Welcome to our Best Bars series, seeking out the finest drinking establishments across all of London.
Repeat after us: Tequila is not just for shots. Yes, we know you’ve had bad experiences with it in the past. We all have. But it’s time to move on from that. London has never before had so many bars dedicated to the Mexican agave-made spirit, or so many varieties of it to try. Here is our pick of the bunch — places that will just as happily sate a connoisseur as they will convert a non-believer.
Note: We’re combining Tequila and Mezcal in this selection as they’re firmly of the same origin. Tequila is a kind of mezcal made from a particular type of agave (blue agave) in the area of Mexico surrounding the city of Tequila. You could think of it as not too dissimilar from a Champagne as opposed to another French sparkling wine which can’t be called Champagne as it is not made in the Champagne region. (Incidentally, Londonist once went on what must have been London’s first ever mezcal bar crawl.)
This fun-time Covent Garden bar and restaurant has been around since the 1980s — well before Tequila became cool. Fajitas, nachos and all the usual fare is resoundingly decent, though it’s the drinks that we come for. There are more than 100 different Tequilas and mezcals available here, to be enjoyed straight-up, in Margaritas or as a part of one of the many house cocktails. The fact that most of these are also available by the pitcher tells you something of the bar’s mentality — after all, why would you just want one? Deliberately tacky Mexican decor and cheesy music seals the deal.
This Shoreditch hole-in-the-wall bar has a good range of Tequilas to choose from whether you’re shooting or sipping, including their signature Tequila Con Verdita, which consists of a shot of the stuff, chased down with a bright green mix of jalapenos, coriander, mint and pineapple juice. Intense. It also does a fine job of a classic Margarita, and should you fancy the other kind of margherita, there’s a stack of takeaway menus on hand so you needn’t go hungry just because there’s no room for a kitchen.
There’s something of the festival atmosphere about this Westbourne Park bar, where skulls, hats, candles and other brightly coloured Mexican paraphernalia abound. A choice of seven Margaritas is just the tip of the iceberg (though they don’t have many of those in Mexico), with 40-plus types of Tequila and mezcal going into cocktails, many of which are creative mexican takes on classics — a Mezcal Mule or Tequila Sour, for example. Nachos, tacos, ceviche and more are on hand to line the stomach, and you’ll probably need them.
This on-trend Mexican restaurant in Soho is an ideal spot to become acquainted with Tequila, thanks to a stunning selection of easy-drinking cocktails and a run of Mexican street food-inspired small plates to accompany them. For fans of the spirit, you can try around 50 different varieties of Tequila and mezcal, all available by the glass, as well as by carafe and bottle for the truly hardcore.
Set on Hampstead Road not far from Warren Street station, this restaurant eschews TexMex to specialise in regional dishes from across Mexico. It doesn’t just stop at the food, either. At last count, the bar area here stocks more than 200 different Tequilas and mezcals, which we’re pretty sure is the biggest collection in London. There are classic and specially created cocktails to help you enjoy them (if you needed any), but it’s not unusual to see a Tequila lover work their way through a few of the high-end options neat of an evening time.
Part of Wahaca’s Charlotte Street branch, what we particularly like about this bar is that it ignores Tequila altogether in favour of lesser-known and generally better value mezcal. From punches to on-the-rocks, or instead of vodka in a Bloody Mary, the drink gets everywhere, and we’ve found the staff to be more than geared up for explaining exactly what’s what. Given it’s Wahaca, food is naturally on hand.
One of London’s real hidden gems, this bar tucked beneath Mexican burrito joint El Camion on Brewer Street is run by none other than Dick Bradsell. If you don’t know the name, you’ll know his cocktails; his creations include the Bramble, the Espresso Martini and the Russian Spring Punch among others, and he’s a legend of London’s cocktail scene. The bar serves unsurprisingly great drinks, mostly made with Tequila or mezcal, and stocks around 100 varieties of the stuff. It’s also bloody good fun, comes with a boogie almost guaranteed and is open until 3am Mon-Sat. What more could you want? To ensure entry, do make sure you’re a member (for free) here, though.
La Perla: From the owners of Café Pacifico comes this equally fun, boozy and cheesy duo of bars in Covent Garden and on Charlotte Street.
Casa Negra: The Shoreditch spin-off of La Bodega Negra includes a downstairs ‘playroom’ open on Friday and Saturday nights, including cocktails, dancing and piñatas.
Tonteria: This Chelsea hotspot has a mini train that drops tequilas off at your table. Do you need more?