Mexican Food: Suave Agave

You can shoot it, but you’ll miss all the fun. Here are four L.A. tequila bars that encourage slow sipping 

Photograph by Lisa Romerein

Las Perlas
107 E. 6th St., downtown, 213-988-8355
Nightlife guru Cedd Moses opened this playful tequila temple downtown last year. Bar manager Raul Yrastorza lives and breathes agave (somehow he’s still standing), and his list features plenty of exclusive pours. Ask him to tell you about his latest cocktail (scribbled on cardboard with markers) or mescal infusion experiment (last we heard, he was working on loose-leaf teas). Come here to drink, but more important, come to learn.

4326 W. Sunset Blvd., Silver Lake, 323-664-1011
No fluorescent green margarita mix here. Malo adds nothing but fresh lime juice and agave syrup to its 100% Organic Puro Margarita. Amen. The offerings are well hewn (read: no 30-page menu), and we appreciate the fresh cocktails with muddled fruits, organic syrups, and spicy peppers as well as the sipping flight of añejos (tequilas that have been aged one to three years). 

El Carmen
8138 W. 3rd St., L.A., 323-852-1552
The lucha libre-themed nightspot is one of the original agave superstars. The tequila selection is, quite frankly, overwhelming (there are more than 400 bottles to choose from). Tequila flights in three categories (O.G., La Jefa, and El Super Fancy) are a swell option for beginners looking to sample blancos, reposados, and añejos and for connoisseurs who just want to taste a pricey glass of Clase Azul beside a Del Maguey mescal.

La Sandía
395 Santa Monica Pl., Santa Monica, 310-393-3300
It shouldn’t have taken so long to get a good margarita with an ocean view. This Santa Monica Place newcomer (and national minichain) might smell corporate, but it stocks more than 150 tequilas and mescals behind the bar, and there are plans to add another 100. Even better, the bartenders are eager to give you tasting notes, and they get a kick out of pouring from more obscure bottles.