The sign outside Mosto proclaims it “Little Cactus Spirits Bar” with “Big Mezcal Energy!” It also announces “Al Al-Qass” straight from the Trumbo.
Now, Mosto doesn’t have tequila and mezcal like Hard Water has whiskey or Smuggler’s Cove has rum (or even How Monk’s Kettle has beer). Mosto’s menu is very simple: one page, double-sided, with the first page devoted to cocktails, beer, wine, and food (it only lists six cocktails, seven beers, and two wines) and the other side entirely dedicated to tequila and mezcal. That’s impressive, but it’s not the book of selections you’ll get in other specialty bars.
But sometimes a simple menu is better. Sometimes you can learn more with an organized list. More specifically: When it comes to tequila, I Certainly can. I can tell you about tequila, sure – a bit about the history, about how it’s made, facts about the contemporary industry, but in terms of actually getting to know the spirit, I don’t know nearly enough to get meaningful opinions. Whiskey, beer, wine and to a lesser extent gin and rum, I have strong opinions about them and can fight for them to the death. But with tequila, I’m honestly still at the point where I shyly point at the bottles and ask “Is that good? It’s supposed to be good…”
So I came to Valencia between 18 and 19 to learn. I also came to sit inside at the bar and have a little chat like I used to, but as soon as I got inside, I kind of hated the inside. The interior of Mosto is small and crammed with all the comfort of a cave and all the atmosphere of a deli counter where the lights don’t work. On top of that, the music was too loud to have a real conversation anyway. Sitting at that counter was like having a drink in the waiting room of the dilapidated warehouse office of an illegal surgeon in Gotham City. This will not happen.
“Can I sit outside?” I asked the waiter.
Seated at a table in the street, I brought a menu and a small bowl of fried chickpeas and seeds, and was told to go back inside when I was ready to order.
“Do you do tequila trips?” I asked. Because even if I didn’t risk my health by sitting in a bar and having a conversation with strangers, I could still learn something about tequila.
The waiter looked awkward when he said “No”.
I studied the menu, and after a while, I went inside to order a smooth criminal (bruxo x mezcal, orgeat, lime, cynar, egg whites – $15) and a happy hour al pastor taco (three for $10). I waited for a drink at the bar, and was told that tacos would be brought to my table outside. When I picked up the drink to go, a man with a bicycle helmet on his head walked into the bar.
“Hey, what is this drink?” He asked me with pleasure. “What is in it?”
And… she froze.
I had wanted to talk to strangers in bars again for several months, only to find myself going to strangers and having conversations during the time of the plague, and now a stranger came towards me and…
“He’s a soft criminal,” she muttered. “It’s on the list.” I got out.
Oh, you blew it so hard. Am I just broken? I asked myself as I sat at my table and waited.
The drink was good, smooth and slightly sweet with a nice texture, but my mood hit the ground running.
Then the man inside, still wearing his bike helmet, came out and sat down at another table, waiting for his tacos.
I took a deep breath. I shouted to him, “Hello.” “Did you ask for this? It’s mezcal, orgeat, cynar, and egg white…that’s why I got it. I love egg white drinks. They help smooth the flavors together and give them a great texture.”
“Oh yes?” He said. got up and came. “What is the organization?”
“Sort of almond syrup flavored…”
His name is Enrique. He doesn’t know anything about booze, but he loves the tacos here. It’s among his favorite tacos in town. His all-time favorite is from a taco truck that he says is owned by the same people who own Mosto, “but they don’t work as a chaplain in the truck, so I came here for that.” He kept his bike helmet on his head the whole time we talked
My tacos came first, then next, then oh my god…they were amazing. The sign told me, but I still didn’t see it coming.
I enjoyed my time, but Enrique dissolved him and then went on his way. “I just stop here for tacos,” he said, he wasn’t here to do bar work. The waiter came to check on me, and when I told him the tacos were delicious he smiled happily.
“Aren’t they good?” answered.
I remembered the look on his face when he admitted they don’t do tequila trips. This guy cares.
When I finished, I went back inside. The bartenders switched when I was out, which I regretted. I really wanted to talk more with the guy who’s been working with me so far. But all the best things happened in Mosto when I ran ahead anyway, so I asked the new waiter what he recommends in straight tequila. “Is price a thing?” Asked. I said no, we had a short talk about my favorite flavor profiles, and then he recommended the Fortaleza Blanco constant strength, which wasn’t already on the menu. I took him outside and had a sip. It was bright, sharp and delicious, a little buttery and earthy, with a peppery finish.
Oh man, I wish they had flights.
But Mosto, as it were, gave me an experience worth trying. The whole point of going out is to meet the bars where they are – just as you meet the people in them – and see how to have fun from there.
The sign outside’s got a totally Musto.