Tequila and mezcal are both made by distilling agave, but there are a couple of significant differences between the two spirits. Mezcal is made by harvesting one of 50-plus species of agave, which is then wood-roasted, crushed and distilled in small batches, taking up to 30 days to produce. Usually rich and smoky (but not always), it’s Mexico’s answer to single-malt whisky.

In contrast, tequila is made only with a single species of agave: blue. While the spirit’s history goes back much further, the majority of tequila is now produced by cooking agave in modern steam ovens. The results are distilled, then bottled unaged (blanco), rested on oak for less than a year (reposado) or between one and three years (añejo).

These are just the basics. As with any spirits, there’s an enormous amount of variety out there, which the staff at these bars will only be too happy to talk you through. So whether you’re looking for a topnotch Margarita or Paloma, or something to savour and sip neat, there’s a spot here for you.

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Cantina Ok!


Word of warning: don't bother bringing a large group to this tiny mezcal-centric laneway bar – even if it were completely empty, you probably wouldn't fit. It's by the team behind Tio's Cerveceria. The friendly, knowledgeable staff here will help you navigate the cracking cocktail list with confidence (and you might even end up ordering Sydney's best Margarita).

Council Place, Sydney

Tequila Mockingbird


Grilled meats, vegan desserts and street eats at a Latin American local.

6 Heeley Street, Paddington

Tio’s Cerveceria


At this shrine to beer and tequila, the popcorn is free, the music is loud and the Margaritas are strong and smooth.

4 14 Foster Street, Surry Hills



A moody Mexican laneway diner in an old CBD printing shop. The upstairs restaurant serves tacos al pastor, a one-kilogram Wagyu rib eye and a sweet potato dessert. Downstairs there's a bar with more than 200 mezcals and tequilas.

1 Temperance Lane, Sydney

Carbon Mexican Wood Fire


This spot offers a hint of the flavours you might find on Mexico's Caribbean coast. It's all about boutique tequila and DIY tacos: you select all of the fillings you want and assemble the taco yourself. It's so simple – but so fun and practical. We wish it was more commonplace around town.

288 Bondi Road, Bondi



You won't find any sugar skulls or sombreros here. This eatery and mezcal bar is inspired by the coastal state of the same name and the executive chef's heritage, flour tortillas are preferred – and they're used to make Wagyu burritos.

37 Bayswater Road, Potts Point

Bad Hombres


This Mexican diner's menu is entirely plant-based, and it's all the better for it. If you're a veg-lover and a fan of Mexican flavours, this is the spot for you. When your tortilla's loaded with pastor-style mushrooms, pico de gallo and pineapple; you won't even notice the meat's gone.

40 Reservoir Street, Surry Hills

Chica Bonita


This rustic little bolthole, hidden in a Manly back alley, is one of the seaside suburb's most popular and enduring eateries. We can see why. The laid-back atmosphere belies just how seriously this team take their food.

Shop 9 A/B 9 The Corso, Manly

El Loco


This Merivale bar is home to the tacos secreto – a sort of lucky dip for tacos, where the filling is a surprise until it reaches to your table. Secreto or not, each taco is around $7. We recommend the DIY platters, which are better value for money (and more fun). Try fillings such as baked eggplant and soy-chilli bean sauce or sirloin steak and chimichurri.

64 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills

Bar Patron


Vibrant Mexican food, super-rare tequilas and million-dollar views are all on the menu at this smart harbourside diner. But to really feel like a millionaire, splash out on the signature gold leaf Margarita.

2 Phillip Street, Circular Quay
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Barrio Cellar


Late-night Mexican and beats from Barrio Chino. Come here for tacos, tequila and lots of dancing.

58 Elizabeth Street, Sydney



A crisp share menu and hundreds of tequila options. And the guacamole gets made right at your table.

105 Pitt Street, Sydney



At this Mexican restaurant (from the former owners of Barrio Chino), there's a particular emphasis on seafood. Pink scallop tostadas, raw prawns sliced like sashimi and de-boned snapper have all starred in the past.

Shop 7 33 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross



This is a buzzing South American-inspired cocktail bar and diner by the teams behind Gin Lane and Eastside Bar & Grill. Expect ingredients such as spiced worm salt and grasshoppers, Margarita "trees", and more than 100 types of mezcal and tequila.

2 Kensington Street, Chippendale