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10 Places To Drink Mezcal, Tequila & Sotol In San Diego

Menus, cocktail programs and tasting events for the Mexican spirits.

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The trend for small-batch, hand crafted agave spirits first gained traction with tequila but the spotlight has expanded to include its smokier, earthier cousin — mezcal. With the rise of upscale Mexican and Baja-Med cuisine the demand for premium agave-based spirits has never been higher. Bartenders are catering to an increasingly discerning clientele who request specific artisanal tequilas to sip neat, while "up-and-coming agaves" like bacanora and sotol anchor craft cocktails. From tasting flights to exclusive pairing menus (plus plenty of tequila-based libations!), we’ve rounded up ten of the best places in San Diego to savor these essential Mexican spirits.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.
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Cantina Mayahuel

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The place in SD for serious tequila connoisseurs; educate yourself in all things agave at this real-deal cantina which boasts one of the biggest tequila selections in San Diego. Take your pick from the two hundred plus bottles of añejo, blanco and reposado behind the bar ––from $5 to $50 a shot–– any of which can be made into a delicious margarita. Combined with orange nectar, orange liquor and fresh lime juice they are simple, delicious and perfect for sipping in the dusky interior or outside on the sail-shaded patio.

Bracero Cocina de Raiz

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Recently voted one of America’s best bartenders, Bracero’s bar director Christian Siglin has over 20 different tequilas and 20 mezcals of different agaves, plus sotol (from Chihuahua), bacanora (from Sonora) and mezcal (from Oaxaca) at his disposal. Notable mezcal and tequila-based “shaken” specialty cocktails include: Czech Yourself (mezcal, Becherovka, Falernum, lime, pineapple, orgeat, cinnamon and Absinthe); Paso Fino Paloma (mezcal, hibiscus infused Finn Sherry, grapefruit, lime, cinnamon, Xocolatl Mole Bitters, soda), and the reposado-based Get a Job (Meletti Amaro, lime, Felalernum, Jarritos Tamarind Soda, R&D bitters).

The Patio on Goldfinch

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Tequila-lovers can book certified catador and GM Chris Simmons for private tastings at this Mission Hills hotspot, whose extensive collection includes bottles like Casa San Matias’ 6-year-old Rey Sol extra añejo ($55 by the glass). Simmons will also be hosting his next Tequila Dinner Series event here with a mezcal and sotol dinner on Tuesday, December 1. Currently developing multiple sangritas there are plans to add a sangrita section to the cocktail menu; while all day happy hour pricing for any shot of tequila (with the purchase of any beer) was also recently added.

Don Chido

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Home to over 100 different types of tequila and a dozen mezcals, the Drink Bible menu at Don Chido offers an expansive selection of these essential Mexican tipples. A great option from head bartender Gabe Garza’s ‘Coctel Especial’ list includes the Mezcal Smash, which is made with Vida Mezcal, blackberry, pineapple lemon, and agave ($12). For margaritas think Chido Caddy –Peligrosa Añejo, lime, agave and Grand Marnier float ($13); while the El Viejito (Cabo Wabo Anejo, Aztec Chocolate Bitters Agave and muddled orange peel) makes for a great winter cocktail.

La Puerta

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This Gaslamp go-to boasts a collection of 100+ tequilas ranging from small batch distillers to more recognizable names, plus an extensive list of mezcal, sotol and bacanora. It’s worth noting their Bark At the Moon margarita (Dos Lunas Reposado, muddled serrano, fresh lime, agave nectar) graced Travel + Leisure’s 2014 America’s Best Margaritas list. 10 “Mexperience Libations” are also on offer, including Bad Medicine - Fortaleza Reposado, Mezcal, ginger syrup, and fresh lemon ($11); and Remember the Alamo - Fortaleza Reposado, Cocchi Americano, honey syrup, fresh lime, Angostura bitters, Laphroaig ($11.50).

This bright and breezy ode to modern Mexico has a fine array of reposado, añejo and super añejo tequilas (including the 80 year-old Don Julio 1942 Anejo!), plus mezcal, and specialty cocktails. Mezcal-based mixed drinks include: El Mezcalito - Vida Mezcal, Guanabana, tamarindo, lime leaf, charred orange; and the Desperado Mezcal - Carpano Antica, dry curacao, walnut bitters. Classics like the namesake Puesto Perfect margarita and the Paloma are two noteworthy tequila-based tipples.

