Gracias Madre’s New Agave-Based, Japanese-Style Highball Program is the First of its Kind

Mezcal highball at Gracias Madre. Photos by Karin E. Baker for The LA Beat.

Gracias Madre is known for being ahead of the curve. The plant-based Mexican restaurant opened in West Hollywood in 2009 with a menu of elevated vegan dishes and a cocktail menu that is “all agave, all the time.” Every cocktail here is made with tequila or mezcal — or sometimes both.

You’ve got to respect that kind of devotion: it lends itself to attention to detail and ongoing innovation. Gracias Madre’s Beverage Director, Maxwell Reis, told me “I wanted to emerge from this pandemic better than before.” He pushes the envelope, bringing sustainability and newness to his cocktail menu.

Reis’ latest innovation is the very first of its kind. The El Tesoro HIghball Machine, made in Japan, is an authentic highball machine that’s been customized to use with agave spirits, rather than with whisky. 

In case you’re not familiar with whisky highballs, they are huge in Japan. It’s a ritualistic process to get a whisky highball in Japan, and that’s part of the pleasure. The ice needs to be perfectly clear, while the high-quality soda water used to lengthen the flavor of the whisky must be exceedingly chilled and highly carbonated. 

The highball machine at Gracias Madre makes a great drink. The soda water it produces is very soft, like the fermented water used in Japan, and is five times as carbonated as ordinary soda water. The machine also keeps the mezcal and tequila ice-cold. 

If you love the flavor of mezcal or tequila, Max’s icy highballs are worth lingering over, and especially appropriate with summer just around the corner. They’re garnished with fruit, vegetables, or other aromatics that echo the more nuanced notes of the spirit brought out by the process.

New drinks are always around the corner, as the highball menu will change every month. You might encounter Jalisco Highballs made with tequila, Single Village Highballs made with mezcal, or El Tesoro Reposado Highballs garnished with a ribbon of cucumber.  

If you’re a fan of agave spirits, you shouldn’t miss Gracias Madre’s unique new highballs. Enjoy them at either location (there is a second Gracias Madre in Newport Beach). You can also savor their cocktails, canned on the premises, to go. Gracias Madre is located at 8905 Melrose Avenue in West Hollywood. You can find more information here. Cheers!

Karin E. Baker

About Karin E. Baker

Karin E. Baker is a native Angeleno who loves the eateries, history, nature, architecture, and art of her hometown. When not exploring poke shacks in Kona, tascas in Córdoba, and konditoris in Malmö, she writes about food, culture, lifestyle and travel. She obsesses over comma usage and classic films and is always happy to find an excuse to open a bottle of champagne.
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