Chances are high that tequila might be the foremost drink to come to mind when thinking about Mexican spirits. Mezcal is rapidly acquiring space in drinks cabinets and bar menus worldwide. An aspect of mezcal’s new-found appeal is because of the diversity of styles on offer.
Mezcal is a favorite item on many cocktail lists, and it’s a very versatile liquor. Its deep smoky taste lends itself nicely to various cocktail creations.
The difference between mezcal and tequila
You have possibly heard of mezcal being related to tequila, as both spirits tend to go hand in hand. Both share the same origin of production, the agave plant, and are crucial ingredients in many authentic Mexican drinks.
Tequila can only be produced in particular regions in Mexico, and Weber blue agave is the only plant used to make 100% pure tequila. In contrast, mezcal can be produced from a list of over 30 various agave plants.
Technically, tequila is a type of mezcal, and Mezcal is the umbrella category for all liquors created from the agave plant.
Ways of drinking Mezcal
Enjoy drinking Mezcal in any way you want. In Oaxaca, Mezcal is traditionally consumed straight alongside a slice of orange and a pinch of chili salt.
In the United States, mezcal is bringing a splash in craft cocktail circles and is becoming common to see utilized in drinks like Old Fashioned and Daiquiris, and more.
It’s also a perfect alternative for tequila in cocktails like Margaritas and Palomas.
Top brands of Mezcal
Willing to try out mezcal or consider adding a new bottle to your bar cart? Here are some of the best mezcal brands that you must try.
Del Maguey Chichicapa Mezcal
Del Maguey Chichicapa is exceptionally soft on the palate, with sweetness and citrus followed by a rich, smokey finish. It is one of the finest mezcals for both cocktails and sipping neat, making it an excellent standalone mezcal in any home bar.
The drinking experience with Del Maguey is genuine, as is the brand’s process. They utilize 100% organic agave and conform to ancient distillation processes. Each variety of Del Maguey is named after the Oaxacan village where it’s produced, with this Chichicapa honoring its namesake village that sits 6,000 feet above sea level.
Los Amantes uses 100% Espadín agave, and it builds three expressions. Los Amantes Joven is a triple-distilled mezcal with fruity, little smoky aromas and notes of citrus and cooked agave. Its Reposado exhibits aromas of wood and coffee, whereas its Anejo, aged for over a year in French oak barrels, is an aromatic drink with notes of vanilla, coffee, and caramel.
Although some drinkers may wish to see more agave varieties in Los Amantes' offerings, these three labels are fantastic.
Each super-premium mezcal is made in Tlacolula de Matamoros, a town in Oaxaca’s Central Valley near Oaxaca City.
Bozal Mezcal Ensamble
Bozal Mezcal is an excellent start for those new to mezcal. This exceptional Mezcal is made using three types of agave, developing a unique complexity and accessibility. The first agave is Espadín (the typical mezcal agave), but it’s sustained by Barril for citrus and floral notes, as well as Mexicano agave for earthiness.
The Barril and Mexicano balance out the smokiness of Espadín, making it an excellent choice for mezcal newbies. This balanced flavor also lends to classic mezcal (or tequila) cocktails.
Ilegal Mezcal Anejo
This famous Anejo variety is handcrafted in small batches by fourth-generation mezcaleros, double distilled in the Santiago Matatlan Valley of Oaxaca, Mexico. They use flawlessly ripe roasted Espadín that’s then crushed, fermented in oak vats, and double distilled in small copper stills. Ultimately, it’s aged 13 months in American and French oak barrels. The outcome is a rich and rustic mezcal with notes of dark chocolate, orange and sweet agave.
If you are looking for a perfect balanced Mezcal, then this sustainable mezcal is what you want, made from organic agave in Santiago Matatlán. The flavors of green and cooked agave mingle with the smoke from the roasting pit, and all those flavors develop a profile that tells the story of mezcal in every sip. In other words, it familiarizes a newbie’s palate without blowing them away with smokiness.
Lastly, With this basic knowledge of mezcal, try out the different variations and notice if you have a favorite mezcal variation.