The Watering Hole: Mezcaleria Oaxaca, 2123 Queen Anne Ave. N., 216-4445, QUEEN ANNE
The Atmosphere: If there's one area where Ballard Avenue's otherwise impeccable La Carta de Oaxaca falls short, it's ambience. Why? For starters, it used to be a Taco Del Mar, a chain not known for its aesthetic valuation. And secondly, it doesn't place much emphasis on its drink program.
Atop Queen Anne, La Carta's baby sister Mezcaleria Oaxaca addresses those shortcomings with aplomb. As its name suggests, it is a bar that pushes mezcal, a smoky tequila offshoot, to the fore. (If the name isn't enough to tip you off, multiple portraits of the mezcal-making process hang prominently in the northeast corner.) And in terms of its layout, it's narrow and quirky, with a separate dining room in back and Spike Mafford's bold, illuminated photography gracing the walls.
The Barkeep: Damon Delvechio, who tends bar Tuesdays and Wednesdays in addition to moonlighting at the mothership on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.
The Drink: The Mezcalita, which consists of Sombra mezcal, Triple Sec, and organic lime juice. It's designed, Delvechio explains, to ease the novice mezcal drinker into appreciating the spirit. We're not sure it accomplishes that objective, as the mezcal totally overwhelms the rest of the drink. What we are sure of is that it's not such a bad thing, as mezcal is a stand-alone liquor worthy of singular worship.
Delvechio is well-versed in the many mezcals which line his bar, explaining that while Del Maguey, like most mezcals, is made with charcoal, Fidencio is cured with gas instead, causing it to taste more like traditional tequila. We dutifully sample both alongside an intimidating yet scrumptious plate of goat tortillas.
The Verdict: The Mezcalita is fine, but cut to the chase and order straight-up sippers with Dos Equis backs instead. Mezcal, with its smoky finish, is a fine way for those wary of purebred tequila to dip their toes into the realm. It is delicious—and dangerous, especially if you're a lushy aficionado so excited by the fact that Seattle has its very own mezcal bar that you try to sample all the bar's wares. Don't do that.