More likely than not, you've had a traumatic experience with tequila. You've done away with it, said you'll never touch the stuff again. If that's the case, you're missing out on a delicious spirit, so let us introduce you to some top-notch tequila bars to help rehabilitate your perception of tequila — and not the tequila you drank in college.
Tequila and mezcal are seeing the same boom as other brown spirits, like cognac, single malt Scotches, and whiskey. Much as there are great whiskey bars and rum bars throughout the country, there are now great tequila and mezcal bars that are determined to show the versatility, sophistication, and unique profile of agave spirits. Mat Resler, from Empellón Cocina and Empellón Taqueria, says the "tequila boom" happened only a mere five years ago, and the mezcal boom, even more recently. "When I left California [a few years ago], no one had mezcal on the shelves," he says. "Now, I go into an Italian restaurant and can find two mezcals." Now that bartenders have latched onto the agave spirits, it's no wonder that drinkers are looking for new places to experience tequila the right way. "If we [the bartenders] like something, we find a way to get it to the consumers," Resler says.
[slideshow: And what transforms a typical bar and restaurant into a tequila-focused bar is a menu dedicated to 100 percent agave tequilas and mezcals, our experts say. We asked Resler, Jacques Bezuidenhout (Partida's bartender ambassador), and Cesar G. Aguilar (professional bartender and former manager of the James Beard-nominated La Condesa's bar program in Austin, Texas) to share where they like to enjoy a taste of tequila and mezcal.
You won't find a mixto tequila, artificial margarita, or sour mix in sight at these spots. And most important to a true tequila program, say the experts, is a knowledgeable staff ready to educate customers on the finer details of agave. "Sometimes at a bar, someone will pour you a shot and walk away," Resler says. "The reason I keep going to a bar is when the people behind the bar love what they're doing. They have that fascination and want to geek out about tequila."
Click ahead to find out where you too can geek out over tequila; your Cinco de Mayo plans just got a little more sophisticated.