Sipping on Mezcal, Rocking out to Cumbia at El Gallo Negro
El Gallo Negro, a lively mezcaleria run by Healdsburg’s Diaz brothers of El Farolito and Agave Mexican Restaurant & Tequila Bar, provides a celebratory atmosphere for reveling in the smoky goodness of authentic mezcal. The self-proclaimed black rooster of the Diaz family establishments, El Gallo Negro has been open for just under two years. Want an immediate mood elevator? Sit at the bar’s tall wooden tables and sip on cocktails as upbeat cumbia rhythms fill the space. An outdoor patio with a large central fountain further enhances the fun vibe.
Formerly El Farolito and adjacent to the Diaz family’s newest restaurant, Tu Mole Madre, El Gallo Negro offers an eclectic array of mezcal and tequila cocktails, as well as local wines and a rotating handle of local beers. Bartenders mix up more traditional libations, like a house Margarita made with a choice of blue agave tequila or mezcal, with fresh lime juice and simple syrup; and the traditional (and delicious) Paloma made with blue agave tequila, grapefruit juice, lemon, salt, and simple syrup. If you’re feeling feisty but not up for mezcal or tequila, they offer a shot of Jack Daniels with a Coors Light for $11. Most cocktails are $9 to $12, and shots start at $11.
Contrary to popular belief, mezcal is not technically tequila, and the cocktails at El Gallo Negro are an excellent way to experience the differences in flavor. Mezcal has a distinct earthy smokiness and tends to be sweeter than your typical tequila. Flavor isn’t the only difference. While each tequila is generally made with a singular type of agave, mezcal can be produced with a blend of up to 30 different types of agave. There are other differences, like the distillation process. Mezcal is generally produced through a lengthy series of steps, including a slow, in-the-ground cooking process that adds to its signature smokiness (mezcal literally translates to “oven-cooked agave”), and then is left to ferment for six to 12 months before distillation.
Mezcals are generally produced in Oaxaca where the Diaz family has deep roots. These roots are evident in their family recipe for a 20-plus ingredient mole, which is delicious in their Mole Oaxaqueña, and pairs well with a seasonal lemongrass Margarita. The food menu also offers a selection of additional scrumptious bites like ceviche, chile verde, burritos, Barbacoa, and fish tacos. Their house-made tortilla chips are the best I’ve had anywhere.
For mezcal connoisseurs, a good choice from the drink menu is the Oaxacan Express, a flavorful blend of El Silencio mezcal, Plantation rum, orange, lime, and almond syrup. The Maracuya tastes like sipping summer from a glass with Benezin mezcal, passion fruit, orange, simple syrup, and a splash of fresh hibiscus tea. Drizzled with homemade hibiscus chamoy, the Tamarindo mezcal Margarita packs a delightful zing. For a lighter, early summer vibe, the La Viuda Negra (choice of gin or mescal, tequila cucumber water, lemon, and a salted chili rim) also does the job.
Between the regularly featured mezcal cocktails and their seasonal specials, El Gallo Negro truly has something for every flavor palate. Its festive ambiance makes it an ideal place to celebrate the return of summer.
8465 Old Redwood Hwy, Windsor
Open Sunday through Thursday, 9am, to 9pm; Friday and Saturday, 9am to 9:30pm.