What do you really get when you spend a c-note on a bottle? The honest answer is, it depends on the bottle. Sometimes you get the best marketing and packaging money can buy. But sometimes you get a rare and wonderful product of craft and artistry. And when that happens, you didn’t just buy a bottle. You bought an experience. Let us be your guide. Whether you’re dropping a hundred of your own hard-earned bucks, or splitting a bottle with your best friends, we’ll help you find a drinking experience that’s well worth $100.
Many mezcals of the past were best reserved as industrial cleansing agents and gluttons for punishment, but there is now an incredible array of premium mezcals to drink that will be memorable for the right reasons. Our recommendation: Del Maguey Minero.
Both tequila and mezcal are made from the agave plant, but tequila (by law) must be made with 100% blue agave from the Tequila region of Mexico. Mezcal can be made from a variety of agave species, permitting distillers like Del Maguey greater versatility in plant selection, flavor, and distilling techniques (including clay pot stills). This produces a variety of mezcals that represent the unique “terrior” (soil) of the many single-village producers.
Del Maguey, and other premium mezcals including Ilegal Mezcal ($63-80) and El Zacatecano ($42-60) possess flavors ranging from a smoky rich, almost, fatty oiliness, to a floral, honeyed, and delicate vegetal spirit that are not found in either lower quality tequilas or mezcals.
Many people associate mezcal with the unappetizing worm residing in the bottom of the bottle, or erroneously believe it to contain mescaline due to the similarity of its name. In truth, there are no psychedelic substances in mezcal, nor does Del Maguey Minero put worms in their bottles. The only mind-altering chemical that you will imbibe is good old-fashioned alcohol.
However, the experience will leave you with more than your average tequila buzz. The smoky flavors of Del Maguey Minero will transport you to the earthen oven pits in the backwoods of Oaxaca, Mexico where this spirit is made.
Ron Cooper of Del Maguey Limited Company Single Village Mezcal is the ambassador of this journey and a savior of the spirit. Ron is a man on a mission to redefine the category and expand the opportunities to experience mezcals of a quality beyond the worm-soaked-swill some drinkers have previously experienced.
Generally, high quality mezcal is sipped neat out of small clay cups called copitas, though nice shot glasses will suffice. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try some of the Fresh Cocktails from the growing cult following of mixologists that have found creative uses for the spirit.
Some cocktail recipes call for mezcal as a flavor modifier, like in the Juan Collins, the Mexican variation of the Tom Collins from Tommy Klus. Other recipes use mezcal as the centerpiece spirit, such as the Kiwi Margarita from Dale Degroff.
Toast with the traditional Oaxacan saying, “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también” (for everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, too).
2 ounces Blanco Tequila
1 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
1/4 ounce Simple Syrup*
2 teaspoons Mezcal
2 ounce Mexican Coca-cola
Place 1-2 small strawberries into a cocktail mixing glass. Muddle until fruit is thoroughly crushed. Add tequila, lime juice, simple syrup, and mezcal; fill with ice. Shake vigorously.
Add 2 ounces of Mexican Coca-cola into directly into shaker. Strain all ingredients into collins glass over ice. Garnish with lime wedge.
*Add 1 part sugar to 1 part water and mix until sugar dissolves.
2 ounces Mezcal
3/4 ounce Fresh Lime Juice
1/2 Kiwi (scoop out of the skin)
1/2 ounce Orange Liqueur (Degroff recommends Cointreau)
1/2 ounce Agave Nectar
1 Lime Wheel
Place kiwi and syrup into a cocktail mixing glass. Muddle until fruit is thoroughly crushed. Add mezcal, lime juice and Cointreau; fill with ice. Shake vigorously and fine strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with lime wheel.