The Best Bars in Oaxaca City, Mexico

Photo of Leon Beckenham
14 September 2021
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Behind the rainbow-colored façades of the low-rise streets in Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, are some of the best mezcal bars in Mexico. Here’s where to try the smoky spirit after a day of exploring the many markets, galleries and street food spots in town.

There are two things for which Oaxaca is best known: its spectacular food and for being the birthplace of mezcal. So it’s no surprise its capital has no shortage of establishments where you can sample tequila’s hipper, smokier sibling. Not into the hard stuff? You’ll still find an abundance of nightspots serving everything from craft ales to flamboyant cocktails. So put your drinking shoes on, and head off on a bar crawl around the best bars in Oaxaca City.

Mezcalería In Situ

Bar, Pub Grub, Mexican, $$$
Ulises Torrentera, left, serves mezcal at his bar OMezcaler?a In SituO, in Oaxaca, Oaxaca, Mexico, November 6, 2017. Mezcal is a traditional Mexican drink that is recently surging in popularity.
© Brett Gundlock / Alamy Stock Photo
In this town filled with mezcalerías, In Situ is considered one of the best, and it’s easy to see why. Even the most hardened mezcal snob will be impressed by the number (approaching 200) and quality of mezcals here, not to mention the encyclopedic knowledge of the staff. You can enjoy the spirit over two floors, and the bar also hosts regular tastings and mezcal-related events. You can rehydrate with a craft beer between spirits, with one even coming infused with agave.

Mezcalería Los Amantes

Bar, Restaurant, Mexican, $$$
Mezcaler?a Los Amantes in Oaxaca, run by Xavier Amayo, Oaxaca, Mexico, Friday, October 16, 2015. Oaxaca State is a large producer of mezcal.
© Brett Gundlock / Alamy Stock Photo
This is another bar that takes its mezcal seriously, though with a more colorful and casual atmosphere. The decor is timeless and quirky, with splashes of gaudy bunting, glass-cabernet curios and mezcal paraphernalia. You’ll find a healthy selection of the smoky spirit, including a few homemade varieties, plus some top cocktails based around it. Head upstairs to the rooftop terrace, and sip your tipple while watching the sun dip under the surrounding sierra.

La Santísima Flor de Lúpulo

Bar, Mexican, $$$
Lúpulo means hops, so it’s no surprise that beer takes center stage in this small, vibey bar. It actually has what they call a nano-brewery on site – even smaller than a micro-brewery – which produces a trio of seriously tasty ales. You can try all three on a taster board, accompanied by a choice of top-notch tapas and hot sandwiches. Don’t forget to grab a few bottles to take home.

La Mezcaloteca

Bar, Pub Grub, $$$
Silvia Philion, owner of Mezcaloteca bar in Oaxaca, Mexico, Tuesday, October 6, 2015. Oaxaca State is a large producer of mezcal.
© Brett Gundlock / Alamy Stock Photo
The team here has a serious passion for mezcal and is dedicated to telling the story behind the sacred spirit, sharing its expertise to help guide the uninitiated. It feels more like a tasting room than a bar, with a broad choice of mezcals from around Oaxaca and beyond. It’s an excellent spot for both newbies and aficionados to dig a little deeper into the world of mezcal, although, as a studious drinking spot, it’s not the sort of place you go to party.

Sabina Sabe

Bar, Mexican, $$$
Oaxaca, Mexico - Varieties of mezcal available at Sabina Sabe, a cocktail bar and restaurant.
© Jim West / Alamy Stock Photo
Certainly one of the more sophisticated joints in town, this is the place to come if you’re itching for that perfect cocktail. Many are mezcal-based, of course, but the bar staff’s expert mixology skills can whip up any number of delish concoctions. There’s beautifully presented bar food, too, from beef carpaccio to grasshopper tacos, plus delicious, vegan-friendly roasted cauliflower.

Expendio Tradición

Bar, Mexican, $$$
With its achingly on-trend decor, the Expendio Tradición’s Instagram-friendly interiors are just a small part of its appeal. It’s grown-up cool, offering its discerning clientele a 360-degree experience of Oaxacan eating and drinking. It starts with top-shelf mezcals (of course) and continues to a menu that distills the best of regional cuisine into beautifully prepared dishes – including some made for sharing. Excellent service and regular low-key live music complete the package.

La Tentación

Bar, Mexican, $$$
Regular bands belting out lively salsa, merengue and cumbia beats from an elevated stage set the tone to jive at this Oaxaca fun factory. Well-priced drinks include plenty of promotions on the long list of cocktails and beers. You have to pay a small cover on some nights, but the party only gets going around midnight and doesn’t end until the early hours. It’s a favorite for locals who come here to dance – bring your best moves only.

Bar Ilegal

Bar, Mexican

No list of best bars is complete without a dive bar, and Bar Ilegal puts a smudged cross in that box. It’s a central street-corner joint with a rock’n’roll soul, its own mezcal and some of the cheapest beers in town. Regular local live bands crank it to 11 at weekends, while an appreciative, tattooed and leather-clad clientele makes for a friendly, rough-around-the-edges atmosphere. Rock on.

Looking for somewhere to stay? Book into one of the best hotels in Oaxaca for a local experience. Inspire your itinerary with the best things to see in Oaxaca State as well as the top things to do in Oaxaca City. Don’t miss the best restaurants in Oaxaca City.

These recommendations were updated on September 14, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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