Phil Ward is Back Behind the Bar at Madre Cocina & Mezcales in Prospect Heights

The name, Phil Ward should ring a bell. If it doesn’t then you don’t drink enough.

Phil Ward has been behind the stick since 2003: bar back at Flatiron Lounge for two years, bartender at Pegu Club for two years; head bartender at Death & Co. until opening Mayahuel in 2009 – the city’s first cocktail bar concentrating on one spirit, that is, tequila. Mayahuel shuttered last summer leaving agave lovers with lackluster margaritas and Ward with no place to pour his own craft.

Enter mezcal mecca, Madre Cocina & Mezcales in Prospect Heights – previously El Atoradero, present-day Mayahuel. Well, not really.

Partners Noah Arenstein and Antonio Vilchis – behind the Bronx’ Mexicoina – have revamped the brand. Vilchis and his partner Ismael Gonzalez redesigned the 70-seat space bringing out cobalt blue tiles, agave greenery and art assembled by local Mexican artists.

Arenstein, a master of mezcal himself brought in Ward to reintroduce the “celebratory spirit” through his own creations. The well-curated menu unsurprisingly highlights mezcal and tequila based cocktails with no more than four fresh ingredients – same rules apply in beer cocktails. “The cocktail list has drinks that showcase the diversity of the spirit – it pairs well with lime and rum in shaken drinks, with sherry, and as a Negroni variation,” Ward describes.


From left to right

Palomio with mezcal, sherry, and fuji apple juice

Cinder with reposado tequila, jalapeño tequila, mezcal, cinnamon, and smoked salt

Randy Cocktail #2 with chai tea reposado tequila, ginger, and mezcal spritz

House Margarita with mezcal spritz


Madre offers a vast selection of agave spirits featuring 250 different bottles of mezcal, an amount that is rare in the States including uncertified products like Cinco Sentidos, a private mezcal bought by the batch. “Our mezcal program is fitting to beginners as well as true agave lovers, and our experts can explain the history, process and culture of each individual mezcal,” Ward mentions. For $50 per person, guests can partake in a structured tasting including five 1 oz. pours of mezcal along with specific pairing bites – from cheese and olives to gummy bears and fruit.


The all-new menu features seasonal, modern Mexican fare adapted from villages within regions of Cuatla, Morelos, Huajapan de Leon, Oaxaca, and Puebla. Offerings include huitlacoche tamal with pumpkin pipian, homemade chorizo (and potato) tacos, and shrimp atop goat cheese and plantain gordita – presented by Chef Sue Torres, formerly of Sueños.

Madre Cocina & Mezcales Details

708 Washington Ave., Prospect Heights, 718-399-TACO (8226),, @mezcalfordinner (for food), @madremezcaleria (for mezcal & dranks)

Hours of Operation

Dinner: Daily, 5:00PM – 11:00PM

Brunch: Friday – Sunday, 11:00AM – 2:00PM

Bar: Nightly, ‘til 2:00AM

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