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Best Mexican Drinks in Chicago

BEBIDAS: Our favorite beer, wine, cocktails, hot chocolate, and more

Hot chocolate at Xoco
Xoco’s hot chocolate. For more photos, launch the gallery »


If your jaw is wired shut, Nuevo Léon’s horchata, the popular milky rice drink sweetened with sugar and dusted with cinnamon, is the perfect straw-friendly fix. 1515 W. 18th St.; 312-421-1517 $1.75

Typically, agua fresca, a mix of water and fruit available at almost every taquería, tastes like diluted Kool-Aid. The one at La Lagartija Taquería is a juicy elixir rife with sweet watermelon cubes and plump strawberry hunks. 132 S. Ashland Ave.; 312-733-7772 $2.25

A good margarita starts with 100 percent blue agave tequila and real lime juice. By that standard, the margarita at Salud Tequila Lounge, made with peppery pear-noted Herradura Silver, agave syrup, and fresh-squeezed lime is great. 1471 N. Milwaukee Ave.; 773-235-5577 $8

Mexican hot chocolate often means thin reconstituted powder mix. Rick Bayless’s sandwich emporium, Xoco, serves a thick brew of champurrado (bean-to-cup chocolate) made with fresh-roasted ground cacao beans that display bright acidity and nuanced coffeelike flavors. 449 N. Clark St.; 312-334-3688 $2.50 to $4.25

Start with beer and mix in any number of items, such as salt, hot sauce, or honey, and you’ve got yourself a hot cocktail. Maiz’s tart rum, lime, and Mexican beer mix, a.k.a. the Bull, is a potent riff on the michelada (chela is slang for cold beer). 1041 N. California Ave.; 773-276-3149 $8.75

The dulce de leche licuado from Big Star, Wicker Park’s honky-tonquería, is airier and lighter than a sludgy fast-food milk shake. This wonder is larded with caramel and vanilla ice cream—the greatest marriage of sweet and salty since maple syrup and bacon. 1531 N. Damen Ave.; 773-235-4039 $4

Foster’s isn’t really Australian for beer, and Corona isn’t the only name in Mexican cerveza. For a taste of a more historical Mexican option, go to Zapatista and order a Victoria, a dark lager that predates Corona by 60 years. 1307 S. Wabash Ave.; 321-435-1307 $7

Unlike tequila, many mezcals are hand-harvested, roasted, and fermented into smoky-peaty sippers. None beat Del Maguey, especially the Pechuga (available at Adobo Grill), so named because a chicken breast is hung in the still during the third distillate of the spirit. 1610 N. Wells St., 312-266-7999; two other area locations $18

Great Mexican winemakers are rare; L. A. Cetto, in the state of Baja, however, puts out some fine vino tinto, including a 2003 private reserve Nebbiolo full of blackberries and licorice. ¡Salpicón! usually has it on the list. 1252 N. Wells St.; 312-988-7811 $39

Mercadito’s Mexican-influenced cocktail list is the best in Chicago. Don’t miss the Tres Coops, a peaty, sweet take on a fizz, featuring mezcal, St. Germain elderflower, ginger liqueur, averna, an egg white, and fresh lime. 108 W. Kinzie St.; 312-329-9555 $14


Photograph: Esther Kang

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