El Copitas – Follow the rabbits
This post is also available in: Greek
El Copitas in St. Petersburg is a hidden treasure not easy to find. It has a Mexican theme as the name already suggests and their focus is on agave distillates. Exposed brick walls, a huge concrete table in the middle, candlelight and a love for detail gives this place a very special vibe. It is a hideaway, a cozy rabbit hole, an escape from the daily routine, the perfect place to spend your night.
There is no Wi-Fi and not enough light to take pictures all the time, there is just the Mexican spirit and one of the most gorgeous bar teams. Due to the small size of the venue and the big communal table as centre piece you can easily get to know other guests.
I was so glad that I had finally made it. They caught my attention at Cocktail Spirits in Paris last year, when the three brains behind El Copitas, Artem Peruk, Igor Zernov and Nikolay Kiselev, presented their bar concept. They opened an illegal bar in a backyard in 2015 and one year later they were standing on the stage of an international fair to talk about that. Those guys have balls, I thought to myself as I listened to their story.
Story of El Copitas
To enter the bar, you have to call first to arrange a time. A bartender comes to the main entrance of the building and takes you through a secret door. You will receive a warm welcome, some information about the place, a tequila and homemade sangrita. It sounded very exciting to me.
But before welcoming any guests they had a tough time regarding the economic situation, authorities, money and so on. They wanted to open an Agaveria in Russia, which was also a big challenge, because agave spirits were not available at that time. Today, they are super famous and have entered the list of the World’s 50 Best Bars. I joined two of their guestshifts, one in Athens and one in Berlin. The drinks were so nice and the Russian guys so incredibly friendly and loveable that I decided to book a ticket.
I already mentioned the communal table dominating the room, but there are also some small tables alongside the wall. All in all, it is a tiny rabbit hole and I felt safe and happy. It seems like this place absorbs you and you become a part of it. The bar team is so caring, super nice and very professional. I was really impressed. The drinks are listed on a huge board and change weekly. They are mainly agave based, but before I come to the drinks, the bar also offers freshly prepared Mexican food. I am still dreaming of the tacos, they were so tasty. With a Batanga in hand, I could have stayed forever. I had never tried a Batanga before, but then I had it every visit. Some may turn their nose up. Tequila with coke! Really?
Even Batangas are great in El Copitas
A Batanga is very simple indeed. Tequila, coke, fresh lime juice served in a glass with a salted rim, but the most outstanding ingredient is a big knife. This knife is the secret to the Batanga. The drink was created in the 1950s by Don Javier Delgado Corona, the owner of the Mexican bar La Capilla, in the town of Tequila. A simple but very famous bar and a place of pilgrimage for cocktail nerds. The secret of the Batangas flavour is the big knife Don Javier uses to stir the drink. It is seasoned after chopping avocados for the guacamole, cutting limes and chilies and everything else he might need for the homemade food.
At El Copitas, the Batanga is served with a knife as well. The drink is excellent, very tasty, and I am sure that the flavour also comes from the knife, after chopping the ingredients for the delicious bar food. But the main difference from the traditional recipe is that they have replaced the coke with Chinotto and added some homemade salty caramel. The tequila and freshly squeezed lime stay the same. Absolutely delicious.
As I am a lover of Negronis and mezcal, I had to try the Aztec Negroni. A lovely concoction of tequila, mezcal, Campari, red vermouth, Aztec chocolate bitters and ancho pepper tincture. The drink came with a skull shaped chocolate and suited me nicely.
There is no classic bar counter, the bartender shakes and stirs at the head of the table. Wonderful street art decorates the walls, typical Mexican items give the style and some shelves host the personalised copitas of famous regulars.
The guys have worked hard on becoming well-known and now, they are. They have influenced the Russian bar scene, they brought agave to Russia and they have travelled the world to inspire and get inspired. I came to Russia because of them.
It isn’t easy to leave, but they sweeten the farewell with another Mexican culinary delight. A hot spicy chocolate with cinnamon awaits you at the door. I went out into the chilly night of St. Petersburg with a cup warming my hand and my heart full of joy and love. Mission accomplished guys!