A hole-in-the-wall mezcal bar by the Tio's team.
April 15, 2023
An old garage down a service laneway doesn't sound like a spot for a bar, but that's exactly where this 20-person mezcal bar takes up its residence. Cantina OK! is located down the non-street that is Council Place, rocking forest green garage doors, an extensive collection of tequila and mezca, and no seating whatsoever.
You may not be surprised to hear that this mini mezcal mecca is run by Sydney's favourite tequila joint, Tio's Cerveceria — the men behind it are venue owners Alex Dowd and Jeremy Blackmore. The duo took one helluva road trip around Mexico, hitting three states and picking up heaps of mezcal along the way before opening this hole-in-the-wall back in 2019.
"We wanted to take what we saw in Mexico and really showcase it in this space," says Gilmour. "It's our way of documenting what these amazing mezcal producers can do."
The team took their research very seriously, returning to Sydney with a whopping 140 bottles that now sit behind the minuscule bar. There are mezcals from regions all across Oaxaca, Michoacán and Jalisco, as well as drops of tequila, raicilla (an agave distilled spirit from Jalisco) and sotol (non-agave distilled spirit from northern Mexico).
"You won't find another mezcaleria in the southern hemisphere that has the particular collection that we have," said Manager Alex Gilmour back when the bar first opened. Some of his favourite labels include the experimental Michoacán producer Jorge Perez — who distils his mezcal with likes of rattlesnake and a whole coyote — a single distillation arroqueño mezcal from Oaxaca and even a few bottles that have been aged for 29 years — those, of course, are on the expensive side.
If all that sounds a bit intimating, turn to the well-trained staff, who are eager to get into the "nitty gritty" of mezcal drinking with you. But you don't have to go high-brow — the place still has the casual, laid-back Tio's vibe where you can just pop in for a damn good margarita, too.
That'd be the house margarita, which combines both mezcal and tequila with lime and cane sugar syrup, all served over shaved ice. Otherwise, choose from the rotating range of seasonal cocktails and whatever the special is at the time. There's one produce-driven cocktail on the menu each week, which there'll write down for you on one of the hand-stamped coasters.
Images: Kimberley Low.
Updated Tuesday, March 21, 2023.
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