As a Latin American mega-capital, Mexico City, unsurprisingly, serves up the full gamut of hedonistic options come nightfall. A major arts and cultural centre, its theatres host world-class opera, ballet, pop and rock, and its clubbing scene ranges from all-night salsa to cutting-edge electronic music, often given a Mexican twist by local, though well-travelled, DJs. Chilangos, as Mexico City dwellers are known, love bar culture and their city is awash with options – from homey holes in the wall to spectral speakeasies and cool jazz venues.
For a sunset or nocturnal city view, you can’t do much better than the rooftop bar of the posh, pricey Santo Domingo boutique hotel, housed in a grand old downtown block. Whether you’re staying there or not, you can book a table and enjoy spectacular views over the Centro – including the property’s namesakes, the Plaza Santo Domingo and church. The bar menu has some colourful dishes, featuring chilli peppers in myriad forms, cactus leaves and ants eggs, which go down well with the superb cocktails. If you’ve had your fill of mezcal and tequila, try a Clover Club, made with gin, lemon, raspberry and egg whites. There are also plenty of tasty, fruit-based non-alcoholic drinks.
Contact:00 52 55 5130 3081; domingosanto.com
Opening times: Mon-Thu, 8am-9pm; Fri-Sat 8am-11pm; Sun 8am-7pm
Nearest metro: Bellas Artes
Getting in: Reservations recommended, especially for the al fresco terrace area
One of the most unreconstructed of the old cantinas, this noble institution – here since the 1870s – is a fixture on all downtown cantina crawls. Formerly a men-only space, the lovely dark woodwork, stained glass and long, glossy red bar evoke a Mexico long gone elsewhere. Clients these days include old timers, couples and weary officer workers. Drinks are hipster-averse so don’t ask for a funky cocktail; stick to fernet and coke or straight tequilas and chaser beers. There’s no food, but roaming vendors hawk peanuts and fava beans. It’s said William Burroughs alludes to this ‘cheap cantina’ in his heroine-laced novel-cum-memoir Junky.
Contact: 00 52 55 5521 9136; cantina-el-tio-pepe.negocio.site
Opening times: Mon-Thu, Sat, 12am-11pm; Fri, 12am-11.30pm
Nearest metro: San Juan de Letran
Getting in: Walk-ins only
A basement jazz club makes a city. This well-attended venue, located in the vault of a former bank, hosts great Mexican and visiting jazz bands and/or soloists most nights. The intimate space is ideal for trios or smaller, and you can bag a stool at the bar and be only 15 feet from the trombone’s end. The food is comfort more than cuisine, but the drinks are great – Manhattans, Sazeracs and other classics are mixed speedily but unskimpingly. There are also some good-value wines, including Mexican whites.
Contact:00 52 55 5512 3369; zincojazz.com
Opening times: Wed-Sat, 8.30pm for 9pm shows, till late
Nearest metro: Allende
Getting in: Reservations essential
Red leather stools, red velvet lounge chairs, dark woodwork, superb mixologists… what’s not to like at Fifty Mils, a cocktail bar so refined and hip it shouldn’t really be part of a Four Seasons hotel. The menu features ten classics and ten new creations, including a gin jived up with carrot juice and chile-infused bitters, a ‘Margarita Extraordinaria’ with Aperol, cardamom and pepper, and a Manhattan served inside a hollow ice sphere that’s split open with a spoon. Tequilas and mezcals from the smallest makers are served as large shots or in cocktails.
Contact: 00 52 55 5230 1616; fiftymils.com
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 12pm-2am; Sun, 12pm-12am
Nearest metro: Sevilla, Chapultepec
Getting in: Reservations essential
At this laid-back, low-lit, two-tier cocktail cathedral in throbbing Roma Norte, a small army of skilled mixologists draw on a large selection of rums, tequilas and mescals, and many other spirits, to create eye-catching, exploratory drinks. Mr Pink blends gin, citrus fruits and rosemary syrup, while a house original, the Margarita al Pastor, is inspired by tacos al pastor – that is, a kind of Mexican doner. Both this branch, which is the original, and a newer location in the Polanco neighbourhood (Oscar Wilde 9) have an art deco feel – refined but cool spaces popular with locals as well as visitors.
