Whether you prop up the bar in a traditional cantina, flaunt it with the beautiful people in cutting edge bars, or hang out with trendy youths in mezcalerías and pulquerías, D.F’s after dark scene is diverse, vibrant and very, very fun. How best to experience the city’s nightlife? Imbibe it in small chunks (we suggest by neighborhoods) and follow the locals. Here, we predominantly cover the trendy neighboring areas of Condesa and Roma (particularly along Avenida Álvaro Obregón) and, for real party people, a taste beyond.
Start with a taste of Cantina El Centenario , the traditional drinking hole in the beautiful art-deco influenced neighborhood of Condesa. Since 1959, the cantina has served cerveza and spirits to loyal clientele. From the cream and blue tiles to the bar’s urinal gutter (thankfully no longer used), not a lot has changed. Grab a pew at a wooden table and long-serving staff members, most of whom have been here for over 40 years, will efficiently ply you with drinks and botanas (snacks). But pace yourself – there’s still a long way to go.
Walk a mere five blocks and enter a different world. At Condesa D.F , a sleek, chic boutique hotel, you can get your lips around any number of cocktails and enjoy the last of the sun on the rooftop terrace. The green Parque España lies beyond, as do superlative views of Condesa. Alternatively, from 2pm on a Sunday, head to the downstairs bar for “Recovery Sunday”, when DJs spin enough house music to distract you from any hangover.
Mezcal mania and pulquería passion
Move over cervecerías (beer halls). Mezcalerías (places that serve mezcals) are the place to be and be seen. The ‘modern-rustic’ hole-in-the-wall La Clandestina  is fitted out to look like a village grocery store at the front, with shelves of soaps, packets of bicarbonate of soda and baby food, while behind are the ‘hidden’ drinking spaces, bringing the old time pueblo (village) shop to the contemporary city. This is the place to learn about mezcal (warning: don’t mention the worm-in-the-bottle. These days, it’s sophisticated stuff). Massive glass bottles hold 22 regional mezcals, all dispensed from snaking hoses, while booklets outline the agave type from which mezcal is produced, its production method, and alcohol content (high at around 39%). Tip: unless you want to finish your night early, sip it slowly.
For mingling with locals over house-made pulque (the oldest drink in Mexico) and any number of music styles from rock 'n' roll to jazz, head northeast to the multi-levelled, grungy Pulquería Los Insurgentes . The only thing bigger than the waiters’ ear-holes (ear gauging is the rage here) are fruit-flavored pulques.
Maximo Bistrot Local  is the kind of understated gem where the food speaks for itself: no fancy accoutrements, just fresh and creative dishes. Well-known Mexican chef, Eduardo García, sources fresh ingredients from the local market to whip up a new menu every day. Fruits of the sea are his specialty, but it’s hard to go past other meat and vegetarian offerings. The lechón (suckling pig) is so good that memories of Babe dissipate faster than the tender morsels in your mouth. It’s one of the most enjoyable and best-value experiences in Mexico City: reserve ahead so as not to miss out.
Things start hotting up around 11pm, so don’t stop at one place – head on a bar crawl along Avenida Álvaro Obregón in Roma. Start at trendy Romita Comedor romitacomedor.com , a large bar-restaurant whose designers have converted a beautiful art-deco building into an appealing, mellow spot, housed over two levels, with chequered floor tiles, metallic trim and funky lighting. Next, rub shoulders with artistic filmmakers at the crowded, industrial-style Félix at Álvaro Obregón 64 . If you have the munchies, try their delicious mini deli-burger.
For the hard core
When the bars start closing around 2am, head to Limantour limantour.tv , an upscale cocktail spot boasting award winning mixologists, lots of flair and, in addition to classic cocktails, their own ‘designer creations’, containing anything from the sublime (mezcal) to ridiculous (chili). Alternatively, head to the private club, MN Roy mnroyclub.com , ground zero for the ultra-cool, where you can try your luck getting in by chatting up the guys on the door.
From the wee hours on, nightlife pumps in chi-chi Polanco, a neighborhood north of Roma/Condesa across the massive green Bosque de Chapultepec park. Around Virgilio, the hub of Polanco’s nightlife, you can bar-hop to your heart’s content. The current hot spot is Jules Basement julesbasement.com , a place so cool that until recently it didn’t promote its location, harking back to the secretive prohibition era. You enter this fun spot through an industrial refrigerator door. At the bottom of the stairs a designer’s den of glass table tops, massive Damien Hirst-style skulls, and mood lighting awaits. The cocktails are killers.
Chiquitito might mean ‘very little’, but this hole-in-the wall is the big place for java hounds. Whether you’re heading back to Condesa/Roma (or not), make a beeline here for your caffeine fix, guaranteed to satisfy the snobbiest of coffee aficionados and to pep you up for the city’s daylight sights.
Lucky guests can head back for a very scrumptious fully cooked Mexican breakfast in the leafy courtyard at The Red Tree House theredtreehouse.com , one of D.F’s most comfortable and beautiful (yet best value) guesthouses. Conveniently located in Condesa, it’s a beer’s breath from Roma. But warning: this beautiful guesthouse is no secret so make sure you reserve ahead. (And, in truth, it’s so nice you might not want to go out, which makes this article kind of redundant. Your choice.)
A regular visitor to Mexico, Kate Armstrong has contributed to several Lonely Planet Mexico guides. Her Spanish fluency increased during her research for this article. She was reminded why she loves good coffee (and The Red Tree House’s breakfasts and rooms). And why this will be the last she writes on this topic (for a while anyway).