Here’s what you’re going to do when you get to Mexico City. Yes, you’re going to visit the zócalo and marvel at pre-conquest and colonial architecture like a tourist, because that is what you are, and that is fine, and you will be glad you did. You’re going to climb up to Chapultepec Castle and stand in awe at the view. You’re going to stuff yourself on street vendor tortas filled with potato and chorizo, spicy tomato sauce, cabbage, and cheese. You’re going to drink cold Mexican beer, and be dumbstruck by the selection of mezcals (try La Clandestina in Condesa) that would cost you ten times as much back home. And when it's said and done, you’re going to do one of the most authentically CDMX (what the locals call Mexico City) things going and drink some fancy gin cocktails.
To drink them, you're going to a place called Gin Gin. While the trendsetting bar has four locations now, the outpost in the Roma Norte neighborhood is the flagship. A stunning repurposed old mansion, with greenery creeping up the brick walls, and bottle after bottle of gin stacked high to the ceiling, it’s one of those perfect dual purpose bars where you can start your night with a quiet drink, and finish it in a boisterous party atmosphere. And if you happen to be there this weekend for Mexico’s Día de la Independencia, while revelers pour into the parks and streets to celebrate, you might even have a shot at getting a table.
But, right, the gin. Gin probably isn’t the first spirit you think of when you think of Mexico, says Alvaro Montes, one of the head bartenders for Grupo Indiana, the team behind Gin Gin, but that’s been changing in the past few years. Tequila still dominates the countryside, but in the big cities, and on the beaches, gin cocktails have elbowed their way onto the bar.
“They're opening cocktail bars in Guadalajara, Monterrey, even Tulum," says Montes. "The first place for the cocktail culture is in Mexico City, but it’s still growing all the time.”
That’s in no small part due to Gin Gin’s influence, with a back bar that boasts some 40 plus labels of gin from around the world, including a few of the growing number of Mexican-distilled gins like Ginebra Armónico, a London dry style made with botanicals unique to Mexico; Diega Ginebra, a gin infused with lemon verbena and apple; and Mezcal Gin, an agave-based distillate that uses many of the traditional botanicals that make up gin.
“Tequila is for people who come here and like to try the Mexican things, but it’s not the most popular among the people here right now in Mexico City,” says Montes, who also points to the growing popularity of bourbon. “It’s not difficult to convince people to try the gin. They come ready to try it, mostly for the name of the place since they know we are focused on gin.”
Here’s one you can make for yourself. It's Montes’, and the bar’s favorite. Bonus points if you can get your hands on a Mexican gin, but in the meantime, any London dry will suffice. It’s a blend of lightly burnt bitter citrus, with a touch of Mexican heat and spice. Salud.
Courtesy of Alvaro Montes of Gin Gin
- 1.5 oz, gin
- .5 oz, Campari
- .5 oz, grapefruit juice
- 1 whole grapefruit (for twist)
- tonic water
- chili powder
Add gin, Campari, and grapefruit juice over ice and shake well. Treat a coupe glass with a sprig of rosemary, then strain and pour. Top it off with tonic water, lightly flavored with a small pinch each of chili powder and coriander. Garnish with a twist of grapefruit.
('You Might Also Like',)