Contact:00 52 55 4098 4653; limantour.tv
Opening times: Thu-Sat, 6pm-2.30am; Sun-Tue, 6pm-12am; Wed, 6pm-1am
Nearest metro: Niños Heroes, Insurgentes
Getting in: Reservations essential
Casual, fun, late-night salsa and Latin rhythms keep this intimate venue pumping till three o’clock four nights a week. Roma Norte might be gentrified and somewhat homogenised but the MCs here are proudly Latino. Live bands play one-hour sets, with lots of brass and mad percussion, taking half-hour breaks when you can score a cocktail or beer. Aim for a seat on the upstairs balcony to enjoy the dancing, and to study the Cuban masters who come to strut their stuff. Classes given from 9pm.
Contact: 00 52 55 5564 6920; Facebook page
Opening times: Wed-Sat, 9pm-3am
Nearest metro: Insurgentes, Hospital General
Getting in: No trainers, Wed-Thurs no cover charge
Here as elsewhere, dance venues open and close every month. Patrick Miller, spinning beats for two decades, pre-dates Roma’s reinvention as hipster central, and continues to wow clubbers – which here means yuppies, taxi drivers, dance fiends, old soaks, and a few hipsters – who come for themed 80s, 90s, or 2000s nights. Dress is casual, the neon, strobes and massive disco ball are tongue in cheek and the drinks – beer and water only – are pretty cheap. But be prepared to queue. And to sweat – it gets very hot. LGBTTQQIAAP-friendly.
Contact: 00 52 55 5511 5406; Facebook page
Opening times: Friday, 10am-3am
Nearest metro: Insurgentes
Getting in: No dress code
Buried inside an unassuming taco restaurant and entered via a sliding fridge door, this dimly lit speakeasy is one of the must-drink places right now. Décor is sci-fi angular, all greys and white – with huge skulls for good measure – but when the dozen or so tables fill up it doesn’t feel at all cold. Cocktail-making is its raison d’être: a standout drink has to be the Mezcal Negroni, made with Campari infused with cinnamon, chile de árbol, orange bitters, coffee and vermouth. Also available are Mexican craft ales and champagne. Charcuterie platters are also sold, and tacos can be brought down from upstairs. Live jazz happens on Tuesdays.
Contact: 00 52 55 5280 1278; julesbasement.com
Opening times: Tue-Sat, 8pm-1am
Nearest metro: Polanco
Getting in: Reservations essential
It’s fake, it’s absurd, it’s silly, but it’s quintessentially Mexicano. Lucha Libre, now exported widely, is only really at home here – and the 16,500-seater Arena México in Colonia Doctores is the temple of tack and garishly hued tights where men in masks with names like Samson, Mystic, Titan, Volcano and, to not be overly macho, Marcela, smash into one another, grunt and growl, feign death, and do dangerous acrobatics while the crowd hollers, sucks on chilled Dos Equis and chows down burritos. VIP seats are bookable in the Freedom bar, which is also ideal for families.
Address: Dr Lavista 189
Opening times: Varies, from 5pm
Nearest metro: Cuauhtémoc
On the southern flank of the city, 14 miles from the Zócalo, this preserved patch of canals and gardens harks back to pre-Hispanic times when floating chinampas (raised beds) were used to grow food. They’re still in use today and trajineras (gondolas) are used to take groups of up to 20 on day and night tours. At weekends there’s a party atmosphere and after dark, couples, families and friends enjoy drinks and food under the night sky. Tequilas are slammed and mariachis or marimba bands from Veracruz serenade the gondolas. It’s as cheesy as a quesadilla but lots of fun. Designated a Unesco World Heritage site in 1987, Xochimilco has a market and a few historical sites to see, including a remnant of the Tenochtitlan lake, plus a number of pulquerías – basic bars serving pulque, a milky firewater made with maguey.
Contact: 00 52 55 5555 7852; trajinerasxochimilco.com.mx
Opening times: 24 hours, including tours till 6am; gondola rides last 1-5 hours
Nearest metro: Tasqueña, whence you take the tren ligero (light-rail system) to Xochimilco
Prices: ££ (drink and private live band extra)
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