By Haruka Saijo
La Mezcaleria Jicara Bar & Grill (Jicara) specializes in the Mexican liquor, mezcal. Often mistaken for tequila, mezcal has a rapidly growing global audience and is poised to become the next big drink. Located in Roppongi, Jicara aims to introduce mezcal to Japanese and foreigners alike.
Before you go to Jicara you should know a few of the similarities and difference between mezcal and tequila. Both tequila and mezcal are agave-based liquor, but tequila is made exclusively from blue agave famous to Jalisco. Mezcal is made by over 40 varieties of agave, most frequently the espadin agave of Oaxaca, Mexico, center of the mezcal world. While tequila is manufactured in stainless steel pressure cookers, mezcal follows a traditional creation process (see images) dating back over 200 years. In mezcal production, agave is buried into deep, earthen pits of lava rock with burning wood, creating an underground oven that smokes and caramelizes the agave.
Drinking mezcal differs from tequila as well. Mezcal is served into the bar's namesake "Jicara", the half shell of the Mexican gourd. The gourds are hand-crafted and beautifully designed, making perfect cups. Locals say tequila is for shooting, mezcal is for kissing. In other words, sip slowly and enjoy the flavor. The flavor varies greatly from smooth to smoky and with over 200 varieties Jicara has something for everyone. Served straight, not mixed into cocktails, some mezcals go well with dried orange, salts or even Mexican chilies.
Inside Jicara there is comfortable table seating for 50 with large standing areas around the bar for more. The Oaxaca influence is strong in the interior. The walls and seating are decorated in vibrant oranges and the bright colors of Mexico. The dim lighting contrasts nicely creating a comfortable atmosphere suitable for any occasion. There is a saying attributed to Oaxaca regarding the drink: "para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también" ("for everything bad, mezcal; for everything good, the same").
Mezcal drinks starts around JPY 1,000 and there are also Mexican wines, cocktails, liquors and a grill serving food and snacks. Opening hours are from 6:00pm every night, open late on weekends.
Jicara is located less than one minute from Roppongi station, Hibiya line, exit 2.
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