Mexico City Bars & Nightlife
Alvaro Obregon 126, Colonial Roma
Skip through the dimly-lit and often over-crowded cocktail bar and head straight through the secret door into the open air patio, where gin cocktails are the mainstay pretty much all day long. There's often live jazz in the patio, and light Italian fare is served from morning till late at night, when the bar becomes a scene that spills onto the street. Primetime here are the afternoons when you can skip away for a quiet cocktail with friends—and live background music if you're lucky.
Tonala 23, Colonia Roma
While the restaurant at this restored, turn of the century "maison" serves perfectly good French food and wine, the real draw here is the bar upstairs, where aside from making a number of pretty distinctive cocktails—including the Velloncino de Oro, a refreshing and enormous rosemary infused gin cocktail—the focus really is on absinthe and all its paraphernalia. Fittingly, at 7pm, a green light turns on at the entrance, meaning it's time to head up to the Belle Epoque-themed living room with its velvet covered couches, stuffy old fashioned furnishings, and suspender-clad bartenders. Get there early for a chance to get upstairs, as there are often long lines.
Puebla 121, Colonia Roma
By day, the Covadonga's denizens are generally old Spanish guys playing dominoes and eating traditional Asturian delicacies like tortilla espanola, but by night it's a whole different demographic that flocks here. Young local hipsters arrive around 7pm to begin their night out with a few beers—and shots—among friends. It's an old cantina—a traditional drinking den—and the futbol is always on TV, the aging waiters wear prim black vests over starchy white shirts, and the interiors haven't had a makeover in what feels like 50 years. It's comforting to know, though, that even in the Roma, one of the hippest parts of town, some places never change.
Julio Verne 93, Polanco
Inspired by the trend for speakeasy bars in NYC, Jules Basement jumped on the bandwagon and brought the concept to Mexico in 2012. And like its NYC predecessors, there are rules here: You must make a reservation in advance, you must enter through an industrial refrigerator door at the back of a taqueria, and once inside the striking, leather-clad, subterranean bar there are no Jägermeisters, bad beers, or Red Bull-based drinks allowed. All of this makes for a pretty civilized evening enjoying both classic cocktails like Manhattans and Martinis and some pretty amazing riffs on these, like the mezcal laced Campari cocktail. Tuesdays are the best night to make a reservation as there's always live jazz.
Ometusco 87, Colonia Condesa
The Condesa neighborhood is packed with hipster bars that are now past their prime, but Felina is tucked away enough that it still feels like a discovery. With its specialty rum-based cocktails and mid-century furnishings—which got a major revamp this year—it has a little bit of a Mad Men feel. The bar's arty crowd heads here after work and on lazy weekend afternoons to enjoy the drinks, watch the skilled bartenders, and listen to the great playlists of obscure soul which the bar is famous for. Get there late and you'll be standing.
Alfonso Reyes 120, Colonia Condesa
The city is somewhat overrun by mezcal bars, as the smoky agave-based drink has sky-rocketed in terms of popularity, but La Botica was one of the originals, and continues to support small, independent distilleries, which is why it makes our list. Their mezcals, which they serve neat with orange slices and traditional bar snacks on the side, are sourced from all parts of the country and like serious sommeliers, the staff are all passionate about provenance and tasting notes. It's a good first stop for a long night out, and it's also a great place to get an education on the ever-popular drink.
Oaxaca 87, Colonia Roma
Mexico City is going through something of a gin renaissance and this airy, garden oasis of a bar in the heart of Colonia Roma seems to be at the epicenter of the trend. They craft various delicious botanical concoctions around the main ingredient—among them, the Velloncino de Oro, a rosemary infused gin cocktail, and the Mexican Pimms, made with fresh fruit and home-made ginger ale. It's been such a hit in the Roma that they've also just opened up in Polanco.
King Cole Bar
Paseo de la Reforma 439, Cuauhtemoc
At their on-site bar, the St. Regis has imported its signature cocktail from New York, the Bloody Mary, and given it a local mezcal twist. At this cozy and elegant space, dotted with cushy dark green couches, the vibe is buttoned up and super civilized—a welcome break from the somewhat rowdier Roma and Polanco bar scene. Rather than a DJ, the music tends to come from a live piano in the corner, or the occasional jazz quartet. They also serve a lot of serious whiskeys.
Zinco Jazz Club
Motolinia 20, Centro Histórico
All the major jazz acts that come through the city book at least one night here, which is why more often than not, the Zinco makes for a solid evening's entertainment. Aside from the good music, this spot oozes retro charm. Hidden away in the Centro, on the bottom floor of a restored Art Deco bank building, the small space feels like an authentic old New York jazz bar with crimson velvet curtains, a few intimate club tables, and a long bar serving up old school cocktails.
Alvaro Obregon 109, Colonia Roma
In the past few years, more and more mixology bars have popped up in the city's most upscale neighborhoods from Polanco to Condesa, and the bar on the forefront of the trend is the Licoreria Limantour. Here, the bar staff are seriously skilled mixologists, and the menu is pages long, with a number of seasonal options that changes often. Whether at the Polanco or the Roma space, Mr. Pink is the cocktail to go for, made with gin, fresh grapefruit juice, and basil.