This city is being overrun by Mexicans. No, it’s not a Republican’s worst nightmare, we’re talking about the restaurant and bar scene. Mission Cantina, like Barrio Cantina just around the corner, is yet another recent Mexican concept rebranding. Opening up shop in the space formerly occupied by Beacon Street Tavern, the new restaurant has retained the same ownership and much of its former staff. However, the ambience of the formerly moody, markedly dim bistro has brightened considerably — that is, if you count the Dia de los Muertos skull imagery throughout as bright.
“It’s still lounge-y, and a little dark,” bar manager Lauren Vargas explains. “Like, if you took the Tavern and threw it into one of the more modern areas of Mexico City or something like that. It’s got a tint of darkness to it, but all the bright colors associated with Mexican culture and art.”
The influence of that culture shows up behind the bar as well, of course, starting with a well-chosen 40 plus tequila and mezcal list, which make up the base of most of their signature cocktails. “I wanted to hit a lot of the classics, like a Paloma or an El Diablo, and do a super solid and consistent margarita, which sometimes tends to fall apart in a place that becomes high volume,” Vargas says. Her Diablo substitutes hibiscus syrup for crème de cassis, which adds a floral note to complement the crisp ginger beer.
The Smoke Break cocktail — made with Fidencio Classico mezcal, Amaretto, and mole bitters — is another fine, if surprising, choice. “When I first started delving into cocktails I was surprised how much Amaretto was a good compliment to a lot of spirits,” Vargas says. “It’s a lot more versatile than people think, it doesn’t have to be sickeningly sweet.”
Not a fan of big, smoky mezcals, she chose the more approachable Fidencio here. “I thought, how much more do we have to throw in when the mezcal is so complex, we can just brighten it up with touch of mole for Mexican influence and the Amaretto to just smooth it out and make it super palatable.” That smoothing of rough edges and illuminating of dark corners is akin to what they’ve done here, overall, at Mission Cantina.