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A Cool New Palm Springs Agave Bar Arrives Just in Time for Coachella

El Jefe Desert Cantina focuses on mezcal and tequila drinks from inside one of the area’s most famous hotels

An orange cocktail sits atop a gaming console.
A cocktail at the new El Jefe Desert Cantina.
Shelby Moore

Festival attendees descending on the greater Palm Springs area over the next several weeks will have a hot new option for post-show cocktails. Coinciding with the kickoff of two weeks of Coachella — after two years of pandemic hiatus — is the opening of El Jefe Desert Cantina, an agave-fueled hangout with LA-meets-desert vibes inside the always Instagrammable Saguaro Palm Springs hotel.

The new El Jefe Desert Cantina will focus on agave spirits, offering a menu of 20 house cocktails including custom creations like the soft pour corn, made with tequila and corn liqueur; a mezcal, rum, and green tea-based clarified punch; and a play on the current darling of the cocktail world, the espresso martini, done with tequila and vanilla-cinnamon horchata. Classics like a margarita, paloma, and mezcal daquiri will also be on offer, along with a selection of Spanish and South American wines by the glass, and locally made craft beers.

The incoming cantina, which opens this week, takes over the lobby-adjacent space that once housed the hotel’s original all-day taco-focused eatery (also named simply El Jefe). That menu ultimately moved to the property’s larger restaurant space and expansive patio area toward the back during the pandemic. The new venue’s vibe is kitschy cantina-meets-speakeasy with ‘80s video game consoles serving as cocktail tables, leather sofas, and wall murals of macho masked luchadores juxtaposed with pool floaties, created by Orange County-based artists Yusufu Bwire and Family. The actual bar and dining area itself, which was previously open to the lobby, is now walled off completely from view. There’s even a “hidden” door within a bookcase that guests will use to access the bar.

A side angle shot of snacks in bowls at a new bar.
Snacks at the bar.

For food, Saguaro executive chef Ben Diaz (formerly of the Culver Hotel) is creating an ever-changing menu of botanas-style small plates focused on seasonal ingredients that nod to Mexican street food. To start, dishes will include options like citrus corn nuts, barbacoa chicharones, and 36-hour sous vide octopus aguachile.

Best of all, El Jefe Desert Cantina will be open late. Expect hours starting at 8 p.m. and lasting until 1 a.m. on Thursdays, and 1:30 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights. That should leave Coachella hordes plenty of time to catch the late-day acts and still make it back in time for one more mezcal at the bar. Find El Jefe Desert Cantina at Saguaro Palm Springs at 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs. The opening menu is below.

Need more Palm Springs and greater Coachella Valley coverage? Here’s a list of essential restaurants to check out while in the area, and a full reveal of the vendors that will be selling from inside Coachella this month.

A long, wide shot of cocktails in different glass styles at a new bar.
The full lineup.