Cocktail Cruising at Cascabel

The search for mezcal margaritas leads to Toluca Lake’s Cascabel.

Last Monday we alerted our readers to National Margarita Day, which led The Sauce to declare it National Margarita Week (by the power vested in me by Ventura Blvd magazine), which in turn led me to Toluca Lake’s Cascabel restaurant in search of a mezcal margarita—not to be confused with the more typical margarita made with tequila.

Leave it to Cascabel—Alex Eusebio’s hipster haven for Nuevo Latino cuisine—to serve a mezcal margarita with a twist. Not a lemon twist, but a new twist: Cascabel’s blueberry mezcal margarita ($14) includes blueberry-infused mezcal, fresh lime and agave with a tajin rim. Bright citrus and blueberries melting into mezcal’s smoky savor? Well, it works. So does Cascabel’s mezcal old-fashioned ($14) with grapefruit and aromatic bitters.

Mezcal Old-Fashioned

If you want to go for mezcal served solo (I didn’t), Cascabel offers more than 12 varieties.

This was The Sauce’s first visit to Cascabel, which opened in late 2014. Food selections represented mixes as unconventional as the cocktails. We tried a smoked bacon guacamole (really, does bacon belong on everything in today’s cuisine?); brussels sprouts with candied pepitas and goat cheese (nice); and two from the menu eight taco varieties: fried chicken with chile honey, cabbage slaw and house hot sauce, and the milder sirloin steak with chimichurri sauce, salsa cilantro and aioli. The fried chicken combo is so salty/spicy/vinegary that it’s hard to find the fried chicken flavor or honey sweetness in the mix. The steak was a little tough but more palatable. Tortillas on both were hearty, chewy and delicious.

With a dramatic curling serpent gracing the walls, the place is glamorous, edgy and fun—whether you’re at the bar or at a table. But, well, it’s complicated—which may be why The Sauce still plans to wander down Riverside Drive to Burbank’s wonderful but decidedly un-hip Don Cuco’s (since 1969) once in a while for that classic old-school tequila margarita on the rocks, no salt and maybe a couple of chicken enchiladas.

10717 Riverside Drive, 818-927-4210

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