Bottoms Up! It's Mezcal Week 2020!

Bottoms Up! It's Mezcal Week 2020!

Bottoms Up to Mezcal Week 2020. FINALLY something in 2020 we can get behind.

Love mezcal but not sure what to buy? We've all been there, it’s time to step up our agave spirit game to drink smarter, not harder. We created these recommendations to help guide your buying decisions based on whether you’re going to use it for a cocktail or sip it slowwwwly.

The first question to ask yourself is whether you want to put this agave spirit a cocktail or to slow sip? The difference lies in whether the maguey (aka agave) is farmed i.e. Espadin or wild-caught i.e. Tobaxiche. We recommend trying all mezcals to develop a palate and begin to detect the flavors beyond the smokiness.

Before diving into the details, mezcal is an incredibly laborious and rustic spirit. Oaxacans affectionately shared, "Tequila is the spirit of Mexico, but Mezcal is the soul." We encourage our readers to taste small-batch, artisanal mezcals not just the celeb-back, commercial brands. Mezcaleros are still using traditional methods to craft special complex spirits. Try the good stuff before assuming that all mezcal is just "smokey" there's WAY more to it than a single descriptor. 


Quality Check

Mezcal usually has a 45% ABV, so anything above 50 percent is generally good, sippable quality (i.e. the stuff you wouldn’t throw in a cocktail, save for a splash of something sparkling that won’t muddy the flavors). The higher the ABV, the higher the quality and certainly the slower we’d recommend drinking it. No chugging please.


Production Tiers

There are three production classification tiers for mezcal (listed in order of quality): industrial, artisanal, and ancestral which was passed into law in 2017. You guessed correct, industrial is the large scale production methods. The differentiation comes from the fermentation and distillation vessels. The agaves can be cooked in either stainless steel, stone ovens, or earthen pit ovens. High-end ancestral mezcal is typically cooked in earthen pit ovens, milled by a stone mill (with the help of a horse or mule) called tahona, and fermented in either wood, clay or animal skins. The distillation for ancestral is done in clay pots. 

Judge a Mezcal by its Cover

Another hint is whether the bottle mentions the name of the Maestro/a Mezcalero/a. Quality brands will be as transparent as possible on their label. Typically they’ll list out: the agave varietals or species, the age of the agave plant, the state, village, or region where it’s made, it’s unique NOM number to link back to its distillery, type of grind, oven, fermentation vessel, and still used. 

If you’re cranking out delicious cocktails, similar to our Blood Orange Picante, we’d recommend these mezcals. We’ve included pricing as listed on Drizly for 750 mL, as of September 2020. Pricing will vary depending on region and alcohol regulations.

Celeb-backed Agave Spirits

We love celebs just as much as the next person. You may have noticed that there are a ton of celeb-backed tequilas and mezcals. Here’s the full recap:

Did we mention that the Backstreet Boys are rumored to launch a tequila brand? We hope it’s as dreamy as their 2000’s dance moves. The rumor leaked back in 2018. Quit playing games with our hearts fellas! 

Perfect Mezcals for Cocktailing

Conglomerate Owned

Del Maguey’s Vida Mezcal $43 750 mL - An American mezcal enthusiast, Ron Cooper founded Del Maguey in 1995. The company now works with twelve families in Oaxaca and Puebla, four of whom have been with Del Maguey since inception. Pernod Ricard, The French conglomerate also owns the likes of Bacardi, Monkey 47, Malibu, Avión tequilas, and many other brands. Vida is a great introduction to the other more sophisticated options Del Maguey has to offer. We like it because it’s easy to find but it’s one you’ll graduate from quickly.

    Simple Cocktail Mezcal

    Madre Mezcal $50 750 mL- Madre Mezcal is an artisanal mezcal distilled from the Espadin and Cuishe (Karwinskii) agave varieties. Madre has a hint of smoke, with a sweet fragrance. Herbal notes of sage, earth, and minerals appear on the tongue, with a lingering floral finish. We love the Madre comes in a 200ml and 750mL bottle. 

    Keeping it in the Family 

    Fidencio Mezcal Joven Classico $52 750 mL - Fidencio Mezcal has four generations of knowledge and they use their own estate grown agave. Earthy and slightly fruity on the palate, with mineral, smoke, and dried herbs, with a consistent fruit and agave undertone.

