Best Mexican Drinks in Chicago

11.14.10

HORCHATA
If your jaw is wired shut, Nuevo Léon’s horchata, the popular milky rice drink sweetened with sugar and dusted with cinnamon, is the perfect straw-friendly fix. 1515 W. 18th St.; 312-421-1517 $1.75

AGUA FRESCA
Typically, agua fresca, a mix of water and fruit available at almost every taquería, tastes like diluted Kool-Aid. The one at La Lagartija Taquería is a juicy elixir rife with sweet watermelon cubes and plump strawberry hunks. 132 S. Ashland Ave.; 312-733-7772 $2.25

MARGARITA
A good margarita starts with 100 percent blue agave tequila and real lime juice. By that standard, the margarita at Salud Tequila Lounge, made with peppery pear-noted Herradura Silver, agave syrup, and fresh-squeezed lime is great. 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-235-5577 $8

CHAMPURRADO
Mexican hot chocolate often means thin reconstituted powder mix. Rick Bayless’s sandwich emporium, Xoco, serves a thick brew of champurrado (bean-to-cup chocolate) made with fresh-roasted ground cacao beans that display bright acidity and nuanced coffeelike flavors. 449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688 $2.50 to $4.25

MICHELADA
Start with beer and mix in any number of items, such as salt, hot sauce, or honey, and you’ve got yourself a hot cocktail. Maiz’s tart rum, lime, and Mexican beer mix, a.k.a. the Bull, is a potent riff on the michelada (chela is slang for cold beer). 1041 N. California Ave.; 773-276-3149 $8.75

LICUADO
The dulce de leche licuado from Big Star, Wicker Park’s honky-tonquería, is airier and lighter than a sludgy fast-food milk shake. This wonder is larded with caramel and vanilla ice cream—the greatest marriage of sweet and salty since maple syrup and bacon. 1531 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-4039 $4

CERVEZA
Foster’s isn’t really Australian for beer, and Corona isn’t the only name in Mexican cerveza. For a taste of a more historical Mexican option, go to Zapatista and order a Victoria, a dark lager that predates Corona by 60 years. 1307 S. Wabash Ave.; 321-435-1307 $7

MEZCAL
Unlike tequila, many mezcals are hand-harvested, roasted, and fermented into smoky-peaty sippers. None beat Del Maguey, especially the Pechuga (available at Adobo Grill), so named because a chicken breast is hung in the still during the third distillate of the spirit. 1610 N. Wells St., 312-266-7999; two other area locations $18

VINO TINTO
Great Mexican winemakers are rare; L. A. Cetto, in the state of Baja, however, puts out some fine vino tinto, including a 2003 private reserve Nebbiolo full of blackberries and licorice. ¡Salpicón! usually has it on the list. 1252 N. Wells St.; 312-988-7811 $39

COCTEL
Mercadito’s Mexican-influenced cocktail list is the best in Chicago. Don’t miss the Tres Coops, a peaty, sweet take on a fizz, featuring mezcal, St. Germain elderflower, ginger liqueur, averna, an egg white, and fresh lime. 108 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9555 $14

This article first appeared in Chicago magazine.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *