This week at New York City’s Capitale, the inaugural North America’s 50 Best Bars—a list picked by William Reed, the same data and events company behind the wider World’s 50 Best Bars and The World’s 50 Best Restaurants—were announced. Elegant, vibrant and creative places from San Juan to San Diego, Guadalajara to Havana, Toronto and Tulum were included. Of the 29 US bars to make the list, 11 can be found in New York City, including the top honor, which was bestowed upon the Lower East Side’s Attaboy, known for their exceptional custom cocktails. Japanese-inspired Katana Kitten (a CH favorite) placed at number four and their Director of Deliciousness, Masahiro Urushido, was also named the winner of the Altos Bartenders’ Bartender Award 2022—a special industry award voted for by the head bartenders at the venues of this year’s list. Two favorite bars can be found in the Caribbean, eight in Canada, and 11 in Mexico; with CDMX strongly represented—and for good reason.
Of the six spots in Mexico’s capital making the cut, two of them are in the top 10: Handshake Speakeasy at number two and Licorería Limantour following at number three. Located in Colonia Juárez, Handshake Speakeasy appeals with plenty of Art Deco elements, but naturally the drinks are paramount. Co-owner Rodrigo Urraca was in tears at the announcement of the bar’s newest accolade, and tells us he chalks the win up to the hard work his team has put in, as well as the way that Handshake manages to deliver the full hospitality experience, for both guests and employees.
“When we first launched Handshake at the beginning, we were trying to replicate the formula of other bars, and so the bar didn’t work,” he explains. “We had to stop it and try to make a bar that was really different from the other ones. We bought a rotobar, different glassware, ice that’s really atypical from the normal scene in Mexico, and also how we treat the people. It’s a place for 32 people seated, but we have 12 employees on the floor.” Urraca shares that his floor staff also operates on a schedule of five days a week with two full days off to rest. What separates an acceptable cocktail bar from an exceptional one, according to him, is “to have the whole experience, how you treat your employees and all the people who arrive to the bar.”
It’s unsurprising that Mexico City is home to many bars that deserve praise. A diverse hub bursting with history and contemporary culture, the city continues garnering attention for creative and thoughtful approaches to design, food and cocktails. According to Urraca, part of what makes the cocktail scene there so special is easy and affordable access to exciting ingredients, including fresh, high-quality fruit and vegetables. This is well-reflected in Handshake’s cocktail program, which includes standouts like a clear piña colada with brandy swapped out for rum, and the popular Mexi-Thai with coconut-washed tequila, a house-made makrut lime distillate, clarified tomato cordial and basil oil.
At Licorería Limantour—a glorious two-story stalwart in Roma Norte—Mexican ingredients are also put on full display, with some of their most popular cocktails paying homage to the country’s flavors in unexpected, savory ways. Their Margarita al Pastor, for instance, combines tequila with orange liqueur, taco mix and lime.
Other CDMX bars to make the list include Condesa’s Baltra Bar, named for the second Galapagos island visited by biologist Charles Darwin; Japanese izakaya Kaito del Valle, with its all-women bar team; another CH favorite, Hanky Panky in Cuauhtémoc; and Café de Nadie, founded by Pujol alums and known for its music-inspired cocktails.
Hero image courtesy of Baltra Bar