Friday, June 21, 2024

The Mexico City happy hour guide: How to sip like a local

Happy hour, a two-hour time-slot dedicated to drink specials that is wildly popular in many U.S. cities, is a term often credited to the U.S. Navy. Sources claim that the entertainment breaks granted to sailors during World War l were referred to as “happy hours.”

Other sources claim that the term arose during Prohibition, when U.S. citizens desperate for a tipple would gather at underground clubs known as speakeasies, in get-togethers that became collectively known as “happy hours.”

Either way, they quickly became a national phenomenon, as a way to decompress with a discounted drink after a long day at the office. Over the years, the two hours of uninhibited drinking have become more elaborate, often including food specials and popping up at unforeseen hours — like 10:00 p.m. to midnight — in cities like New York and Miami.

Needless to say, I’m not in New York or Miami. I’m in Mexico City. I’ve found, much to my own chagrin, that “happy hour” on the whole doesn’t exist with the same fervor of my birth country. So when I heard that Condesa’s Hotel San Fernando, a concept from Austin-based Bunkhouse, had put an official happy hour on the schedule, I gleefully added it to the top of my to-do list.

While not-so-patiently waiting for the clock to chime 4:00 p.m. on the day of my scheduled visit, I investigated by aggressively interviewing every chilango I knew for additional options.

What I found out confirmed what I had already believed to be true: happy hour is just not a thing here. Still, with the arrival of an uncountable number of American expats, I have my suspicions that a new “hora feliz” might soon pop up at a bar near you.

In the meantime, here are six locations recommended by locals from the grand city of CDMX that have already jumped on the bandwagon.

Lounge Fernando 

Iztaccihuatl 54, Hipodromo Condesa

Lounge Fernando. (Chad Wadsworth)

Let’s start with that which kicked off the almighty research project, the lounge at Hotel San Fernando. At first glance, it’s an excellent date spot due to its seductive lighting and sleek bar area, perfectly Instagrammable as one might expect from a Bunkhouse property. 

The real draw, however, is the two-for-one cocktail special offered from Monday to Thursday, 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. The lead bartender, Alberto, is not only passionate about his craft, but also possesses a wealth of alcohol-soaked information and makes drinking his flavorful creations a lot of fun. 

What to try: Sotol and tonic with basil and cardamom, for a Mexican twist on Europe’s drink of choice.

Melina Bistrot

Dinamarca 46, Juárez

This establishment is immediately inviting, with delicate pink-and-green tiled tables that spill out onto a leafy sidewalk. Aperol spritzes seem to reign supreme, though the restaurant is also known for its polished versions of traditional sips like Negronis, margaritas, and gin tonics. 

The crowd is young and trendy, an ideal gathering place for late afternoon drinks with your girlfriends. Happy hour is offered daily from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with two-for-one cocktails and select spirits.

What to try: Aperol spritz, if only for that delightful color contrast against the restaurant’s pastel color palette.

Pata Negra

Avenida De 5 de Mayo #49, Centro 

Río Niagara 43, Cuauhtémoc

Pata Negra Facade. (Bethany Platanella)

There is always something going on at one of Pata Negra’s two locations in Cuauhtémoc and Centro Histórico. Jazz nights with no cover, live DJs, even an occasional pop-up flea market. Most events are accompanied by a drink special, like discounted Tanqueray concoctions and two-for-one mojitos to boost your confidence during Thursday night’s onsite salsa classes. 

If you’re looking for a laid-back, local watering hole with an extensive bar and Spanish bites, this is it. Price specials kick off at different times depending on the event, so it’s best to check with the location you’re planning to visit to confirm the day’s offer. 

What to try: Spicy margarita with Ancho Reyes at the bar, because while the drink is delicious, it’s the staff that make it memorable.

Casa Bruna

Sinaloa 106, Roma

I imagine that for most the term “happy hour” stirs up images of crisp wine, fruity cocktails, and cold beer. Freshly brewed coffee likely does not come to mind, but it should, since Casa Bruna is one of the few cafes I’ve seen that offer two-for-one brews in the morning. From 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m., all java-based drinks on their menu are up for grabs, from classics like cappuccinos to the more experimental “bevies” like dirty chais. 

If it’s your turn to treat a coworker or you’re a very serious coffee drinker, take advantage of two caffeinated cups at Casa Bruna for the agreeable price of one.

What to try: Vanilla latte, so you can still have your shot of caffeine with delicate notes of vanilla that linger long after you’ve finished.

Club Lounge at the Hotel InterContinental Presidente

Campos Eliseos 218, Polanco

Located on the 39th floor of one of Polanco’s fanciest hotels, the InterContinental, is the exclusive Club Lounge with sweeping city views and daily drink specials from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Guests are granted access through one of two ways: booking a stay in a club level suite or paying a yearly membership fee of US $200, (which includes entry to the spa and fitness center facilities as well). Expect a refined, international crowd that could possibly result in a fattened rolodex of useful business contacts. 

What to try: Classic martini or a glass of red wine, because an atmosphere like this calls for a sophisticated sip. 

Karisma

Campos Eliseos 219, Polanco 

Across the street from the InterContinental is Karisma, which has stood proud as the post-work bar of choice for many locals for nearly half a century. It’s casual, it’s buzzing, and it’s in the heart of Polanco, making it an easy choice for anyone who wants a quick meal and a cold drink at a moderate price. 

Specials are always changing with the times and very unique — at present, those who mention to the bartender that they are “addicted to living in the present” will receive 10% off their beverage of choice.

What to try: Keep it simple and order a Mexican beer. 

Bethany Platanella is a travel planner and lifestyle writer based in Mexico City. She lives for the dopamine hit that comes directly after booking a plane ticket, exploring local markets, practicing yoga and munching on fresh tortillas. Sign up to receive her Sunday Love Letters to your inbox, peruse her blog, or follow her on Instagram.

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