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Jaime Salas’s Guide to Mexico City

A renowned mixologist and fun-loving connoisseur shares his locals-only guide to this mega-capital

If you’re headed for a trip to Mexico City, Jaime Salas is the kind of guy you want in your contacts. Not only did he grow up dividing his time between Mexico and the States, he also now embodies the sunglasses-wearing emoji as a mixologist and national ambassador for Milagro, a tequila brand founded by two Mexico City natives that considers the mega-city its muse.

In addition to making an art of mixing business and pleasure, Salas has concocted an eclectic arsenal of official Milagro cocktail recipes that reflect the brand’s Latin provenance. The “Yuzu Grita,” a shooter of añejo and mango juice infused with habanero peppers for two to three hours, and the “Allstar,” a variation on a Manhattan with Aztecan chocolate bitters, are sure to conjure the local color and flavors of Mexico City to a cocktail shaker near you.

Now a resident of Brooklyn, New York, Salas frequently travels to Mexico City to carry out his duties as Milagro’s ambassador—a role he’s held for the last eight years. In that time, the city has grown significantly as an economic and cultural force, with hotel brands like W and St. Regis taking up residence there, and the luxury department store El Palacio de Hierro opening its $300 million flagship in 2015.

Salas, who spent part of his childhood in the neighboring, agave-rich province of Jalisco and has been a tequila expert for 15 years, seems to embody the region as both a profound culinary well and an ascendant commercial hub; in addition to traveling the world to spread the tequila buzz, Salas is a self-proclaimed sneakerhead, traveling the world to add to his growing collection (his current favorites are his Dover Street Market x NikeLab Air Max 1s)

But Salas’s largest collection is in his liquor cabinet; his 300-piece personal tequila collection includes rarities (a hand-painted El Tesoro Extra Anejo Tequila 70th Anniversary Edition) and, naturally, Milagro aplenty. And while he may be a certified expert on the subject, Salas says there is still plenty more to discover in Mexico City. “I like embracing the new,” he says. “Mexico City’s strong culture doesn’t get lost in the growth and that’s the beautiful part of it. You can see the old soul and new innovations living together in harmony.”

Here, this multi-hyphenated connoisseur shares his favorite places to eat, shop and play in the Ciudad.

Cup of Joe: I only recently started drinking coffee again after a 10-year hiatus (!) and my go-to spot now, and even when I wasn’t drinking coffee, is Panadería Rosetta Havre. The coffee is fantastic but you really want to go for their incredible Mexican pastries. The space is super cool too. From the exposed brick, to black and white checkered tile, to the exposed bulb chandeliers, it’s just the kind of spot you want to spend time in.

Power Lunch: This is a hard one to answer, because the one could argue the quintessential “power lunch” is the incredible street food found throughout the city. However, if I’m going to recommend a spot where you can sit down and enjoy a meal over a couple of hours, then I have to go with El Parnita. I’m obsessed with this spot because everything about it is just so on point. It’s in a hip neighborhood and the people-watching doesn’t get any better.

In Mexico City lunch starts late so try and arrive at 1pm to get a seat. The menu here is super varied, and I love their gourmet tacos – think squid ink adobo. I think of this place as gourmet – it’s the execution and presentation that keeps me coming back.

Cocktail Hour: I love Hanky Panky. This speakeasy is definitely an industry favorite and it’s cool because you have to enter through an unassuming restaurant and exit through a beer fridge. This is a spot for chill vibes, good music, and really well-made drinks. I like to head to Hanky Panky to pregame— around 5 or 6 o’clock—before a big night out. The cocktail culture is booming in Condesa right now with some really interesting combinations that combine old school Mexican flavors with new industry techniques.

Retail Therapy: I consider myself a design guy, and so Mexico City is like Mecca for me. There are a lot of nomadic marketplaces full of beautiful handmade goods. For example, there’s this collective, Lonja Mercantil, that showcases a total mix of designers at different locations each weekend. The merchants vary from large companies doing “pop-up” style activations, to artisans who make all their money at this market. I feel like this design-driven market really stands in as a microcosm of everything that’s wonderful about Mexico City, and is a good representation of the kinds of creativity that are central to what’s going on down there right now.

Field Trip: My favorite cultural activity in Mexico City is honestly just walking around the neighborhoods to enjoy the public art. Walk down Reforma, one of the main streets that divides up a bunch of neighborhoods as you’re making your way downtown and you’ll find art around almost every corner—and not just Mexican art either. Mexico City happens to be a place that has a long-standing appreciation for public art and has made efforts to foster it. Let’s not forget that one of the first artists who helped popularize public murals was Mexico’s own Diego Rivera. As a result, it’s attracted artists from all over the world who come here to create public art. It’s global art on display.

Date Night: Lardo is located right in the beautiful Condesa neighborhood of Mexico City. Hip yet casual, it’s the perfect spot for a first or twentieth date. It’s headed by Chef Elena Reygadas, one of Mexico’s best—her tomato and anchovy toast or smoked pork loin are a must for me every time I’m in the city.

What I love most about this spot, and makes it perfect for date night, is that food and company are the sole focus. When you finish up, grab some roadside churros or cervezas while you walk through the stunning Parque Espana.

Don’t Miss: Alameda Central is an amazing public space located in downtown Mexico City and serves as a great example of how the city has made a big push to integrate art into public spaces. To me, Alameda is an iconic destination that often gets glossed over because in many ways. It’s a park that has been expanded multiple times during its existence and continues to be expanded, but it’s historic and so important to the city. It used to be an Aztec marketplace and then became public park in 1529 by Viceroy Luis de Velasco.

Hidden Gem: A truly locals-only experience is the floating gardens of Xochimilco. This canal filled with colorful covered boats is on an old lake bed, where the Aztecs used to farm. Come with friends, rent a boat for the day, and float around with your own dance party.

You’ll bump into plenty of vendor boats selling delicious tacos, beer and enchiladas, but one of the real treats is the mariachi bands that will come on to your boat periodically throughout the day! This local favorite is not for the faint of heart – the boats bump together, the music is loud, and the drinks are flowing. This is one way Mexican locals let loose—it’s a trip!