Chef Richard Sandoval's flagship restaurant Maya on the Upper East Side recently underwent a major renovation and reopened with an expanded bar and lounge dubbed Tequileria Maya. The focus here, in addition to a Mexican small plates food menu, is tequila and mezcal. And the focus is intense: Maya has over 100 agave-based spirits, served neat and in hand-muddled cocktails, as well as a selection of 6 house-infused tequilas. To paraphrase Samuel Johnson, he who makes his bloodstream flush with tequila gets rid of the pain of being on the Upper East Side.
The Pepino, made with house infused jalapeno tequila, cucumber and citrus. (Noah Fecks)
The lounge is currently offering a solid happy hour, with $4 Mexican Beers and $6 Handcrafted Margaritas. You might not think $6 is such a great discount for a margarita, but these margs at Maya are exceptional, made with tequila blanco and all fresh fruit. Also, this IS the Upper East Side—they usually cost $11 or $12. (The happy hour at Maya runs from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. to midnight, daily.) During unhappy hours, we recommend trying a flight of house infused tequilas—they change regularly, but right now the options include Citrus and Lemongrass infusions, Rose Petals and Chamomile, and Pineapple and Sage. Also available: Jalepeno, Strawberry and Basil, and Mango.
Earlier this month Sandoval invited us in to try some of the drinks, and our favorite by far was the Burnt Honey Mezcal, made with mezcal joven, house made burnt honey, whiskey barrel bitters, and citrus. Smooth as velvet, and not too sweet, with a heartwarming finish. We also recommend the guacamole, which is served with fried Wontons as opposed to nachos. Try the tuna tartare guacamole, made with serrano, chipotle, and sesame seeds, with a big dollop of raw tuna in the middle. The full bar and lounge menu is here, and keep in mind that the restaurant is connected to the tequileria, so if you want something more substantial, all you have to stagger into the next room and start snapping your fingers.
Tequileria Maya // 1191 First Avenue, Between 64th & 65th // (212) 585-1818