There is a saying you can hear throughout the Sonoran Desert that radiates an understanding of how desert dwellers make their path through life — para todo mal, mezcal… y para todo bien tambien.
Life is wild. For many of us, we need an outlet for it in good times and in bad. If mezcal is your elixir of choice for all of life’s moments, then you must find a comfortable place to learn, explore, and get excited about the mezcal world.
Here in Tucson, there is only one place that comes to mind — Crisol Bar.
Now if you’re not looking, you could easily walk past this watering hole unassuming. That would be a real shame if you’re asking me. This place is desert magic.
Now as the quote translates to say in English: When things are bad, mezcal… and when good, the same. This comes to life the moment you walk across the threshold of this curated bar.
The vibe is captivating at moment one with agave-centric art, maps, and the most insane collection of typewriters you’ve seen. There is something else about it though, not just aesthetic, but the energy of the place offers an instant chillness. You can see it, everyone is experiencing it almost like a living organism of cool.
The crowd found at the bar can’t be put in a box, as there is a welcoming array of barflies. Some folks are obviously celebrating, some longing for something lost, and others searching for something that this mystical scene may be able to offer.
This spellbinding bar tucked in the historic Barrio Viejo is the brainchild of the team behind Exo Roast Co. — Amy and Doug Smith. This second location at 196 W. Simpson St., is by day a coffee shop, but at the end of the week at night, this place is a haven for mezcal enthusiasts.
Thursdays are the day when this place is both informational and experiential — mezcal tastings that sit you at a table centered in a warm convivial atmosphere with Doug Smith and one of his many friends from the industry.
You get a taste of how intoxicating this world can be and why so many are drawn in. You savor four pours of mezcal (okay, sometimes bacanora, sotol, or a mix of ‘em so trust Doug). You get a taste of the state of mezcal production concerns, and an appetite for wanting to be more thoughtful in what you drink.
The other nights are for community, laughs, tears, conversations — connection. This place is a space for authentic connection. Thanks to Doug’s deliberate rogue through the many approaches of desert spirits, Crisol Bar offers you a collection of sips you can rest easy about and just enjoy.
Educational moments don’t just stop at the tasting nights either.
Pick up a book from the shelves and read about mezcal and the many different types of agave, or spark up a conversation with the bartender about the difference between sotol and mezcal. The wonders of this desert spirit can be consumed by just being present in the space.
Cocktails at Crisol Bar are laboriously crafted, showing off the creative palates of the bar team. There are some you’ll always find on the menu, but they also offer a seasonal menu that exposes the connection to the current state of our desert.
The desire to linger at this indulgent scene increases tremendously once you have the food. Working with the Smith family for the past seven years, Sandra Ortega is the master behind the night menu.
Her connection to the food seems otherworldly but is so spot on. Incredible is the only thing that comes to mind as soon as I peel open the homemade tamales that, for me, are the star of the menu. Everything is delicious and there is no shortage of accessibility when it comes to your eating restrictions.
In my opinion, there is really no place like Crisol Bar in Tucson. I feel the same way about the desert. I feel the same way about mezcal. Somehow this ghostly location has become a vortex for those who are drawn to desert life.
Sitting on the back patio with the desert sky showing off, catching a passing zephyr, listening to the desert queen herself Amy Rude (if you don’t know… now you do), I find myself recognizing that the quote above, one that is so often referenced when mezcal is discussed, is talking about this special place.
When things are bad, Crisol Bar… and when good, the same.
The bar is open from 5 – 11 p.m. on Thursday – Saturday (look for Wednesdays soon). They offer weekly tastings for $25 per person on Thursday at 7 p.m., and, once a month, they host karaoke on a select Friday. Follow them on Instagram to stay in the loop.
Crisol Bar is located inside Exo Roast Co. at 196 W. Simpson St. For more information, visit exocoffee.com.