to its popularity with foreigners, this is one place in the city where it’s acceptable to order a margarita. Feel free to break out the selfie stick and embrace your inner tourist.
Best Cocktail Bar: Xaman
Tucked away in Juarez, just north of La Condesa, Xaman treats mixology like a religion. The small bar is an assault on the senses, with the richly textured furnishings complemented by pulsating house and electronica. The cocktails, of course, are the star of the show, inspired by pre-Hispanic herbs, spices, and spirits (in both senses of the word.)
What to Order: The significance of cacao, nopal, and chili in pre-Hispanic America is replicated behind the Xaman bar. Individual cocktails are seasonally inspired, so trust your instincts.
Best Rooftop Bar: El Mayor
Mexico City’s main square (el zocalo) is home to attractions like the Metropolitan Cathedral and Temple Mayor museum. Unsurprisingly, it can get a little chaotic, so those in the know take in the views from one of the many rooftop terraces nearby. Perched above a bookshop on the northwest corner of the zocalo, El Mayor offers unbeatable views of the historic center. The historic mural and cactus garden are cool rather than kitschy, and visitors can choose between the sunny balcony or the shaded terrace.
What to Order: Sotol, a traditional alcohol made by the Anasazi and Tarahumara people of Chihuhua, is generally hard to come by in D.F. If you’re feeling adventurous you can try it at El Mayor, alongside excellent Mexican dishes like chile relleno.
Best Hotel Bar: Fifty Mils
A list of Mexico City’s best bars wouldn’t be complete without Fifty Mils. Located within the Four Seasons, Fifty Mils mixes unique cocktails in a surprisingly relaxed atmosphere that is popular with travelers and local connoisseurs alike. The luxury decor lives up to expectations of one of the world’s best bars, as does the attentive service.
What to Order: Mezcal, ants, and avocado are just some of the ingredients in the famous Ant Man cocktail, created by top mixologist Mica Rousseau. Try it if you dare.