Over the past several years, Mexico City has blossomed into one of the world’s top cocktail destinations. Exciting local products, from wine and liquor to fruit and spices, as well as a spirit of creativity and innovation have led to the establishment of some of the world’s top bars. One of the bars behind the Mexican capital’s drinks evolution is Hanky Panky.
Last year, Hanky Panky entered the World’s 50 Best Bars list at number 12, the highest new entry on the iconic list. Despite challenges for the global bar community throughout the last two years, owner Walter Meyenberg took advantage of Mexico’s relaxed restrictions to inbound travel to bring bartenders from across the globe to Mexico City, simultaneously elevating the bar’s offering, while also showing off the country’s incredible ingredients.
We sat down with Walter Meyenberg to get a look behind the scenes of Hanky Panky, learn about its history, and find out exactly what they’re putting on their menu.
Spirited Zine: Just to start, can you tell us a bit about the history of the bar?
Walter Meyenberg: It used to be an abandoned burnt Cuban restaurant, I took it and created a bar for my friends only, that’s how it really started, a members only bar. A speakeasy without the intention of being it.
Obviously not only my friends wanted to be there so we started selling memberships and that is when it all started.
The concept is inspired by Ada Colleman and her famous cocktail Hanky Panky. The design takes as a reference the color pallete of the cocktail reusing the old materials of the burnt place, like wood, some furniture of it mixed with mirrors, dark red stools and booths and a massive marble bar.
SZ: Where did you get your start in the drinks world and how did you end up here?
WM: Started 17 years ago with mezcal and ended in the cocktail industry inspired by my trips to the USA and Canada where the cocktail scene already was booming.
SZ: What makes the people of Mexico City unique when it comes to how they interact with a bar?
WM: Hospitality, passion and warmth.
SZ: Hanky Panky is located in Juarez. How does Hanky Panky fit into the neighborhood’s modern ecosystem?
WM: 6 years ago when we opened no one thought the Juarez neighborhood was going to be hip and trendy so I think we’ve been part of this growth, there were no bars or restaurants around.
If you had to, how would you explain Hanky Panky’s philosophy when it comes to cocktails?
Simplicity, elegance, rooted to our traditions, our product and flavors and with a classic touch.
SZ: What drink would you recommend to someone who enters Hanky Panky for the first time and why?
WM: In Search of Delicious is a cocktail we created to showcase the Umami flavors, acid, sweet, salty and bitter at the same time.
SZ: When it comes to designing a cocktail menu for Hanky Panky, how do you approach creating something new while adhering to the bar’s ethos?
WM: Our inspo comes always from human connections, local products, our experience traveling and classic cocktails
SZ: Your current Passport menu is inspired by the team’s trip to other bars during 2021. Can you tell us a bit about how these other bars made their way into your creative process?
WM: Every single bar that came or that we traveled left us a piece of their heart, we connected with every single human in a very unique way. This menu is a homage to all the family we built around the world.
SZ: How would you explain your approach to making cocktails?
WM: Inspiration, brainstorming, mental map, spirits, local products and definition in 3 words to the most, this is our mantra.
SZ: Do you like to focus more on local ingredients and products or approach things from a more global view, bringing in flavors and products from all over? Why?
WM: We focus on 2 main things, local products and inspiration from around the world, for us is the only way to showcase our culture in a very contemporary way.
SZ: Does sustainability have an impact on the way you approach creating cocktails? And how do you think sustainability will impact the trade moving forward?
WM: We always try to support local farmers and suppliers, not big companies, when we talk about products.
SZ: Do you have a favorite type of spirit to use in cocktails?
WM: I like gin, but I love wine.
SZ: When it comes to flavor profiles, do you lean more sweet, sour, bitter, spicy, or umami? How does that flavor preference translate into your drinks?
WM: We balance the flavor profile in our menu and try to have all kinds of tastes.
SZ: When you’re not working, what are you drinking?
Cocktails From Hanky Panky: