Mezcal’s Moment

Mezcal has long been something that most Americans only knew as the stuff bottled with a worm and generally tasted on a dare during spring break. (Not to mention the confusion with that other Mexican spirit.) Fortunately, mezcal’s image has recently been given an extreme makeover and small-batch bottlings are becoming more widely available on this side of the border.

First: All tequila is mezcal, but not all mezcal is tequila. While premium tequila is made from blue agave, mezcal can be made from other varieties of the plant. Second: Tequila distillers generally steam the agave before fermentation, while for mezcal the agave is usually slow-roasted in oven-like pits lined with hot rocks. This process gives the spirit its signature earthy and smoky dimension.

There is a vast range of flavors and aromas found among the different mezcals. Some should be sipped like whiskies, while others can be mixed in cocktails. Here are a few of the best.

Del Maguey, Single Village Mezcal:

You can thank Ron Cooper for the surge in popularity of mezcal. Since 1995, he’s been finding traditional single village spirits and now imports seven stunning mezcals. Try the Chichicapa ($70), made in a village about 7,000 feet above sea level, which delivers a lot of smoke and a bit of mint.

Fidencio Mezcal:

While most mezcal has a pronounced smokiness, Fidencio ($50) is instead surprisingly floral. The biodynamiclly grown agave is roasted in a custom radiant heat oven instead of in a traditional pit.

Ilegal Mezcal:

Ilegal hits the nose with aromas of caramelized apples. You can taste the smoke, as well as a velvety, creamy sweetness on the palate. The brand produces a joven ($45) and a reposado ($55).

Sombra Mezcal:

Spanish for “shadow,” Sombra ($49) is complex and smoky enough to be sipped, but light and citrusy enough to be mixed in cocktails.

Locations: Mexico
Series & Type: Products Trends

From our Friends



  • catherine posted 8 years ago

    to find ilegal mezcal outside of Antigua Guatemala, visit their website -- you can now get it on both coasts of the united snakes!

  • Tony G posted 8 years ago

    Where can we purchase Ilegal in the US? I visited the cafe that it's run out of in La Antigua, Guatemala called Cafe No Se and have been missing it ever since. I heard that it's been certified to sell in Texas, but don't know where/how I can buy it.

  • Terry B. posted 8 years ago

    Mezcal,Ah yeah,now we're talkin bout a tequila.Funny this article appears on Sunday,when I check my e-mails!Goodstuff,but,please drink this good stuff straight.Not time for any added goodies will due.Just like home (Arizona) where we all drink Mezcal.Try putting a little salt on your index finger,lick it off,then throw down the Mezcal.Is there anything better than this?Well,time to call it a day.Enjoy ya'll.

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