Move over, blanco, anejo, and resposado— there’s a whole new slew of south of the border spirits making their way across town: raicilla, bacanora, and sotol. They’re the much more rare results to come from Mexico’s agave and desert plants, and between their complex compositions, smoky notes, and cocktail potential, each one is worth checking out as soon as you have the chance. To help get you started, here are a few of the city’s best right this second.
THE AMAI DOKU at NETA
Bartender Cole Schaffer was messing around with agave spirits one fall day to transition a bright, shaken mezcal libation into a colder climate cocktail, and he wouldn’t quit until he nailed a spirit-forward dram. Soon enough, the thought for a raicilla base dawned on him. “In general, raicilla will bring smoke and mild vegetal tones to any cocktail, and it's less delicate than tequila in that way,” he says. It makes sense, then, that he titled this creation — raicilla stirred with elderflower liqueur, housemade cherry and tonka bean bitters, and simple syrup over ice — the Amai Doku, which translates to “sweet poison.”
LA PINA ESCONDIDO at AÑEJO
If you’re on the hunt for some solid agave options, the name of this Hell’s Kitchen bar says it all. In addition to a handful of Mexican riffs on the classics, from an Ancho Negroni to a Pimm’s Copita, be sure to check out the La Pina Escondido, a shaken concoction of La Venenosa Raicilla, pineapple, and ginger-lavender syrup that’s served up in a coupe.
THE MATADOR, RAICILLA SIESTA, and LA NORTEÑA at LA CONTENTA
There is no shortage of esoteric sippers over at this Lower East Side neighborhood spot, thanks to mixologist Alex Valencia. For starters, there’s the Matador, a shaken and strained cocktail of sotol, pineapple, cilantro, and habanero bitters that’s garnished with a dry chili pepper. For something smoky, opt for the Raicilla Siesta, with Campari, grapefruit, and lime. And then there’s bacanora, which Valencia pairs up with lime, grapefruit, and Peychaud’s for the La Norteña.
THE RAICILLA NEGRONI at MASA Y AGAVE
If you really crave options head to this Mexican-inspired mingling hall, which boasts more than 400 bottles of agave spirits, making it the largest collection in the city. That inventory leaves cocktail director John McCarthy with ample tools to play with, including La Venenosa Maximiliano Raicilla, which he blends over an ice cube with Carpano Bianco vermouth, Cappelleti, and housemade grapefruit bitters for a Latin take on the Italian classic.
THE ÚLTIMA PALABRA at HECHO EN DUMBO
Bar manager Carlos Cruz set out to create an updated take on the gin-chartreuse-maraschino favorite The Last Word, but with a fun twist. As such, he called upon Sotol Por Siempre, which he shakes and serves up with lemon juice, green chartreuse, and maraschino liqueur. The ratios may differ slightly from the classic cocktail, but it’s only in order to showcase the complexity of the sotol, Cruz confirms.
By Nicole Schnitzler
(Photos from left: Amai Doku at Neta - Photo by Michael Tulipan; La Pina Escondido at Añejo; The Raicilla Negroni at Masa y Agave - Photo by Katie Burton)