Mezcals have risen in popularity in the past few years as more producers are working to shed the stereotypical “here’s something like tequila with a worm in it” mindset that has dominated popular culture.
Mezcals are a great introduction to agave spirits for those that are used to whiskies. And bartenders across the country (and the world) are working more and harder not only to bring the joy of sipping a premium mezcal to light, but also to create cocktails that speak to the intricacies of the smoky, clear, and complex spirit that is mezcal.
With more mezcals available than ever before (there are currently well over a hundred commercially available), we’ve picked out a couple we think are some of the best mezcals you should try if you’re looking to find out what tequila’s older, smokier cousin is all about. (Also, make sure you check out our conversation with Jay Schroeder of Mezcaleria Las Flores in Chicago.)
Del Maguey Vida de San Luis Del Rio Made by Ron Cooper, the man who created the term “Single Village Mezcal.” Vida is a great place to start if you’re unfamiliar with mezcals in general. It’s easy to sip and has a nice, fruity profile that makes it easily approachable. ($34)
Sombra Mezcal The only agave spirit to be made by a Master Sommelier—Richard Betts— Sombra is made with made with Espadin agave (distilled 8,000 feet above sea level) and has spicy, fruity notes that blend pretty well with the smokiness that you’d expect in a mezcal. ($44)
La Niña del Mezcal Espadin Started only a few years ago by Anaheim native Cecilia Rios Murrieta—the eponymous La Niña del Mezcal and one of the only female mezcal producers out there—La Niña has citrusy, spicy notes that come from the fact that the agave is aged in the fields before being picked and made into mezcal. ($60)
El Silencio Joven Mezcal El Silencio is named after the bar from the movie Mulholland Drive, and has only been around since 2013. Joven is unaged and double distilled in copper stills from a blend of three different agaves. The mezcal is floral and spicy while maintaining a great touch of tobacco and smoke on the finish. ($70)
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