Where I'll be Celebrating Mezcal Week in San Diego
Updated: Sep 30, 2019
If you know me at all, you know that I'm a sucker for happy hour and festive social gatherings. So naturally, when I read a blog post recently about Mezcal Week, I knew I had to lock down some cocktail tasting plans! Mezcal Week 2019 is the week that we've all been waiting for. It is a celebration of mezcal that takes place in bars, restaurants, and cultural institutions everywhere (well, in some places) on September 8-15. A week made to put mezcal spirits front and center in the form of flights & cocktails and let them shine!
So, I know what many of you are probably wondering... (@me) what is mezcal exactly? Great question! In the spirit of being completely transparent, I did not know the full answer to that question until about 5 minutes ago. Here's what I learned!
What is Mezcal?
Colloquially, mezcal means anything distilled from the agave plant. This has been going on in Mexico since the Spanish conquest (at least) and potentially earlier. In this very general sense, mezcal is like the term “wine,” because anything fermented from grapes is considered wine.
Legally mezcal has a different definition. It can only be made in nine states in Mexico and has to be certified by the semi-governmental body that has a monopoly over the term when it’s used on labels and certified as legal mezcal. The geography of mezcal changes regularly so this is a highly elastic and recent definition. Everyone fully expects it to welcome in many new states in the coming years.
What is tequila?
Tequila is a type of mezcal with an extremely well defined sense of itself. It developed in the 19th Century in Western Mexico, in and around Jalisco, achieved some prominence and name recognition by the 20th Century but really developed into an economic powerhouse in the 70’s and 80’s when the legal definition of tequila became even more restrictive in some senses– it can only be made from a single type of agave, in five Mexican states, and according to a certain methodology.
Sadly the definition of tequila has also been watered down in recent history so that bottles of so called “gold” tequila really may contain very little agave, lots of spirit from sugar cane, and some yummy corn syrup to give it that characteristic yellow taint. Today tequila is a massive industry in Mexico and margaritas are the world’s best selling cocktail – obviously it has been a very successful product.
Monday: Tahona Bar
Tahona's mission is to educate and give reverence to the complexity and beauty of the Mexican culture through its most iconic beverage, mezcal and to become an epicenter of mezcal culture in San Diego. This bar looks SO COOL. I discovered it on a San Diego Food Blog and it instantly moved to the top of my SD Restaurant Bucket List. (Check out this post about Tahona that inspired this post!) It is fun, it is cool, it is cultural, and it has tacos. What more does a girl need?
Tahona claims to have over 100 kinds of mezcals available for taste. Their tasting room is described on their website as, a place of exploration that will allow you to expand your knowledge about agave spirits and what makes Mezcal so unique. This would be a super fun activity to do with friends which is exactly what I am looking for in a tasting experience.
The Tahona tasting room is closed on Mondays but you can reserve a spot for a tasting from 5:00pm-10:00pm Sunday and weekdays and until 11:00pm Friday and Saturday.
Tuesday: Juan Tequila Bar & Restaurant
Juan Tequila Bar and Restaurant has a dark, sultry, New York starry vibe with live music Tuesday through Saturday. Juan seems like the kind of place that makes you feel expensive. I like that kind of place. Being in the middle of the infamous Gaslamp District would make this the perfect location for a happy hour...
HAPPY HOUR PLUG
Wednesday through Monday 3pm to 6pm (30% off All food and Drinks)
Taco Tuesdays From 11:30am to 6:00pm (50% off Tacos, Tequilas & mezcales)
Late Night Sunday through Thursday 10pm-Close
...followed by a night out on the town with some girlfriends. Overall, this restaurant seems really on brand for a great time and that's why you can catch me at the bar celebrating this Mezcal week.
Wednesday: King & Queen Cantina
King & Queen Cantina is a two story feast-cave on a busy corner lot in downtown Little Italy. It is advertised as modern Mexican cuisine and run by veteran restauranteur, Jorge Cueva. Cueva has several wildly popular restaurants in Orange County and is opening a third Tempo Urban Kitchen in Valle de Guadalupe soon. King & Queen's decorum pays homage to Dia de los Muertos, a festive Mexican Holiday otherwise known as Day of the Dead. And while their Mexican Drinks and Fare are enticing, you'll notice that the K&Q menu also features dishes that tap into other culinary influences such as Asia and South America as well.
