Designer Drinks with a Consumer-Conscious Twist Hit This WeHo Hotspot
Written By: Amber June Davis Best Cocktails West Hollywood
Photography Provided By: Gracias Madre
Gracias Madre’s award-winning Beverage Director, Maxwell Reis, is mad for mezcal, and to see him behind the bar is to witness an artist at work. From the moment Gracias Madre opened, the cocktail menu has been critically-acclaimed. Reis is a conscious creator, aware of a responsibility to the environment, to the people and cultures who’ve influenced his work, and to his customers at the bar. He knew that with the momentum of Gracias Madre’s popularity and the loyalty of their health-and-eco-conscious customer base, came the opportunity to take a stand. “Gracias Madre goes through 150,000 bottles or more of tequila annually,” Reis said. “I wanted to use a new menu as a fun, approachable way to introduce great drinks that do justice to Oaxaca and the people who produce mezcal and tequila while eliminating from our shelves popular brands that use practices we don’t support.” And he has. Gracias Madre now fully boycotts the industrialized tequila-making process called diffuser production, which “is harmful to the environment, destroys jobs in Mexico’s agave industry and produces a chemically-altered spirit.”
And if there is a cost to their commitment, it is not paid in taste or flair.
Lead bartender Harry May-Kline and Reis have been friends for almost 10 years. The two recently traveled to London together, courtesy of Virgin Atlantic, to participate in a cocktail competition where they placed 4th out of 26 bartending teams from around the world. Their acclaimed performance led to a drink design partnership with the airline, and to May-Kline’s favorite drink on the current Gracias Madre menu: the Suffering Madre.
And does Reis have a favorite drink from the new list? “That would be like choosing a favorite child,” he laughs. “No, they’re all personal to me.”
Reis and May-Kline add their own dynamic-duo charm to the Gracias Madre atmosphere, but even without their effusive energy, the drinks speak for themselves. Check out these five new cocktails that make the cut on our list of faves.
1 | Paloma Best Cocktails West Hollywood
Don’t look for empty cans of Squirt or Fresca behind the bar—you won’t find them. The natural flavor in Reis’ pretty, pink grapefruit drink is fresh and authentic; a scoop of freshly-made grapefruit ponche sorbet does the job. With vermouth blanc, blanco tequila, a twist of lime, soda and a salty-sweet rim, it’s an amplified arrangement of a familiar Mexican favorite, styled with a citrus slice and smart-striped paper straw to boot.
2 | Suffering Madre
A Gracias Madre ode to the old Suffering Bastard, but subbing out heavy gin or bourbon for a lean-in to that tequila love. This cocktail becomes contemporary with carrot, trend du’jour turmeric, fresh ginger, lime, the subtle spice of mole bitters and soda. Oh, not to mention fat-washed certified, organic 123 Tequila Anejo. Both the mole bitters and the anejo carry a hint of darkest chocolate into the enticing, layered, sweet-spice flavor of this orange beverage of international note.
Native Knowledge: Gracias Madre is a vegan establishment. So, how do you fat-wash tequila without butter or bacon? Coconut fat, of course—Reis and May-Kline will tell you with a grin.
3 | Rocket Man Best Cocktails West Hollywood
The Gracias Madre Rocket Man vetoes vodka in favor of aquavit. Paired with pungent arugula, bitter gentian, a slightly-almond fino sherry, sour lime and mezcal, this bitter-sour green elixir is light and memorable. Served on the rocks (well, one big rock) with a sprig of rocket leaf clipped to the cup.
Native Knowledge: Ask Reis the difference between mezcal and tequila and be prepared for a passionate speech: all tequila is mezcal but not all mezcal is tequila.
4 | El Jefe
Housed under the margarita menu heading and the boss of citrus sippers, this cocktail’s orange and agave sweetness is tempered by the extra anejo cadillac float. Fresh citrus blend, house curacao, agave and reposado tequila served on ice—and take a look at that ice. You’ll catch a glimpse of the Madre’s hands and a rosary etched in the rock, dancing in the center of that sweet-salty rim.
5 | Daisy
In Spanish, “margarita” means “daisy.” With his classic throwback cocktail, Reis returns to margarita origins, adding, of course, his signature twist. In this case: kumquat. The Daisy is the Sour Patch Kid of grownup beverages, with sour lemon and tart kumquat playing in your choice of tequila or mezcal. Reis’ rendition also makes use of aquafaba (garbanzo bean brine) as a vegan-friendly thickener, where egg whites might traditionally be used, to give the drink a light, foamy float on top.
8905 Melrose Ave
West Hollywood, CA 90069