There’s nothing quite like curling up with a quality libation during these winter months and one can never go wrong with a solid Mezcal.
The literal translation of the phrase “oven-cooked agave,” Mezcal can trace its tasty roots back 400 year when the Spanish bestowed distilling procedures to native Mexcians who cherished the process and made it all their own. As a result, Mezcal holds the distinction of being the very first distilled spirit in all of the Americas.
While its relative Tequila has a more mainstream hold, Mezcal’s lure has grown exponentially in recent years with a bevy of distillers popping up and putting their own spin on their respective sips. Here are some of the most exciting bottles of the stuff you can get your hands on, from traditionally sourced and produced varieties to unique takes on the beloved, centuries-old liquor.
With a taste as bold as the red letters printed on its artful bottle, Madre Mezcal’s smoothness stems from its 70% maguey Espadin and 30% maguey Cuixe mix; later roasted in an earthen pit and distilled in copper. As a result, you wouldn’t want to throw in any mixers, as Madre’s strength is that it can be enjoyed completely on its own (or with an orange slice and paprika-salt rim, if you’re so inclined). Even better, the passionate brand is also committed to activism thanks to a campaign they dub ‘TOGETHER/JUNTOS’ which aims to raise money for non-profit humanitarian causes by selling fund-raising merchandise on their website.
Anything but traditional, Santo Mezquila stands alone in a crowded field by holding the distinction of being the market’s first blend made from 100% Blue Weber Agave and 100% Espadin Agave. The result, as its name suggests, is essentially a Mezcal/Tequila combination; a pairing that could only be concocted by another famed duo: company partners Sammy Hagar and Guy Fieri. To create this blend of old and new, the entrepreneur rocker and TV star chef wisely teamed up with Juan Eduardo Nuñez, a third-generation Master Distiller at the nearly century old El Viejito Distillery.
Vamonos Riendo Mezcal
At last year’s New York International Spirits Competition, Vamonos Riendo was honored with the title of Mezcal of 2020. After one sip, it’s easy to see why. Sourced from 6,500 ft above sea level in Oaxaca, Mexico’s Soledad Salinas, the slow-roasted, hand-crafted, triple-distilled result is a vibrant flavor that lacks smokiness and shines in cocktails (think: Mezcal Margaritas). Vamonos also prides itself on propping up the artisans of Oaxaca, especially on its colorful bottle.
It’s not often a veteran winemaker dives into the world of Mezcal, but that’s what makes August Sebastiani’s Bozal brand so special. Hailing from wine mecca Sonoma, California winemaking has been in Sebastiani’s family for generations as they’re behind the Sebastiani Vineyards and Winery (founded: 1904). Looking to spread his libation wings, he founded 3 Badge Beverage Corporation, and launched Bozal thereafter. Its Bozal Tepeztate, Single Maguey utilizes a 200 year tradition of using cooked agave hearts in earthen ovens, which are then crushed by a stone wheel turned by a horse. Sold in ceramic bottles, the high-end Bozal (which translates to “wild” in Spanish) is what happens when people passionate for wine and mezcal brilliantly collide.
Rosaluna Artesanal Mezcal Joven
Ideal for Mezcal newbies or longtime connoisseurs, Rosaluna comes straight from the small Oaxaca village of Matatlán and is the result of generations of Mezcal makers who pride themselves on being 100% vertically integrated. In other words, they’re a single-estate one stop-shop in that they grow, farm, ferment and distill their own agave using no middle men. And rejoice, avoiders of gluten: Rosaluna is also gluten free. Aside from Mezcal, the brand is also music-forward thanks to a unique kind of monthly virtual music series dubbed High Note Radio which shines a spotlight on global DJs and musicians.
Ojo de Tigre
Mezcal has gone Hollywood, literally. The child of Mexcian actor and producer Luis Gerado Méndez (star of one of the highest grossing Mexican films ever, The Noble Family) and the noted distillery company Casa Lumbre, Ojo de Tigre is designed to be an approachable spirit, sustainably cultivated and matured between 10 and 14 years. Founded on the idea that “drinking great mezcal shouldn’t be intimidating,” the culmination is an impressive Mezcal that successfully stands on its own for any drinker, whether or not you’re a top-grossing moviestar.
Mezcal is famously known to hail from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. La Luna, meanwhile, does not. Instead, you’d have to take a 10 hour drive north to Michoacán, which yields unique results: a low price point complimented by fruity flavors. Harvested at elevations of nearly 7,000 ft, the outlier brand has the accolades to show for it: its Chino expression recently took home double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.