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A bottle of mezcal beside a cocktail.
Mezcal at Dock Street South.
Dock Street South

Best Spots to Taste Mezcal in Philly

This unforgettably smoky Mexican spirit is leaving its mark  on Philadelphia’s cocktail scene

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Mezcal at Dock Street South.
| Dock Street South

Memorable for its notably smoky flavor, many regard mezcal as the more sultry relative of tequila (though some might be surprised to learn that tequila is a regional type of mezcal). This spirit (with a history dating back over 500 years) can be distilled from around 30 varieties of agave plants across Mexico, each imparting distinct flavor profiles and characteristics. As its popularity has surged, so has its availability in Philadelphia’s restaurants, which offer an abundance of opportunities to explore, taste, and develop a fondness for this unforgettable spirit.

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Dock Street Brewery South

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A beer microbrewery may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about places to try mezcal, but Dock Street Brewery is a game-changer in that regard. A pioneer, it also produces its own mezcal (under its Dock Street Spirits arm). Introduced in 2014, Vicio Mezcal (crafted by hand in small batches) can be tasted at any Dock Street location. It is also a mainstay in many cocktails, like the Vicio mezcal negroni, made with apertivo and sweet vermouth.

El Mezcal Cantina

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As the name implies, mezcal takes center stage on the drinks menu at El Mezcal Cantina. With various flight options available at $30 per flight (including three samples each), stop by to delve into a wide array of mezcals. These span from those that could be categorized as ancestral (distilled through a more traditional process) to pachegos (a method incorporating raw meat).

Pornstar Daiquiri at The Ranstead Room

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When it comes to speakeasies, Ranstead Room has it all: relaxed vibes, masterful bartenders, and phenomenal cocktails. Here, mezcal is often incorporated to put a smoky twist on classic cocktails like the old fashioned and margarita. But if you’re seeking a more tailored mezcal-tasting adventure, take a chance with the bartender’s choice. After a brief series of questions, the bartender will create a one-of-a-kind mezcal concoction exclusively for you.

La Llorona Cantina

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With over 50 mezcals in-house, La Llorana has one of the most extensive collections of mezcal in the city. Its selection features a wide array of brands made with agaves sourced from regions across Mexico, encouraging an appreciation of this spirit’s diversity and varied distilling methods.

Condesa

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Defined Hospitality has a portfolio of acclaimed restaurants including Eater’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018 (Suraya) and one with a James Beard award-winning chef at the helm (Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya). Its venture into Mexican fare holds its own against these powerhouse establishments, offering a sophisticated dining experience, deeply flavorful plates, and unparalleled cocktails. The mezcal margarita (made with Banhez mezcal, combier, lime, and cucumber) is easily one of the best in the city, and during happy hour it’s a steal.

Frida Cantina

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Frida Cantina is one of South Philly’s best-kept secrets for tasting mezcal with nearly 90 varieties to choose from. The inviting atmosphere, appetizing plates, and friendly service create a warm, familial vibe that encourages visitors to become regulars.

El Vez has historically been one of the most popular spots in Center City for happy hour, but did you know it also doubles as a great place to sample mezcal? If new to tasting the spirit, visiting is a must as one of the few spots offering a mezcal flight. For just $45 you can sample three mezcals (bahnez, espeid, del maquey vida fiquenda) providing a great introduction to the spirit. If drinking this straight doesn’t appeal to you, cocktails might be the way to go, with its mezcal mule, Oaxaca old fashioned, and mezcal margarita all being excellent options.

Sor Ynez

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With a strong passion for educating on the history and distilling process of Mexican spirits, Sor Ynez recently rolled out a new mezcal tasting program that offers rotating monthly flights. Each month brings a new brand of mezcal inclusive of three expressions of the spirit, exposing Philadelphia to the nuance in varieties. Its most recent flight featured Bahnez, a fair-trade mezcal produced in Oaxaca.

One of the latest additions to restauranteur Stephen Starr’s suite, LMNO is arguably one of the hottest new spots in the city for Mexican cuisine. The vivacious dining room transports you away from the city, which makes sipping on mezcal and tequila cocktails while munching on Baja street bites a more than enjoyable experience. One of its most popular cocktails, The Prickly Hickly is mezcal-forward and made with prickly pear, hibiscus, and lime.

