Mezcal is One Lively Spirit

Mezcal Has Got the Spirit

Mezcal is Mexico’s traditional and lively spirit derived from the mighty agave plant. Its most widely known form is tequila, which represents only a sliver of mezcal’s wild and varied expressions. Making mezcal is a laborious process; agave is roasted in a pit, fermented in open vats, and then distilled to proof. The work pays off. It can be deeply smoky and funky or ethereal and pretty. Daydream you’re in sunny Oaxaca by serving mezcal neat with orange wedges and sal de gusano (worm salt). Alternately, substitute it for gin or tequila in a negroni or margarita for a delicious twist on a classic. Here’s the mezcal lowdown from sales associates Erik Guzinski, Josh Mizrahi, Marcarthur Barallo, Tekla Israelson, and sales manager Bambi Ray.

Real Minero Mezcal $149.99
I had the pleasure of tasting this spirit after it had been open for a while. Given the exposure to oxygen, much of the smoke had blown off, allowing the agave’s natural, layered complexity to shine. Wave after wave of cooked tropical fruit, savory spice, and explosive minerality were on display. This bottling of four agaves is the sort of field blend that comes closest to recreating the original mezcals that were made before terms like “craft” and “single village” became commonplace. – EG

Agave de Cortes Joven Mezcal $34.96
A great entry point to the wonderful world of mezcal, this is the right price for cocktails, but smooth and complex enough for sipping. Really cheap mezcal can taste like liquid smoke added to bad vodka. With Agave de Cortes, the smoke is integrated beautifully with classic notes of herbaceous citrus. – JM

Nuestra Soledad San Luis Del Rio Mezcal $44.96
Nuestra Soledad San Luis Del Rio Mezcal is a great introduction to complex mezcal. Made in an especially hot location, this early ripening agave is clean, creamy, and rich. For sipping only. – MB

Pierde Almas 9 Botanicals Mezcal $94.99
Is this a mezcal or a gin? Believe it or not, it’s both. Starting with a base of beautiful Espadín mezcal, the spirit is then redistilled in the pechuga fashion using classic gin botanicals instead of wild fruit. The result is an intriguing blend of mint, spruce, citrus rind, forest floor earthiness, and the slightest hint of smoke. – TI

Marca Negra Dobadan Mezcal $124.96
Are off-the-beaten-path spirits your thing? Dobadan is an elusive variety of agave that few mezcaleros use for mezcal production. Light on its feet with a minty note and wisps of smoke, Marca Negra should definitely be part of your spirits collection. – BR