184 Hackney Road, Hoxton
184 Hackney Road is a grown up dive, very easily missed. Only the initiated would suspect that there was more to the standard kebaby than meets the eye. I recommend pausing upstairs to survey the shwarma and to watch your date’s face fall – before whisking them to the bosom of downstairs and a much more familiar scene. It is quite a stripped back, simple affair; no tacky affected vintage or gimmicks here – the clue is in the name. This is a bar where the drinks do the talking; with a heavy Mexican accent it says, ‘No hay que buscarle mangas al chaleco’ – Don’t search the vest for the sleeves. Do not come here and order a gin and tonic or a glass of wine. This is a Mezcal bar. Recasting old favourites with its particular smoky spiciness, it will get the juices flowing on even the most jaded pallets. With Mezcals that you won’t find anywhere else in the country, come with open mind and wallet, and try as much as possible.
Think you know the Negroni inside out and back to front, think again. Mezcal Negroni, Old-Fashioned or the classic Margarita have a welcome distinctive edge and are delicious and deeply moreish. These are grown up flavours that coat the drinker with sophistication by proxy. Take some time to sample different Mezcals and chat with the engaging staff. Shots are to be sipped with a chaser of orange sprinkled with worm salt. If you are feeling frivolous opt for the frozen Margarita Mezcal Slushy, for a very adult manifestation of childhood favourite, blue tongue not included.
Bring your game as there is nowhere to hide here. The crafty atmosphere will encourage discussion of the drinks in themselves. My favourite term – which is a technical one – is “mouth feel.” Get stuck into some mouth feel talk and try not to take it all too seriously. The hipster world of craft alcohol can lack a little sense of humour. So don’t get sucked into cactus reverence and forget why you are there. Drink and be merry and be sure to take advantage of the intimate, adult atmosphere.
Hard to find this bar in hipster heartland but it does have some much needed substance.
5. Sophisticated with refined tastes – you know what you want and are not ashamed to go get it.