Bar Owner Bricia Lopez’s Current Obsession: Flavored Salt
We talked to restaurateur Bricia Lopez about her new Las Vegas tequila and mezcal bar, Mama Rabbit, and her undying love of salt.
Bricia Lopez’s new bar Mama Rabbit was one of the most anticipated openings of 2019. The Oaxacan native, who is also co-owner of James Beard Award-winning restaurant Guelaguetza in Los Angeles, has always been a lover of agave spirits and her latest establishment didn’t disappoint when it started serving drinks last August. There are 500 agave spirits that guests can choose from and while the selection is primarily focused on tequila and mezcal, there are also nearly 20 bottles of rarer Bacanora, sotol and raicilla.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about Mama Rabbit is that it’s not located in L.A. or New York but right in the middle of Las Vegas in the Park MGM casino. “We definitely have the biggest tequila and mezcal selection on the Strip, which I’m very, very excited about,” says Lopez. “There are mezcals that I personally went out of my way to make sure got registered in Nevada and we were the first ones to carry.”
Lopez is almost as passionate about salt, which in Oaxaca is traditionally served alongside mezcal with citrus or other slightly acidic fruits—a practice that Mama Rabbit observes with its spirit flights and bottle service. Considering how well mezcal and salt pair on their own, it’s also a natural ingredient for a huge variety of mixed drinks.
“I love salt so much,” says Lopez. “A lot of people underestimate the power of a great rim. It can really change a cocktail tremendously.”
Lopez says that Craig Schoettler, corporate mixologist for MGM Resorts who created Mama Rabbit’s drinks, has also been flavoring salts with all kinds of native Oaxacan herbs and spices, including epazote, in order to add even more layers of complexity. Currently, five of the eight agave cocktails on the bar’s menu feature salted rims.
The Guelaguetza Cocktail (El Silencio Espadín, lime juice, lime paleta) employs gusano salt, a traditional salt that’s blended with spicy chiles and the dried, flavorful larvae known for feeding on agave plants, while the Salt of the Earth (Los Nahuales Reposado Mezcal, Amontillado sherry, Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur, bitters) is rimmed with vegetable-infused salt.
Her favorite, however, is the hibiscus salt used to rim the bar’s take on the Paloma, a cocktail traditionally made with tequila and grapefruit soda. The Palomita uses a base of mezcal that’s topped with hibiscus syrup and fresh grapefruit and lime juices. The ingredient that really ties it all together, however, is the hibiscus salt rim.
“The combination of hibiscus and mezcal—I die,” says Lopez. “I love the Palomita and the way the hibiscus salt complements the smokiness in the mezcal. The hibiscus salt also helps bring out the hints of sweetness in any cocktail.”
Even when she’s not at Mama Rabbit, Lopez says it’s worth the extra step to incorporate a perfectly flavored salt rim into her cocktails.
“I think there’s nothing that will ever beat having a great Michelada with a great rim and then having a mezcal on the side and slipping in between,” she says. “It’s a nice Saturday evening if I’m watching something on TV or hanging with friends, conversing and having Micheladas and mezcal. It’s one of my favorite things to do on the weekends.”