Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Mexico City cocktail bar named best in North America

In a night of celebration for the North American bar scene, Mexico City’s Handshake Speakeasy stole the show, becoming the first-ever Mexican bar to be crowned number one in the prestigious North America’s 50 Best Bars list.

The announcement at a live ceremony held on Tuesday at the Rosewood, in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, marks a significant moment for the bar and the country’s cocktail culture. Handshake Speakeasy, known for its innovative and modern approach to mixology, has led the Mexican drinks scene since opening its doors in 2021. If you are not in Mexico City, you can taste their menu at Tunki by Handshake, the rooftop bar at Casa Sierra Nevada, a Belmond Hotel in San Miguel de Allende. 

Handshake Speakeasy’s team is known for its experimentation and creativity. (Facebook)

“It’s like a dream,” said bar director Eric Van Beek. “There are so many great new bars working hard this year.” Marcos Di Battista, co-founder of the bar, added, “We were missing a little bit and we said let’s see what else we can do until we achieved it, we never stopped trying and…perseverance is reflected in being number one. We were number two for two years and we were very happy and we continue working in the same way and as the saying goes, he who gives up does not get the prize.”

Handshake Speakeasy has built a reputation for its unique and mind-bending cocktails, achieved through extensive experimentation in its “lab.” Where the team crafts syrups, clarifies juices, and infuses cordials, resulting in creations like the “Cariño,” a hybrid of piña colada, daiquiri, and mojito made with Greek yogurt.

The bar came third on last year’s list

Mexico makes a strong showing on the 50 Best 2024 list

Licorería Limantour, in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City.
Licorería Limantour, in the Roma Norte neighborhood of Mexico City, which came in at #9 on the list. (Licorería Limantour)

Mexico’s success wasn’t limited to just Handshake Speakeasy. The country saw a strong showing, with several other bars from Mexico claiming spots on the list. Rayo, a bar in Mexico City dedicated to the agave goddess Mayahuel, secured the fifth position. Other standouts include Licorería Limantour (#9), Tlecān (#10), Zapote Bar in Playa Del Carmen (#11), El Gallo Altanero in Guadalajara (#14), Café de Nadie (#17), Baltra (#26), Bekeb in San Miguel de Allende (#27), the all-female-run Japanese izakaya Kaito del Valle (#28), Selva in Oaxaca (#34), and Arca in Tulum (#37).

A North American celebration

The ceremony wasn’t just a celebration for Mexico. The United States boasted 26 entries, with several newcomers from Chicago making their debut on the list. 

Toronto’s Civil Liberties, No.21, wins the title of The Best Bar in Canada, sponsored by Naked Malt, alongside Puerto Rico’s La Factoría, at No.18, recognized as The Best Bar in the Caribbean, sponsored by Amaro Lucano.

One of the most iconic moments of this award ceremony was when Claudia Cabrera, head bartender of Kaito del Valle, who received the Roku Industry Icon Award 2024. Her unwavering support for other women in the industry, her expertise in making quality cocktails and her interest in the Mexican bartending community were all reasons that the Roku Industry Icon Award 2024 recognized her work.

A Toast to the future

The North America’s 50 Best Bars list is a testament to the creativity and dedication of the region’s bar industry. Handshake Speakeasy’s win symbolizes Mexico’s growing influence on the global cocktail scene, paving the way for a future filled with innovative drinks and a renewed appreciation for Mexican culture.

The full list of winners can be viewed here. 

Camila Sánchez Bolaño is a journalist, feminist, bookseller, lecturer, and cultural promoter and is Editor in Chief of Newsweek en Español magazine.

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