There’s an ornate bar in Baltra which looks like it belongs on a high-end cruise ship. A curved counter of paneled dark wood below, and two tiers of shelving – all brass and dark wood, packed with premium spirits – above. Add in the armchairs and low tables and you could be in the lounge of a golden age ocean liner, waiting to be invited to dine at the captain’s table. Curious then that the bar itself is named after a small island in the Galápagos, which Charles Darwin visited on board a very different ship; the 10-gun Royal Navy vessel, HMS Beagle. While I don’t doubt the bar was well-stocked, there’s no way it would have been as luxurious as the interior of Baltra Bar. Sticking to the Darwinian theme, the seasonal menu evolves (see what they did there?) to focus on drinks inspired by Darwin’s expeditions, so you may encounter tropical, spicy and exotic flavours from remote parts of the world, or you may discover the Canary Islands (which he intended to visit, but never set foot on) – gin, cardamom, Lillet, fenugreek and red apple. In one corner American ex-pat city boys discuss their absent friends, “where is the cute skinny guy, was it Dawson?” and solemnly declare, “I’m an asshole, I’ve been doing it for 25 years”. Back on the menu, the Sundew offers “an ineffable essence of pollen” with Dominican rum, cherry and masala chai. Closer to home, the Tahona is a cute little frosted thing with Dobel Diamante Cristalino tequila, apricot pineapple and a cheery mint sprig, or the Gecko leans in hard on the vegetal notes of Lost Explorer mezcal adding earthy, peppery achiote to green tomato and celery. Darwin may have skipped Mexico altogether, but his spirit lives on in the streets of Cuauhtemoc. (Iztaccihuatl 36D, Colonia Condesa, Cuauhtemoc, 06100 Mexico City, @baltrabar).
8 March 2023 / Bar Reviews