Doña Does Mezcal Right In A Shabby Chic Stoke Newington Basement
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Tucked away in a Stoke Newington basement is a shabby chic cocktail bar doing mezcal right.
First a quick intro on the Latin American spirit. Like tequila, it's derived from agave plants. Technically all tequilas are mezcals, although the reverse isn't true. And the type of mezcal served at Doña isn't the one you flung down your throat sandwiched between a lick of salt and a suck of lime at some crappy student bar. This is a classier affair.
You might notice more than a passing resemblance to Twin Peaks' infamous red room in the decor, although what was an unsettling locale on TV, translates to something altogether more comfortable inside Doña. The all red everything aesthetic — tablecloths, candleholders, upholstery, cushions, etc — exudes a warmth in the room, something that's matched by the drink.
At least that's the case if you're drinking it straight, when the spirit heads straight to your ribcage and ignites your bones. That's no bad thing though — this is a pleasant warmth, an enjoyable firebomb, if you will.
However, we suspect most punters are here mainly for the mezcal cocktails, which we must confess, are what lured us to Doña. Of the five concoctions on offer, we try four — thoroughly enjoying two, finding one not quite for us, but falling head over heels for the last one. That victorious finale is a Vertame, which shares its colour with nearly everything else here. Deep red. That hue emerges from the hibiscus inside the drink, tempering the spirit without hiding it. Like all the drinks here, it goes exceptionally well with the infinitely moreish crunch corn snacks.
Doña's biggest setback is its pricing. Its admirable aim to make sure everyone involved gets paid fairly — including the musicians providing the evening's entertainment — comes at a premium. A pair of cocktails can set you back nearly £25. Most nights of the week Doña features live music, which goes some way for making up for this price. However, nothing kicks off by the time we decide to call it curtains: a not-outrageously-early half nine.
For now Doña is just a pop-up until the end of 2019. However, it's hoping it can stick around even longer, and stay open even later. It would be a crying shame if neither happened — London struggles to do cocktail bars right unless they're extremely high-end in the centre of the city. This one's neither, and all the better for it.
Doña, 92 Stoke Newington High Street, N16 7NY, Wednesday-Saturday, 6pm-11.45pm.
Last Updated 27 November 2019