Leo Gutkowski, a British ex-pat who has been in Hong Kong for 12 years has opened Mezcalito, a bar dedicated to agave spirits. After managing the bar at dragon-i for eight years, Leo wanted to create a space that doesn’t resemble any other bars in the city, taking inspiration from Downtown Los Angeles and West Hollywood bars. While his spirit of choice has always been tequila, he is beginning to learn more about and appreciate mezcal.
Drinks World: Can you describe the venue to me, in terms of décor and set up?
LEO GUTKOWSKI: Our venue is open-plan and spacious. We have huge floor-to-ceiling windows maximising the great views of the CBD and offer a partial harbour view. Inside we have a cool mixture of artwork on the walls and comfortable lounge seating areas. We took inspiration from bars in downtown Los Angeles, West Hollywood and Beverly Hills to create a relaxing, low-key, chilled spot.
DW: At any one time, approximately how many tequila and mezcal bottles would you stock on the back bar?
LG: We offer roughly 25 different mezcals and 25 tequilas. Approximately 50 per cent of our agave spirits are sourced locally from Hong Kong suppliers, while the rest we bring in from Los Angeles, giving us a much wider selection than most places.
DW: Is the focus of Mezcalito on mezcal and tequila based cocktails, or more towards enjoying the finer aspects of the agave spirits and serving them to sip on and savour?
LG: We kind of have two goals. Tequila is already a well-known spirit in this town but most people only know about the lower quality or commercial brands, and we want to show that tequila is so much more than that. We offer a wide range of very fine tequilas that are ‘extra aged’ and even ‘extra, extra aged’ that are definitely not for shooting!
The second part of our master plan is to promote and generate awareness for tequila’s lesser-known cousin, mezcal. We aim to show how mezcal is a versatile beverage and not only has a great flavour when consumed straight up, but demonstrates how well it mixes in cocktails.
DW: What are the most popular expressions of tequila and mezcal at your venue?
LG: At Mezcalito, our preferred way of serving mezcal is straight up. We do offer it in various classic and house cocktails, but we really believe mezcal is best enjoyed as it comes. We brought over a whole bunch of copita glasses from Mexico to serve it in. We serve it the right way; mezcal in a copita and with a wedge of fresh orange sprinkled with agave worm salt.
We also offer homemade Sangrita for tequila drinkers. Sangrita is a tomato and citrus drink with a spicy kick that accompanies good tequila and is used to balance your palate.
DW: Do you have a personal favourite agave spirit you like to consume?
LG: I’ve always been a tequila guy. It’s a great drink for all sorts of occasions and I like the different tastes between all the levels of ageing. My current go-to tequila is Clase Azul Reposado. I am very much a mezcal guy too and my current favourite is Bruxo No 3.
DW: What type of demographic do you see in your venue? What is the demand like in Hong Kong for tequila and mezcal?
LG: We’re seeing a broad range of people come through our doors, which is really encouraging because it’s good to see that tequila and mezcal is a drink enjoyed by people from all walks of life.
Each week we do get pockets of people come in who love tequila and mezcal so much that they even know more than we do and it’s great sitting and drinking with them and learning new things.