Coasterra Restaurant

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Showcasing over 70 agave spirits -–bacanora, mezcal, raicilla, sotol, tequila –– a tasting flight (three 1 oz. pours, prices vary) in Coasterra's Tequila Lounge is a great way to get acquainted with these traditional Mexican liquors. There are plenty of cocktails too choose from including the Orozco margarita - Libre Red Pepper Tequila, lime juice, agave syrup, St. Germain, club soda, jalapeño, cucumber ($10); and agave-based Mazatlan Mai Tai -- El Silencio Mezcal, Herradura Reposado tequila, lime juice, curacao, orgeat, pineapple juice, angostura bitters ($12).

Galaxy Taco

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Beverage director Mark Broadfoot designed an extensive tequila and mezcal menu at this much-lauded taco joint, with 6 different mezcal flights plus mezcal-based cocktails including the Tiki Sombrero. Divided into flavor profiles like Highland (bright, delicate, floral, mineral), and Valley (spicy, earthy), the mezcal library alone includes over 30 varieties of the blanco variety. Tasting flights include: WILD (SEMI-WILD) MEZCAL –– Mezcalero #11, Metl Madrecuixe-Espadin, El Silencio Espadin-Tobasiche-Mexicano; and NOT “MEZCAL” –– Sotol Siempre, Cielo Rojo Bacanora, La Venenosa Sur Raicilla. Prices range from $30 to $40.

Fairweather

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Anthony Schmidt showcases unique, hard-to-find mezcals and tequilas at his East Village rooftop oasis. For an iconic cocktail in the tequila stable, and great margarita alternative, have a dance with El Diablo ––Blanco tequila, fresh lime, ginger and soda topped with a drizzle of cassis makes a respectful nod to Trader Vic’s original 1947 creation. The Oaxacan Dead (Schmidt’s riff on the Zombie with mezcal and rum), and Spanish Armada (aged rum, mezcal, fresh lime) also currently grace the menu.

El Agave Tequileria

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Famed for its extensive tequila collection you can try over 2000 different high-end and hard-to-find tequilas at this bona fide Tequileria. Located within the Tequila Museum in historic Old Town, from Acumbaro Blanco to Zircon Azul Reposado bottles of all shapes, sizes and brands are showcased. Serving authentic Mexican fare, on November 19 the upscale eatery will hosting a Oaxaca-inspired five-course dinner and mezcal pairing with special guests from Tijuana's Tacos Kokopelli and Kimo Sabe Mezcal.

Cantina Mayahuel

The place in SD for serious tequila connoisseurs; educate yourself in all things agave at this real-deal cantina which boasts one of the biggest tequila selections in San Diego. Take your pick from the two hundred plus bottles of añejo, blanco and reposado behind the bar ––from $5 to $50 a shot–– any of which can be made into a delicious margarita. Combined with orange nectar, orange liquor and fresh lime juice they are simple, delicious and perfect for sipping in the dusky interior or outside on the sail-shaded patio.

Bracero Cocina de Raiz

Recently voted one of America’s best bartenders, Bracero’s bar director Christian Siglin has over 20 different tequilas and 20 mezcals of different agaves, plus sotol (from Chihuahua), bacanora (from Sonora) and mezcal (from Oaxaca) at his disposal. Notable mezcal and tequila-based “shaken” specialty cocktails include: Czech Yourself (mezcal, Becherovka, Falernum, lime, pineapple, orgeat, cinnamon and Absinthe); Paso Fino Paloma (mezcal, hibiscus infused Finn Sherry, grapefruit, lime, cinnamon, Xocolatl Mole Bitters, soda), and the reposado-based Get a Job (Meletti Amaro, lime, Felalernum, Jarritos Tamarind Soda, R&D bitters).

The Patio on Goldfinch

Tequila-lovers can book certified catador and GM Chris Simmons for private tastings at this Mission Hills hotspot, whose extensive collection includes bottles like Casa San Matias’ 6-year-old Rey Sol extra añejo ($55 by the glass). Simmons will also be hosting his next Tequila Dinner Series event here with a mezcal and sotol dinner on Tuesday, December 1. Currently developing multiple sangritas there are plans to add a sangrita section to the cocktail menu; while all day happy hour pricing for any shot of tequila (with the purchase of any beer) was also recently added.

