ONCE THE LOCKDOWN of restaurants and bars is lifted, there’s a whole lotta catching up to do.

For those not in the know, Taos has a pretty gigantor reputation for the signature drink – starting 300 years ago with the Taos Lightning whiskey that gained nationwide notoriety back in the day.

But now there’s a must-do loop of craft cocktail spots around the Historic Taos Plaza that locals love. Check out how Taos cocktail designers take specialty cocktail creations to the next level.

Happy hours for each spot is between 3 and 6 p.m., a good place to start is The Gorge Bar and Grill, Historic Taos Plaza, 103 East Plaza (575) 758-8866, or sister wine bar tucked in a corner downstairs, Parcht Bottleshop + Bites, (575) 758-1994. Happy hour is 3 to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, so mosey over for a freshly squeezed margarita at the bar or one of their great craft beers, world wines and tequilas – they cater to any request. At Parcht, check out the Spanish Tempranillo wine or a Sicilian wine to go along with one of their rich, small charcuterie boards – salmon mousse, Gouda cheese, duck rillette and salami.

 

If you want an earlier start on the day, hit up Donabe Asian Kitchen, 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte (575) 751-9700, next to The Historic Taos Inn. The place offers classic Asian food from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and bar manager Kyle Lavarnway says its drink specialties are all saké-, wine- and beer-based. The most popular and “manliest” drink on the menu, he said wryly, is the Madame Butterfly, using nigori-style sayuri, or unfiltered saké, blue peaflower tea syrup, lime and mint. The second most popular is the Kyoto Cooler, a super simple quaff of lychee saké with a squeezed half of grapefruit. Another winner is saké with cubed cucumber, lemon and ginger mint. They’ll also do special cocktails beyond what’s on the menu. Just ask! Happy hour is 3-5 p.m. daily.

 

Come 4 p.m. head over to The Lounge by Rolling Still Distillery, 110 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, Ste. D, (575) 613-0326, with happy hour from 4 to 6 p.m. on the weekdays, literally just around the corner from Taos Plaza. Indoor or out, in fine weather the big patio offers great views of the main drag. Locals (and more and more visitors) come for the heavenly custom whiskey and vodkas, like their classic red and green chile vodkas (or “Christmas” chile vodka using both red and green), all distilled using local products – Hatch green chile, Chimayo red chile, and Las Cruces pecans for their pecan vodka, to name just a few. Yumm.

 

Across the street from The Lounge is Adobe Bar at The Historic Taos Inn, 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, (575) 758-2233, the so-called, “living room of Taos” which lots of folks just call home. Happy hour is 4 to 6 p.m., but most folks get there by 4:05 p.m., because it’s often SRO inside due to the amazing margaritas (consistently voted Best Margaritas and Best Bar in the annual Best of Taos competition) and free nightly music. But the street-side seating is highly entertaining as well. Order a flight of tequila some time, but be sure to try a Cowboy Buddha marg – uhmazing!

 

Speaking of tequila, tear yourself away from the Adobe Bar and finish the specialty cocktail loop at The Alley Cantina, 121 Teresina Lane, northwest corner Taos Plaza, (575) 758-2121, (also features live music, pool, shuffleboard and arcade games). Happy hour is 5 to 7 p.m. daily and that’s when the specialty cocktails list gets crankin’ and they’re all half-price. Tequila Crisp is fabulous – a cucumber-infused Espolon Tequila Blanco, St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur, soda water and fresh lime that’ll whet any whistle. Fancy some Taos Lightning? Go for The Alley Speakeasy with Taos Lightning Rye, cognac, local absinthe, a splash of bitters, simple syrup and a twist of lemon.

All in all, a local’s loop you can do any way, any day. Salut!

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