The Hoodooist is in love. The Tomas and Jesse Estes venture upstairs at La Perla, Maiden Lane is a brilliant success. It is early days (Launch week), but it stinks of success. Absolutely reeks of it. Gifts of spirits from Megaro and NOLA, and the appearance of bartenders from various other bars speaks of its presence in the bartending world.
The La Perla/Café Pacifico branches have always been the chilled out venues to break into for a Margarita you know you’ll love, but the atmosphere up here at El Nivel takes on a more sophisticated, experimental twist. The wealth of knowledge in this tiny venue is expansive, the service impeccable. Sitting at the bar with drinking buddy Anastrophe and Cheese, was an absolute pleasure as the barmen served us tasters of various mezcal and tequila, and explained the process of their home-made cordials and accompaniments.
We began with the Mezcal Fix, my first, and favourite of the evening: Mezcaleria QuiQuiRiQui’s personal brand of 45%abv mezcal, roasted pineapple syrup, Cynar artichoke bitter liqueur and saltwater spray. Everyone knows I’ll snatch anything with Cynar in it. I was amazed by the incredibly harmonious combo of sweet with salty; how the pineapple’s roasting doesn’t give it a strongly pineapple flavour, but just its fruity sweetness that tames the mezcal – releasing only its smokiness. The Cynar does a wonderful job at just rounding out the drink for the saltwater spray to not overpower it. Unbelievable work.
The Fallen Angel was certainly an interesting drink. Gran Centenario Añejo, Antica Formula sweet vermouth, Cynar. I’m not sure how to describe this drink except as the best sweet Manhattan you’ve had that wasn’t actually a Manhattan. A bit too sweet for my taste, but I know when to appreciate a well-made drink. The Añejo is an excellent twist on the classic, and my Manhattan-loving mate almost wept in excitement.
The Horchata is a boozy twist on a classic Mexican refreshment: rice water, condensed milk, cinnamon and vanilla with Ocho Reposado, garnished with an edible flower. As much as I enjoyed it, it might need a shorter serving, as the condensed milk gets incredibly heavy – but a pleasant drink no less.
Finally, the Siesta was a *very* citrusy complexity. AquaRiva premium Reposado, fresh lime and grapefruit juices, almond syrup, Campari and Merlet apricot, churned over crushed ice. The Campari is barely noticeable, but necessary to hold back the possibility of being too sweet. The first flavour is the tequila, until there is a sudden punch of lime citrus, to eventually settle on the apricot and grapefruit. A wonderful work for those less comfortable around tequila.
And yes, in case you’re wondering, they are working on mezcal/tequila flights!
Food is varied in substance and price, so I certainly look forward to returning for a boozy lunch – because return I will. El Nivel has all the makings of an excellent bar, certainly blowing its competitors on Maiden Lane out of the water – in terms of both drink and service. I wish them all the best, though they probably don’t need it.
Agaveria El Nivel,
Upstairs @ La Perla,
28 Maiden Lane,
London WC2E 7JS