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Photos by Brian Addison. All photos feature drinks made by Mezcalero bar program manager and director, Nathan McCullough.
When Padre moved into the 525 Broadway building it currently sits at, it brought in much-needed attention to an otherwise sad state of affairs for the corner: with Peppercorn closed at the time and Alien Sandwiches having health department concerns, Padre brought an elevated sense of both grub and cocktails that have made way for Great Society Cider and Linden Public to join in.
That means one of the best selections of mezcal in SoCal is now coming to Long Beach, complete with a charming rooftop and one of the region’s best bar program managers, Nathan McCullough. And it all goes down this Friday, complete with a hosted margarita and canned beer bar from 8PM to 9PM.
“The space upstairs is just too unique to let it not have its own identity,” Krymis said. “With Nathan’s talent, he deserves a space that caters to a very particular, specific experience—and that’s what we hope to achieve with Mezcalero LBC.”
McCullough is the kind of cocktail crafter that pays homage to his ingredients without letting the spirits completely tell the story—a talent that earned him the reputation of making some of the most Mexican drinks ever when I wrote about him for LA Weekly.
Mexican cuisine is going through a massive shift, with Los Angeles leading the way outside of Mexico City. Rather than being relegated to cheap ingredients and quick accessibility, Mexican restaurateurs and tastemakers are ditching the dollar tacos in favor of elevated plates—just look at Lola’s: long gone are the days of a bean burrito with a side of rice. Instead, Lola’s brings a different perspective to the table, think: a puff pastry-wrapped chicken breast drizzled with smoked chipotle crème, the Mexican chicken’s response to beef wellington.
The same goes for drinks that use Mexican ingredients, but what McCullough does is take it a step further. Most cocktail menus at Mexican joints revolve around their use of tequila and mezcal to make the drink “Mexican,” but McCullough dives into the vast array of ingredients used in Mexican cuisine to deliver concoctions that are nothing short of full-flavored salutes to our southern friends.
We are talking handmade huitlacoche, the much sought-after corn fungus that is like the foie gras of Mexico, and De La Rosa mazapan syrups, inspiring the little Mexican kid in every Southern Californian. We’re talking veggies and fruits and herbs—from cilantro to cactus fruit, chile to corn tortilla—that honor and highlight the wonderful flavors of Mexican gastronomy.
And as always, McCullough brings a wit and intelligence to his drinks that are not only rare, but par none for the region. Take his Smoke ’Em If You Got ’Em cocktail served at the DTLA location. Honoring the many mistakes both Mexicans and white wannabes alike have made when putting a corn tortilla atop a gas stove, McCullough has created a wonderfully charcoal-colored syrup out of—you guessed it—burnt tortilla.
Lifting up the sugar value with his staple roasted corn-infused Maestro Dobel tequila, he then adds a wine aperitif, cinnamon and fresh celery and lime juice to provide a wonderfully salty, sweet cocktail that is, well, unlike anything you’ve ever experienced.
“For Mez LBC, I have a few tricks up my sleeve but none I’m willing to part with quite yet,” McCullough said. “Just expect some of the highest quality cocktails you can experience. On a rooftop. In Downtown Long Beach. It’s gonna be rad.”