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Dre Masso: World's Best Tequila Bars
Published:  06 June, 2013

In the latest of our World's 50 Best Bars spin-off features, we delve into the world's best tequila bars. 

Harnessing The World's 50 Best Bars Academy of global experts, we chose the member that offered the most authoratitive views on the given subject. When it came to tequila we couldn't look beyond Opium's and the International Spirits Challenge's Dre Masso for his take on the world's best tequila bars. 


Dre Masso: It’s so easy for me to say why I am so fond of tequila bars. I am very passionate about Mexican culture as a whole; the music, art, fashion, history and, most of all, its people and the incredible food and drink I experience when I’m there.

My early trips to tequila country inspired me so much that in 2005 I wrote a book about tequila cocktails. That same year I opened a tequila bar serving traditional food from where tequila originates. Since then, I have seen a multitude of tequila and Mexican-themed bars pop up all around the world.Dre Masso

Not every tequila or Mexican bar is amazing, however. Some venues bastardise the concept. Sadly, a large sombrero doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to making a great Mexican bar.

I favour bars that are true to the real thing. Places that have done their research and are integral to showcasing the authentic character of Mexico.

Because tequila is involved, they are normally relaxed and fun places with a slightly wild personality.

A good tequila venue should have a decent collection of quality tequilas, in particular those of the 100% agave variety.

The staff should be well trained and be able to assist the customers with their choice. As the Margarita is such a key aspect, they should be able to produce an amazing Margarita every time.

As with any kind of bar, customer service, great staff, lighting, music, ambience, good prices and having fun are all very important.

I also like a bar that has an interesting story to tell. Here are some of my favourites.


Dre Masso's World's Best Tequila Bars

La Capilla

La Capilla, Tequila Town, Jalisco, Mexico

La Capilla is the Mecca for tequila lovers everywhere. Located in the heart of Tequila town, it is run by the celebrated owner and bartender, Don Javier Delgado Corona, who was 80 years old when I first visited the bar several years ago. Softly spoken with a gentle demeanour and a broad smile, this lovely man continues to look after his guests as if they were in his own front room. His wrinkled hands effortlessly assemble his home recipe, La Batanga – a cocktail made with tequila, fresh lime and cola served tall over ice with a crunchy sea-salt rim and stirred with a long knife.

Tommy's

Tommy’s, 5929 Geary Boulevard, San Francisco, CA 94121, US

tommystequila.com

Ten years ago I met Julio Bermejo, son of Tommy and ambassador of tequila to the US. He invited me to work with him and learn more about the wonderful Mexican spirit. I spent six amazing months in San Francisco doing just that. Tommy’s has become a real institution over the years. Its signature house cocktail (the Tommy’s Margarita) is a modern twist on the classic Margarita, omitting the triple sec and replacing it with organic agave syrup. Lime is squeezed to order. This is the only cocktail they make at Tommy’s, which boasts one of the largest collections of 100% agave tequila in the world and has a tequila club with more than 7,000 members. This experience inspired me to write a book on tequila cocktails and to open a tequila bar and restaurant in London.

Cafe Pacifico

Café Pacifico

5 Langley Street, Covent Garden, London WC2H 9JA, UK; 26 Rue Francois Miron, 75004 Paris, France; 95 Riley Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010, Australia

cafepacifico-laperla.com

With locations in London, Paris and Sydney, this most authentic and respected tequila chain has been running for more than 35 years and has sold in excess of 8,000,000 Margaritas since 1976.

It’s owned by Tomas Estes, the godfather of tequila and ambassador of the liquid to Europe.

During my first encounter with Café Pacifico I was instantly absorbed by the exotic smells from the kitchen, the Latino music blasting from the sound system, the vast selection of beautiful bottles on the shelves and the real energy in the bar.

I turned to my friend and told him: “I feel like I’ve come home again.” A stranger, stood next to me at the bar, said in my ear “Estas en tu casa”, which translates as: “You are in your home.” That stranger was Tomas Estes.

