I was in New York City last weekend for a wedding so I took the opportunity to sample the local mezcal scene. The big event was dinner at Empellon Cocina followed by drinks at Mayahuel but I also had lunch at Rosarito and chatted up bar tenders wherever we were. If you follow us on Twitter you already know my main observation: NY sees a different mezcal line up because of different distributors or distribution strategies. I noticed Buho in many bars as the sole member of the mezcal club, sadly but cutely stationed next to the Fortaleza and Partida, aka club agave. Del Maguey, Illegal and Fidencio were also frequent members but once we got to Empellon and Mayahuel things changed dramatically.
As you walk into Empellon you’re confronted with a cone of mezcals rising behind the bar capped with some fantastic rarities like a bottle of Real Minero. The menu is full of finds like that, there is a Mijes Joven, a Union, and a Yuu Baal. Then there are the full lines of the mezcals that we see in California like Del Maguey, Fidencio and Illegal.
Empellon is justly known for its food so be prepared for a special culinary experience, the squid with mole is a revelation but there are so many fun things that marry perfect technique with the world of Mexican ingredients that it’s hard to get bored. I thought the asparagus tacos would be the dud on the menu but it ended up being one of the best things there: Two fat stalks of asparagus in the middle of a tortilla topped by a mixture of parmesan and peppers and a bit of salsa off to the side. Simple and yet incredibly dynamic. Everything there paired perfectly with the long list of mezcals.
Mayahuel is just around the corner and, while also a restaurant, it’s much more of a classic East Village scene. Their mezcal menu is a bit more limited but contains many of the same things at Empellon. As with most places that feature mezcal (including Empellon) the mezcal cocktails are the crowd pleasers. The space is bright, fun and loud spread out over two floords in something resembling an old Moroccan restaurant.
Later in the weekend we stopped for a quick lunch at Rosarito in Williamsburg and were pleasantly surprised to find that they had a robust mezcal menu. It seems like that’s the general trend but I’m looking forward to a more extensive research trip soon to make sure.
Obviously I missed plenty of places. I really wanted to visit Casa Mezcal which is a few short blocks from Empellon and Mayahuel but just couldn’t make it. Suffice to say that I’ll definitely visit on my next trip so if anyone has great ideas on where else to visit on that, as yet, unscheduled trip give us a buzz.