Winter officially starts in a few weeks, but just because the temperature is dropping doesn’t mean you have to stop drinking tequila and mezcal. These historic spirits taste great whether you have a beach day or a snow day, and are a welcome holiday gift. To help you find the perfect present, we asked Phil Ward, the head bartender at award-winning New York agave-spirits bar Mayahuel, for his favorite bottles.
When it comes to blanco tequila, Ward recommends 7 Leguas from the highlands of Jalisco. The family-owned brand still uses traditional methods to make its tequila, including crushing the agave with a mule-powered stone mill.
“People have been talking about terroir and tequila for years,” Ward says. And now Tequila Ocho sells vintage, small-batch spirits, each made from the harvest of a single field. Ward likes the reposado, since it’s “not overly wooded and still tastes young and lively.”
Ward admits that he’s not a huge añejo drinker, since “the true flavor of the tequila is lost in all that wood.” But he makes an exception for El Tesoro Añejo, “which somehow maintains its youth but is as rich as chocolate.”
When it comes to mezcal, tequila’s smoky and complex sibling, Ward is a big fan of Del Maguey’s line of single-village bottlings. He particularly likes Tobala, which is made from wild agave that grows at more than 8000 feet above sea level. “If I could only pick one last bottle, it would probably be Tobala,” Ward says.
Del Maguey’s Pechuga must be the most unique spirit on the market: The nuanced mezcal is distilled with a range of fruits, nuts and…um…a chicken breast. “Your loved one gets something truly beautiful and unique,” Ward says. And it will be one gift nobody will ever forget.