Mayahuel

Mayahuel, 304 East 6th Street  New York, NY 10003, US

Mayahuelny.com

Named after the Aztec goddess of fertility and the noble tequila plant, Mayahuel (above) is situated in New York’s East Village. It is intentionally dimly lit and covered in dark wooden panels and vintage hand-painted tiles. Stained glass windows cover one of the walls giving the venue the feeling and appearance of a Mexican chapel or monastery. Signage is at a bare minimum and the unmarked door is incredibly discreet. Mayahuel’s reputation has become strong in the bar industry due to the clever work of bartenders Philip Ward and Ravi de Rossi, also famed for their important role at Death & Company. 

Crazy Homies

125 Westbourne Park Road  London W2 5QL, UK

crazyhomies.com

When a healthy juice bar in Notting Hill was struggling to succeed as a business, Tom, son of Sir Terrance Conran, and his wife Cynthia decided to change the concept into something they were both passionate about. Cynthia had lived close to the Mexican border and had worked with lots of Mexicanos. These days that location is a huge success, specialising in Mexican street food and premium tequilas. Crazy Homies delivers a fun, laid-back, cool and contemporary Mexican offering for the Notting Hill social club. Mexican wrestling ‘luchadores’ and ‘day of the dead‘ skeletons cover the walls, giving it a really authentic feel.

El Camion

25-27 Brewer Street, London W1F 0RR, UK

272 Portobello Road, London W10 5TY, UK

elcamion.co.uk

Owned by another of the Conran brothers, Ned, with one venue located in the heart of Soho and the other on Portobello Road in Notting Hill. Upstairs El Camion is an explosion of bright Mexican colours and religious iconography where they showcase freshly made, tasty, crispy tacos and packed burritos accompanied by fine tequilas, rare mezcals and Mexican beers. The ground floor restaurant features a display of more than 2,000 hot sauces. Downstairs, cheekily known as the Pink Chihuahua, is the current home of Dick Bradsell, London’s favourite and most renowned bartenders.

Agave

33 D’Aguilar St, Lan Kwai Fong, Hong Kong

Aptly named after the succulent plant from which tequila is made. I stumbled across this authentic Mexican restaurant in the downtown Lan Kwai Fong area of Hong Kong a few years back, while I was touring Asia. I entered the open-fronted, noisy bar and, unbeknown to me, Julio Bermejo from Tommy’s in San Francisco (see p37) had consulted on the concept and trained the staff. Julio has put together an impressive range of approximately 150 brands of 100% agave tequila, and there are more than 30 Margaritas to choose from. The usual Tex-Mex staples are available here, from refried beans to sizzling fajitas.

Happy Bar

Arandas Town square, Jalisco, Mexico

Placed directly opposite the famous cathedral in the town square of Arandas, in the highland area of the tequila-producing state of Jalisco, this is where I end up every time I am in ‘Los Altos’. Trashy 80s film posters cover the walls and local tequila flows constantly day and night. I have been here when mariachi bands come in for some light refreshment and end up being the house band for the evening. I have witnessed the town clown, with traditional face paint and dressed in full regalia, including oversized shoes and red nose, getting sloshed and falling asleep at the bar. At closing time the local police force assist in politely asking the crowd to drink up. Happy days!

Neon Cactus

35 Call Lane, Leeds, West Yorkshire LS1 7BT, UK

Owned by Britain’s loveable northern bartender, Jake Burger, and a popular addition to his bar enterprise in Leeds. Situated on Call Lane in the city centre, Neon Cactus plays homage to Mexican and tequila culture with a large serving of tongue in cheek, mocking the old misunderstood myth that tequila is made from cactus. The upstairs bar carries an impressive 70 varieties of premium tequila and a comprehensive and eclectic selection of both tequila and other South American-inspired cocktails. The décor on the ground floor is deep red boudoir with soft lighting on the back bar and candles on the tables. Neon Cactus frequently holds special events, included chili-eating competitions.

La Fuente

Pino Suárez 78  Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico

Spanish for ‘the fountain’, La Fuente is often referred to as one of the oldest and longest-running traditional cantinas in Guadalajara. The bar’s logo is a picture of an old bicycle. This famous bicycle hangs proudly on the wall just to the right of the long wooden bar. Allegedly it was left there by a customer who couldn’t pay his bill and who decided to leave the bike behind as a deposit. He never returned, and his bike has been there ever since. The smoke-filled room always has a mixed crowd, from young students and curious tourists to mature artists, politicians and aristocrats.