Don Chido

Home to over 100 different types of tequila and a dozen mezcals, the Drink Bible menu at Don Chido offers an expansive selection of these essential Mexican tipples. A great option from head bartender Gabe Garza’s ‘Coctel Especial’ list includes the Mezcal Smash, which is made with Vida Mezcal, blackberry, pineapple lemon, and agave ($12). For margaritas think Chido Caddy –Peligrosa Añejo, lime, agave and Grand Marnier float ($13); while the El Viejito (Cabo Wabo Anejo, Aztec Chocolate Bitters Agave and muddled orange peel) makes for a great winter cocktail.

La Puerta

This Gaslamp go-to boasts a collection of 100+ tequilas ranging from small batch distillers to more recognizable names, plus an extensive list of mezcal, sotol and bacanora. It’s worth noting their Bark At the Moon margarita (Dos Lunas Reposado, muddled serrano, fresh lime, agave nectar) graced Travel + Leisure’s 2014 America’s Best Margaritas list. 10 “Mexperience Libations” are also on offer, including Bad Medicine - Fortaleza Reposado, Mezcal, ginger syrup, and fresh lemon ($11); and Remember the Alamo - Fortaleza Reposado, Cocchi Americano, honey syrup, fresh lime, Angostura bitters, Laphroaig ($11.50).

Puesto

This bright and breezy ode to modern Mexico has a fine array of reposado, añejo and super añejo tequilas (including the 80 year-old Don Julio 1942 Anejo!), plus mezcal, and specialty cocktails. Mezcal-based mixed drinks include: El Mezcalito - Vida Mezcal, Guanabana, tamarindo, lime leaf, charred orange; and the Desperado Mezcal - Carpano Antica, dry curacao, walnut bitters. Classics like the namesake Puesto Perfect margarita and the Paloma are two noteworthy tequila-based tipples.

Coasterra Restaurant

Showcasing over 70 agave spirits -–bacanora, mezcal, raicilla, sotol, tequila –– a tasting flight (three 1 oz. pours, prices vary) in Coasterra's Tequila Lounge is a great way to get acquainted with these traditional Mexican liquors. There are plenty of cocktails too choose from including the Orozco margarita - Libre Red Pepper Tequila, lime juice, agave syrup, St. Germain, club soda, jalapeño, cucumber ($10); and agave-based Mazatlan Mai Tai -- El Silencio Mezcal, Herradura Reposado tequila, lime juice, curacao, orgeat, pineapple juice, angostura bitters ($12).

Galaxy Taco

Beverage director Mark Broadfoot designed an extensive tequila and mezcal menu at this much-lauded taco joint, with 6 different mezcal flights plus mezcal-based cocktails including the Tiki Sombrero. Divided into flavor profiles like Highland (bright, delicate, floral, mineral), and Valley (spicy, earthy), the mezcal library alone includes over 30 varieties of the blanco variety. Tasting flights include: WILD (SEMI-WILD) MEZCAL –– Mezcalero #11, Metl Madrecuixe-Espadin, El Silencio Espadin-Tobasiche-Mexicano; and NOT “MEZCAL” –– Sotol Siempre, Cielo Rojo Bacanora, La Venenosa Sur Raicilla. Prices range from $30 to $40.

Fairweather

Anthony Schmidt showcases unique, hard-to-find mezcals and tequilas at his East Village rooftop oasis. For an iconic cocktail in the tequila stable, and great margarita alternative, have a dance with El Diablo ––Blanco tequila, fresh lime, ginger and soda topped with a drizzle of cassis makes a respectful nod to Trader Vic’s original 1947 creation. The Oaxacan Dead (Schmidt’s riff on the Zombie with mezcal and rum), and Spanish Armada (aged rum, mezcal, fresh lime) also currently grace the menu.

El Agave Tequileria

Famed for its extensive tequila collection you can try over 2000 different high-end and hard-to-find tequilas at this bona fide Tequileria. Located within the Tequila Museum in historic Old Town, from Acumbaro Blanco to Zircon Azul Reposado bottles of all shapes, sizes and brands are showcased. Serving authentic Mexican fare, on November 19 the upscale eatery will hosting a Oaxaca-inspired five-course dinner and mezcal pairing with special guests from Tijuana's Tacos Kokopelli and Kimo Sabe Mezcal.

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