The only thing that has me skeptical about this location is the unpredictable parking situation. It is street parking on Kettner Blvd, so I will be going sometime I have an Uber to drop me off or during the afternoon when the restaurant traffic is low. Which is convenient because...
HAPPY HOUR PLUG!!!
(I bet you didn't see this coming, Did you Squidward?)
Monday, happy hour is all day, yes. I said all day.
Daily, 3:00 – 6:00 pm; 9 pm – close
Weekend Brunch from 10:00am - 2:00pm
So if you're picking up what I am putting down, I'll be seeing you at King & Queen for $15 Bottomless mimosas next weekend or on Monday, whenever.
Thursday: Death by Tequila
S. Coast Highway, Encinitas
Since I moved back to San Diego from Texas, Death By Tequila has been a strong contender on my Restaurant Bucket List. I mean, the playful name in and of itself has my attention. It was inspired by one of the co-owners, Chad Mestler, and his love of tequila.
You can currently choose from about 75 tequilas, 25 mezcals and 5 other agave distillates.The mezcal collection continues to from and the owners are constantly sourcing new agave distillates that represent different regions of Mexico. That is the type of traveling I am interested in ASAP.
DxT's Chef Anfelo Sosa is inspired by locally farmed ingredients. "Everything is fresh and colorful and the ingredients have an amazing story," he says. The colorful fare adds to the festive, youthful atmosphere of the restaurant. Sosa aims to serve his guests with humility, hoping that they feel transported into a complete experience. So much love has been put into this business and it is evident. La vida es corta (life is short), surrender to its pleasures.
Friday: Galaxy Taco
If you're anything like me and you don't know where to start but you're willing to jump right in, Galaxy Taco is the Place for you. Former 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.
La Jolla Shores and Sea Port Village
Last but certainly not least, if the question is Tacos and Tequila you bet your booty I will be walking straight to Puesto. Puesto is my ride or die for boutique street tacos. This bright and playful tribute to modern Mexico has a broad assortment of reposado, añejo and super añejo tequilas (including the 80 year-old Don Julio 1942 Anejo!), plus mezcal, and specialty cocktails. I have taken most of my friends to this restaurant by now so the question really is not if, but when will I go to Puesto next. Why Limit my Puesto consumption to Mezcal week? In fact, if it were up to me, I'd be at the bar sampling street tacos everyday!
Luckily, Puesto is making is just a little but easier to eat Tacos everyday, I just read some interesting news on my favorite San Diego food blog, San Diego Food Finds. Puesto is opening a third Location in Mission Valley in addition to their La Jolla and Seaport Village Locations! Mission Valley just happens to be a short drive from my work, I think they will be seeing me regularly.
For your taco tasting delight, may I recommend the Chicken al Pastor, the Filet Mignon and most importantly the Carnitas tacos? They're classic. They're delicious. And you can thank me later.
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 sips.
Last but certainly not least, Coasterra is the crown jewel of my San Diego Mezcal roundup. Coasterra is the perfect spot to wrap up a long week with one of the best patio views in town and a diverse cocktail menu. The Coasterra Tequila Lounge sits on the edge of Harbor Island with a lovely outdoor patio overlooking the bay and the beautiful San Diego skyline. Refine your palate with one of six tequila tasting flights, which range from mezcals to aged tequilas. Coasterra has deliciously creative house-made infusions, like strawberry Espolon Añejo, grapefruit Olmeca Altos Blanco, and poblano cilantro Olmeca Altos Blanco. If you just want to chill out during happy hour, try Deb’s Coconut Margarita, made with Olmeca Altos Reposado Tequila, Coco Lopez, and lime juice.
HAPPY HOUR PLUG!!!
Monday - Friday from 3:30 - 5:30pm in the Tequila Lounge & on the Patio.
Sunday Brunch: 10:30 - 2pm
I hope you enjoyed my margarita must tries for Mezcal Week 2019. If you need me, you'll know where to find me. Cheers!