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.
This fun-time Covent Garden bar and restaurant has been around since the 1980s — long 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.
Café Pacifico, 5 Langley Street, WC2H 9JA
Bringing Mexican street food, mezcal and tequila south of the river, this Battersea joint even offers a bottomless tequila brunch on selected Saturdays (see the schedule here). You can't choose precisely which tequilas you want to sup, but that's soon forgotten once you embark on two hours-worth of frozen margaritas and burritos. You'll need to book in advance.
Cartel, 517-519 Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BN
La Bodega Negra
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. Full-blown tequila and mezcal flights are also available for the truly hardcore.
La Bodega Negra, 9 Old Compton Street, W1D 5JF
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. Swing by for a 20% off happy hour between 5-7pm on weekdays. There are classic and specially created cocktails to help you enjoy the spirit (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.
Mestizo, 103 Hampstead Road, NW1 3EL
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. The Wardour Street Wahaca branch has a similar gem below, The Azulito Bar, which pops bottles of 100% agave tequilas.
Mezcaleria, 19-23 Charlotte Street, W1T 1RL
The Pink Chihuahua at El Camion
One of London’s real hidden gems, this bar tucked beneath Mexican burrito joint El Camion on Brewer Street used to be run by none other than the late 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 Monday-Saturday. What more could you want? To ensure entry, do make sure you’re a member (for free) here, though.
The Pink Chihuahua at El Camion, 25-27 Brewer Street, W1F 0RR
Tonteria: This Chelsea hotspot has a mini train that drops tequilas off at your table. Do you need more?
Del74: A Clapton joint all about the margaritas, watch the cocktails fly out of the bar like there's no tomorrow. Happy Hour sees the team crank things up another gear, with £5 margaritas between 5-7pm (or all night on Tuesdays).
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.)