A Classy Tequila Experience (Yes, It Does Exist)


Ahh Tequila… both a curse and a blessing to stomaches everywhere.  This infamous liquor has a history as colorful as the stories that accompany nights of drinking it. Ha! Whether you’re new to tequila, or have a terrible history with it, I suggest that you give it another chance.

This week I am going to highlight a secret in D.C.–it’s not a secret that people don’t know about this restaurant/bar–but that many don’t bother to walk down into their Tequila-heaven basement. If you like adventure, good Mexican food, or broadening your liquour knowledge, I have just the place for you: El Centro D.F. in Washington, D.C.

But, before we launch into the details of this jewel, here is a brief history lesson on tequila:

  • Tequila was one of the first indigenous, distilled beverages in North America. After the Spanish conquistadors ran out of their own brandy they tried their hand at distilling the agave plant which grew plentifully in the blue volcanic soil of Mexico.
  • The name “tequila” actually comes from a town in western Mexico–where most of the blue agave plants grow.
  • By law, tequila is only allowed to be produced in certain parts of Mexico.
  • What’s with that worm in the bottle? Actually, only a few tequila come with the worm–a marketing gimmick that started in the 1940s.


The Tequileria

No worries if you don’t like the worm or want to avoid it, El Centro has a wall of tequila for you to choose from. Literally, a wall. Now, I could go on and on about their menu–because it is really good–or their awesome rooftop–but I really want to tell you about “The Wall.”

When you walk into El Centro, you are faced with several choices for seating: in the main eating space on the main floor, the roof, OR to take the basement steps to the underground Tequileria. Go to the basement. (Don’t worry, this isn’t a horror movie.) Even though it’s not a secret, it seems that not all El Centro patrons realize a liquor den exists in the basement (hence why I referred to it as a secret).

The Tequileria is extremely modern and cozy. From the exposed brick walls to the rustic tables and dim lighting, honestly, you feel like you’re in a Tequila speak easy–and it’s awesome. As soon as you enter the room, visitors are immediately drawn to the bar area–and its magnificent wall of glass bottles. This entire wall is devoted to Tequila. Every bottle on the shelves is a different type of Tequila. But don’t think the bartenders are slacking and merely stash Tequila X and Tequila Y into any open spot–no, there is a method to this Tequila madness.

The number one reason I suggest El Centro is for their tequila tastings. This wall of liquid jewels is very carefully arranged-for your tequila-enjoying pleasure. There are “premium tastings” and “mini tastings,” but I suggest that you ask for either a “vertical” or “horizontal” tasting. Vertical tastings will allow you to sample different aging processes from the same tequila family. Horizontal tastings focus on different distilling processes–you can choose any three from the same age category. Tastings cost $25 a pop–but if you are extra nice to the bartender–they might give you a special treat.



El Centro D.F.

1819 14th Street N.W.

Washington, DC

Who Should Go?

People looking for a classy Tequila experience (it does exist), a good meal, or a funky atmosphere