Logan Square's Newest Bar Will Make You Love Mezcal
By Anthony Todd in Food on Mar 3, 2016 4:04PM
Jay Schroeder doesn't want to start (or follow) a trend. Anyone who's been following cocktails lately knows that Mezcal, the typically smoky Mexican agave spirit, has been showing up on more and more menus lately. At Mezcaleria Las Flores, a new bar opening in Logan Square next Monday, Mezcal is the star of the show—but it isn't about jumping on a bandwagon.
"You can call a thing a trend—I’ve been lucky enough to be learning about this for the past six years of my life. But this is something people have been doing for the last three to four hundred years," explains Schroeder.
He should know. He's one of the most knowledgable mezcal experts in the states (and spent years as the mixologist for Rick Bayless), and even for a cocktail nerd like me, listening to him is like listening to someone speaking another language. The varieties of agave, Mexican topography, flavors, drinking vessels, and distillation methods wash over me, and it quickly becomes apparent that this man really knows his stuff.
And he's going to convince you, quickly, to love Mezcal. The bar, next to the newly-renovated
Johnny's Grill, is housed in a former flower shop (hence the name), it's tiny, and it's charmingly informal, filled with plants and a bit of Mexican kitsch. Schroeder has created a menu of cocktails (below) designed to bring in every kind of drinker and convert them to Mezcal.
Do you like light, pink drinks? You have to go for the "Falconry Demonstration," made with blood orange, egg white, hibiscus, calvados and Mezcal Pelotón de la Muerte. There's even a stencil of an Aztec falcon on the top. "This is the one you get when you don’t know what to order and you’re out of your depth with the whole mezcal thing," explains Schroeder.
Because while he loves the spirit, Schroeder isn't a maniacal purist who wants to open a snob's paradise. There is even (gasp) a margarita on the menu—though you probably won't be having the most exciting experience possible if you order it.
"You have to meet people where they are. We’re not pouring pepsi on top of the spirit, but we have to get people drinking it," says Schroeder. That said, if you are a mezcal geek, you're in luck; his back bar is filled with an incredible, hand-picked selection of bottles and he's selling the straight spirit at an incredibly low price. "If you come in and drink the back bar, you win. I’m taking a hit because I want to move this stuff."
What is Mezcal, anyway? "People get upside down on Mezcal by getting ahead of themselves. It’s a big convoluted thing," explains Schroeder. "Most Mezcals are from Oaxaca, except the ones that aren’t, and most are made from Espadin, except the ones that aren’t." At the end of the day, mezcal is an agave-based spirit, usually smoky in flavor (except when it isn't) and made in Mexico. And no, it doesn't have to have a worm in it, so stop asking.
That being said, there are some worms at Mezcaleria Las Flores—but they're in the salt. Yup, the salt. Specifically, sal de gusano. Worm salt.
"It’s about what it sounds like. It is, in fact, partially made from worms,” says Schroeder. It's delicious, and it rims a drink made with rye, roibos tea and Mina Real espadín called the "Illuminati Handshake." Featuring a non-smoky mezcal ("sin humo" in Spanish) it's a way in for those who don't like smoke but still want to try the spirit.
Are you a lover of bitter cocktails? One of the most complex in the city is now the "Five Unlucky Days" named after a period in the Aztec calendar. it's a combination of reposado tequila, cognac, sherry, CH fernet and nutmeg oil, and the first sip might make you wince. But if you're looking for a drink to sip on all night long, this is the one.
I could literally taste (and listen to Schroeder talk about) to what's on the shelves at Mezcaleria Las Flores all day. And the drinks are almost as much fun to look at as to drink. Most are served in vessels he brought back from Oaxaca. You'll drink out of clay pitchers, gourds and hand-painted vessels. You'll learn a lot about something you've probably never had before.
Mezcaleria Las Flores is going to change your drinking repertoire. So strap in, get ready for some worm salt and some smoke and enjoy the ride.
Mezcaleria Las Flores is located at 3149 W. Logan Blvd.