    Female Owned from Cali

    Yola Mezcal* $50 750 mL - YOLA Mezcal has reached a perfect balance between authenticity and aesthetics. Created in collaboration between Yola Jiminez (Maestra Mezcalera), Lykke Li (Swedish songwriter), and Gina Correll Aglietti (chef), YOLA counters the patriarchal system which is so ubiquitous in Oaxaca. YOLA is run and bottled by women. Expect a nose of ultra clean agave flavors tinged with vibrant smoke. The palate is bright and refreshing, yet complex with earthen mineral flavors. The finish is long and filled with smoked fruits and peppery spice.

      Perfect Mezcals for Sipping

      The tricky thing about high end mezcal is that the GOOD stuff is small batch produced which means it might be difficult to find. We’ve listed our favorite producers that may offer higher end options but we figured we’d start with options you’re likely to find. 

      Female Co-Founder

      Neta Espadin $130 750 mL - We should start by translating that Neta means “the best or the truth” in Spanish. What's cool about NETA is that they work with small producers from Mihuatlan, Oaxaca, and the southern valley. One of the foremost brands in trying to cultivate strong relationships with their producers, protecting the heritage and culture of the mezcaleros in Oaxaca, and making sure that the people making these incredible products actually get paid, which we love.

        Agave Rescuers

        Real Minero Largo $145 750 mL - Real Minero offers notes of roasted peanuts and coconut on the nose, and roasted green vegetables in the palate. It’s considered by many to be one of the world’s finest Mezcal producers. All of their mezcal is made in small clay pot stills, and almost all of it is rested in glass for several months before bottling, giving the mezcal a much softer cleaner character. They have one of the largest and most diverse sustainable agave reforestation programs. They’ve been able to rescue several agave varieties that were previously thought to be extinct.

          Umami Central

          5 Sentidos Pechuga de Mole Poblano $129 750mL - Pechuga de Mole Poblano is made by adding cooked chicken and a mole sauce made of chocolate, apples, bananas, chile mulato, chile ancho, cinnamon, cumin, peanuts, almonds, sesame seeds to the first distillate prior to the second run. Visit their FB to watch the laborious production process to create pechuga mezcal.  The result is a sweet, savory and spicy mezcal unique to other Pechugas. 5 Sentidos is named after the five senses that their mezcaleros use to produce their agave spirits. The producers of this mezcal do not use any model machinery or tools, being guided only by their senses throughout the production process. The brand was launched by El Destilado restaurant in centro Oaxaca. The restaurant is known for its creative menu, unique cocktails, and exceptional agave spirits.

            Bad Ass Mezcalera

            Reina Sanchez Arroqueno $145 750mL - This delicious and tiny batch of mezcal from Reina Sanchez is fiery and fun as the feisty Mezcalera who made it. Check out the Vice feature on female distillers. Reina Sanchez is known for her quick wit and biting humor, as much as she's known for her powerfully complex mezcals. Here she's taking Tequila back to its roots, using Blue Weber grown locally and processing it just as she would any of her other mezcals. Expect ultra ripe tropical fruit, wild citrus fruit and complex floral aromas. Her mezcals are hard to find, in other words if you see it, buy it. You won’t regret it. 

              Quality Value Award

              Alipus Mezcal Santa Ana del Rio $45 750mL - Alipus is a hand-harvested  blend of 12-year old agave’ plants by machete and roast it for three days in wood-fired pits to caramelize the sugars. Alipus started as a project by Destileria Los Danzantes in 1999. Their agave is grown at the highest elevations of Santa Ana del Rio (population 371) in the most mineral-rich soil. Alipus Santa Ana is an agave forward, herbal, floral, earthy and smoky mezcal with a roasted spice finish. 

                Ready for More?

                If you’re new to mezcal and are eager to learn more, we compiled our favorite resources to brush up on our favorite agave spirit.

                If you’re more of a taster than a reader, these are our favorite spots in Los Angeles for mezcal cocktails and tastings.

                1. Madre Restaurant - three locations including their newly opened WeHo location, Torrance, and Culver City
                2. Mercado - multiple locations in Santa Monica, Los Angeles, Hollywood, Pasadena, and Manhattan Beach
                3. Guelaguetza - KoreaTown
                4. Gracias Madre - WeHo
                5. Toca Madera - WeHo
                6. Petty Cash Taqueria - WeHo
                7. El Nopal - Anaheim
                8. Bar Ama - Downtown LA