The first time I walked into this unobtrusive spot on Seventh Street, I quickly felt a sense of belonging. Las Perlas brims with authentic Mexicanness — and I don’t mean piñatas and blaring mariachi. The spartan space, lowly lit and decked in pastel green, embodies the type of establishment I would frequent when meeting friends in Mexico City.
This lively concept from Los Angeles-based 213 Hospitality is fully dedicated to agave spirits, and it opened earlier this month adjacent to sister bar Seven Grand. “The space was originally conceived as an area where we could hold special events [for Seven Grand],” says director of operations Andrew Abrahamson. “But looking at the space, we decided to make it its own bar. We are fans of mezcal and have traveled in Oaxaca, so we wanted to create a similar experience.”
At Las Perlas, mezcal, tequila, and sotol enthusiasts will find a growing selection of premium labels, handcrafted cocktails, and cold Mexican cervezas in an ambiance that invites you to linger. An original brick wall was left intact, adding an antique feel.
The color palette for the stucco walls was chosen because it is frequently used in old-timey, small-town pharmacies and bars across Mexico. The bar top is a solid slab of long leaf pine recovered from a 19th century building on the San Antonio River Walk. Although much of the space is kept minimal, Kansas City artist Gatlin McClun paid homage to the Aztec goddess of agave, Mayahuel, and her children, by painting 400 rabbits throughout the venue (thematically echoed by the entry's installation of dozens of hanging brightly colored rabbit's foot keychains).
The bar — backlit and showcasing dozens of different bottles — is the showpiece of the space. General manager Steve White has assembled an expert team that seeks to educate the public on the diversity of agave distillates while slinging signature cocktails that range from classic margaritas and palomas to Oaxacan negronis. The team will soon offer an educational Mezcal Collective program, where guests can expand their knowledge of the spirit and regularly partake in comparative tastings hosted by master distillers and international brand ambassadors.
“We are not taking ourselves too seriously,” says Abrahamson, “but at the same time we are taking the job very seriously. We will be focused and specific about our theme; it’s about these specific spirits and their culture. You won’t find a craft IPA here because it doesn’t fit the theme.” Monthly four-hour staff training meetings in a round table format — with blind tastings in which everyone is invited to participate, give an opinion, and share experiences — will ensure a seamless customer experience.
Abrahamson describes the bar as “for Austin, but from Mexico.” He sees the back patio, which is shared with Seven Grand, as the meeting place between the two cultures. “There’s a synergy between whiskey and agave spirits that attracted us. It’s like the southern U.S. meets Mexico.” On the patio, the two bars will connect and coexist but as completely independent, separate areas.
“We want to be playful and artistic, accessible but soulful,” says Abrahamson. “A bar should be a refuge from the outside where you can leave your troubles behind. We want to bring people together from different backgrounds; everyone is welcome at Las Perlas. We want to be part of the renaissance of the bar as a comfortable space to meet, converse, relax, and keep the atmosphere safe, especially for women. ”
And because this is Austin, a live music component will be added soon. Salud, amigos!