La Punta Expendio de Agave – Love at first sight
I have never seen so many bottles of mezcal and I would dare to say that this is the biggest selection in Europe. La Punta has spirit, namely Agave spirit. It was love at first sight. Mezcal, good cocktails, and delicious Mexican food: sounds simple, right? The most important part of this perfectly balanced mixture is the great hospitality of the staff. It had been a while since a bar impressed me that much.
Let’s start with the warm welcome one receives on entering. My seat was at the bar counter, which was made from Mexican tiles. The lighting was warm and cozy. La Punta Expendio de Agave isn’t only a bar, it is a combination of both restaurant and bar. The brains behind this project are from The Jerry Thomas Speakeasy and also Freni e Frizioni. Leonardo from The Jerry Thomas had told me the previous night about their new concept, and made a reservation for me.
Other bars have tried a mezcal theme too, but I was really speechless when I looked at the huge wall, packed with so many different bottles of agave distillates. I hadn’t seen a selection like this before. The big backboard is nicely divided into quarters and illuminated by a warm yellow light. If you take a closer look you will find some playful details the owners brought from their trips to Mexico. While I was staring stunned, a smiling bartender gave me the cocktail menu in the form of a passport. Each stamp correspond to a drink. I also took a closer look at the food menu. They serve Mexican dishes, of course, and they all looked very tempting. I was too excited to eat, and browsed through the drinks menu: innovative concoctions and agave interpretations of the classics.
My company was very sceptical when she noticed that we were in an Agaveria. Like many others, she has bad memories of her first consumption of Tequila. Furthermore, she had asked, if this rotten smelling spirit, which I often have in my drinks, was mezcal. We often do city trips together and this brave girl is not afraid of serious drinking. So, I told her “trust me”. We started the night with a more laid-back Margarita.
Mezcal has a wide range of flavours, some are really smooth, some stronger, there is earthiness, smoke, and you can taste the sweat of the painstaking work. It is a very romantic spirit with a strong character, handcrafted and made on small family farms in Mexico. Agave distillates have become more and more popular. Regardless of the spirit, taste is an individual thing and after this night my company changed her opinion about tequila fundamentally and now, she even likes the taste of mezcal. La Punta has achieved one of its goals: to recover the reputation of tequila – the real tequila not the industrial surrogate. Besides that, they offer more agave distillates such as Raicilla, Bacanora, Tuxca and so on, which are not very popular (at the moment). I had my first mezcal just five years ago, it was a mild Marca Negra Espadín.
While we talked about spirits and sipped our drinks, the bartender asked me if I would like to see the other bar. This place is full of surprises and has two more floors downstairs. There is another, smaller bar one level below. The decoration is colourful with the typical Mexican fabrics you can buy at the markets. The atmosphere is more as if you have been invited by friends into their living room. I counted about twenty seats with low tables and six barstools in front of the bar counter. You will find many toys and candy souvenirs brought from Mexico in the showcases and mezcal in the shelves behind the bar. The light is more subdued here. You have the restaurant section and the overwhelmingly huge bar on the ground floor and downstairs, a more intimate drinking place. There are more stairs leading further down to a cellar vault where they were busy building a tasting room. Although La Punta was opened in September 2016, there are still surprises to come.
I really like a combination of intimacy and conversation in a bar. When I came back from my private sightseeing tour, I told my company immediately that we were moving downstairs. We took our seats again at the bar. The menu looked different, it is a colourful newspaper. We had around six drinks and several copitas of mezcal. Don’t call them shots, because you have to give the mezcal several kisses, not slug it down. Luckily, you can order some nice barfood from the restaurant kitchen, which saved our lives, for the time being. The yummy guacamole and hot sauce are made from fresh ingredients and the colourful tortilla chips were still warm. I was happy that they didn’t bring us any chapulinas! In Mexico, they say that mezcal doesn’t make you drunk, it makes you magical.
All the drinks were perfectly balanced and tasted delicious, and I mean ALL of them. The concoctions are complex flavour compositions which makes you order one after another. The recommendations from the bartender were great. Malaeducation with mezcal, grapefruit, rhubarb liqueur, agave syrup, lime, habanero bitters and eggwhite was refreshing and tasty. I fell in love with Ni Chicha Ni Limonada served in a big copitas. Corn milk with tequila and mezcal, ginger, lemon, vanilla and pepper flakes. They tailor their drinks nicely to the spirit, or just replace the spirit of a classical drink with agave destillates. Besides that, they have their own mezcal and they also work on a compound of gin and mezcal. I tried it: the nose is very gin-like and then you get the mezcal flavour.
They enchanted me with this place. The owners love and live the concept. They travelled to Mexico and brought back with them the spirit and enthusiasm to create this authentic and fun place. They brought their passion to life, and this is what you experience and feel at La Punta. They have kissed the mezcal and the mezcal has kissed them back.