Cantina la Martina

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Chef Dionicio Jiménez opened Cantina La Martina in 2022 and it quickly gained notoriety, even earning a James Beard Award nomination in 2023. The cocktail and spirit list is a paradise for mezcal lovers, featuring 30 different varieties of mezcal and including it in five cocktails on its drinks menu. However, the use of mezcal extends beyond drinks. One of the most popular dishes here is the pascada del sol, a baked branzino seasoned with mezcal-infused salt.

Dock Street Brewery South

A beer microbrewery may not be the first place that comes to mind when thinking about places to try mezcal, but Dock Street Brewery is a game-changer in that regard. A pioneer, it also produces its own mezcal (under its Dock Street Spirits arm). Introduced in 2014, Vicio Mezcal (crafted by hand in small batches) can be tasted at any Dock Street location. It is also a mainstay in many cocktails, like the Vicio mezcal negroni, made with apertivo and sweet vermouth.

El Mezcal Cantina

As the name implies, mezcal takes center stage on the drinks menu at El Mezcal Cantina. With various flight options available at $30 per flight (including three samples each), stop by to delve into a wide array of mezcals. These span from those that could be categorized as ancestral (distilled through a more traditional process) to pachegos (a method incorporating raw meat).

Pornstar Daiquiri at The Ranstead Room

When it comes to speakeasies, Ranstead Room has it all: relaxed vibes, masterful bartenders, and phenomenal cocktails. Here, mezcal is often incorporated to put a smoky twist on classic cocktails like the old fashioned and margarita. But if you’re seeking a more tailored mezcal-tasting adventure, take a chance with the bartender’s choice. After a brief series of questions, the bartender will create a one-of-a-kind mezcal concoction exclusively for you.

La Llorona Cantina

With over 50 mezcals in-house, La Llorana has one of the most extensive collections of mezcal in the city. Its selection features a wide array of brands made with agaves sourced from regions across Mexico, encouraging an appreciation of this spirit’s diversity and varied distilling methods.

Condesa

Defined Hospitality has a portfolio of acclaimed restaurants including Eater’s Restaurant of the Year in 2018 (Suraya) and one with a James Beard award-winning chef at the helm (Chutatip “Nok” Suntaranon, Kalaya). Its venture into Mexican fare holds its own against these powerhouse establishments, offering a sophisticated dining experience, deeply flavorful plates, and unparalleled cocktails. The mezcal margarita (made with Banhez mezcal, combier, lime, and cucumber) is easily one of the best in the city, and during happy hour it’s a steal.

Frida Cantina

Frida Cantina is one of South Philly’s best-kept secrets for tasting mezcal with nearly 90 varieties to choose from. The inviting atmosphere, appetizing plates, and friendly service create a warm, familial vibe that encourages visitors to become regulars.

El Vez

El Vez has historically been one of the most popular spots in Center City for happy hour, but did you know it also doubles as a great place to sample mezcal? If new to tasting the spirit, visiting is a must as one of the few spots offering a mezcal flight. For just $45 you can sample three mezcals (bahnez, espeid, del maquey vida fiquenda) providing a great introduction to the spirit. If drinking this straight doesn’t appeal to you, cocktails might be the way to go, with its mezcal mule, Oaxaca old fashioned, and mezcal margarita all being excellent options.

Sor Ynez

With a strong passion for educating on the history and distilling process of Mexican spirits, Sor Ynez recently rolled out a new mezcal tasting program that offers rotating monthly flights. Each month brings a new brand of mezcal inclusive of three expressions of the spirit, exposing Philadelphia to the nuance in varieties. Its most recent flight featured Bahnez, a fair-trade mezcal produced in Oaxaca.

LMNO

One of the latest additions to restauranteur Stephen Starr’s suite, LMNO is arguably one of the hottest new spots in the city for Mexican cuisine. The vivacious dining room transports you away from the city, which makes sipping on mezcal and tequila cocktails while munching on Baja street bites a more than enjoyable experience. One of its most popular cocktails, The Prickly Hickly is mezcal-forward and made with prickly pear, hibiscus, and lime.

Cantina la Martina

Chef Dionicio Jiménez opened Cantina La Martina in 2022 and it quickly gained notoriety, even earning a James Beard Award nomination in 2023. The cocktail and spirit list is a paradise for mezcal lovers, featuring 30 different varieties of mezcal and including it in five cocktails on its drinks menu. However, the use of mezcal extends beyond drinks. One of the most popular dishes here is the pascada del sol, a baked branzino seasoned with mezcal-infused salt.

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