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Our 4 favorite mezcals for sipping

Four great sipping mezcals

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If you’re even the most basic drinker, you probably know a little bit about tequila. This agave-based spirit is popular for sipping neat, on the rocks, or mixed into a variety of cocktails, including the classic Margarita, Paloma, and Ranch Water. But mezcal, on the other hand, might be a bit of a mystery.

When thinking about mezcal, a good idea is to think of it like this: all tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. That is to say that mezcal is the umbrella term used for all agave-based Mexican spirits. Tequila is simply a type of mezcal. It’s made with a specific set of rules. It must be made only with Blue Weber agave in Jalisco (where the town of Tequila is located) and a handful of other states.

Mezcal can be made from forty different agaves. The most common, making up more than 90% of the production, is Espadin. It can’t contain any additives and must be made from 100% agave. It can be made in numerous states, including Michoacan, Puebla, Guerrero, Durango, San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, and its heart Oaxaca.

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Why mezcal is good for sipping

If you’re a tequila fan, you know all about the sipping ability of a well-made reposado, añejo, or extra añejo. But if you’ve never tried sipping mezcal neat or on the rocks, you’re missing out.

While aromas and flavors vary (just like with tequila), common flavors include sweet corn, vegetal, roasted agave, oaky wood, vanilla beans, citrus peels, floral notes, minerality, grass, wintry spices, and a nice hit of robust campfire smoke thanks to underground agave pina roasting.

Mezcal bottles
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Our four favorite mezcals for sipping

Now that you have learned some about mezcal, it’s time to drink some. Below, you’ll find four of our favorite mezcals for sipping. Each mezcal we picked is nuanced, flavorful, and well-suited for slow sipping neat, on the rocks, or with a splash or two of water to open up the nose and palate.

Nuestra Soledad Santa Maria Zoquitlán
Nuestra Soledad

 Nuestra Soledad Santa Maria Zoquitlán

Don’t worry about how long this mezcal’s name is. The flavor is on point. This 92-proof mezcal comes from Santa Maria Zoquitlan in Oaxaca. Made from 100% Espadin agave, this popular mezcal is known for its nose of pipe tobacco and vanilla beans. Ripe fruit and earthy, vegetal agave. Sipping it reveals a palate of vegetal sweet roasted agave, berries, vanilla, and cracked black pepper. It’s a nice mix of sweetness and spice.

Del Maguey San Luis del Rio
Del Maguey

Del Maguey San Luis del Rio

Even if you’re new to mezcal, you’ve probably heard of Del Maguey. It’s the kind of brand that makes nothing but award-winning sippers. But, if we had to pick one, it would be Del Maguey San Luis del Rio. One of the first two mezcal Del Maguey was brought to the US back in 1995. This 100% Espadin agave mezcal comes from the San Luis del Rio village in Oaxaca. It’s known for its nose of vanilla, pineapple, citrus peels, and roasted agave and a palate of tangerines, roasted agave, vanilla, cracked black pepper, and gentle smoke.

Bozal Mezcal Tobasiche

Bozal Mezcal Tobasiche

Tobasiche is a subspecies of the Karwinskii agave family. This sippable mezcal is made in Rio de Ejutla, Oaxaca, using the artisanal method and distilling with copper pot stills. The result is a flavorful, complex mezcal that begins with a nose of tangerine, licorice, roasted agave, and an earthy mineral quality. The palate is filled with notes of vanilla, vegetal agave, and herbal, botanical flavors. It’s sweet, herbal, and very memorable, with a wisp of smoke at the very end.

Los Siete Misterios Doba Yej
Los Siete Misterioso

Los Siete Misterios Doba Yej

This copper pot still-produced agave is the first expression from Siete Misterios. It’s made from 100% Espadin agave and from Sola de Vega in Oaxaca. The nose is centered on orange peels, roasted agave sweetness, vanilla beans, oak, and peppery spice. The palate follows suit with a ton of fresh leather, vanilla, vegetal agave, pepper, and citrus peels, all enveloped in gentle smoke.


How to sip mezcal

Sipping mezcal isn’t complicated. There are no tricks involved. Pour it into your glass, give it a sniff, and then taste it. Savor the flavors and let them cover your whole tongue. If you’re lucky, the mezcal you’re drinking has a rich, smoky finish to tie all the vanilla, roasted agave, floral, and peppery flavors together nicely. All in all, have fun. Add some ice if you want. We won’t tell anyone.

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Christopher Osburn
Christopher Osburn is a food and drinks writer located in the Finger Lakes Region of New York. He's been writing professional
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