It’s ironic that a storied spirit such as mezcal has only recently resurged in the craft cocktail scene when the truth of the matter is, the liquor’s been around for centuries. In fact, the production of mezcal predates tequila. This phenomenon naturally begs the question: why aren’t more drinkers enjoying the spirit. This answer, at least partially, has to do with supply. The other, it’s production and resulting profile. Mezcal, for one, takes a bit longer to make than tequila. It also a more involved and traditional method which results in the absence of large unruly distilleries saturating the market (a good thing nonetheless). Additionally, we find the peaty and smokey nature of the spirit can be a turn off for those who favor the sweeter and smoother side of life. All this in mind, it would behoof you to brush up on your Mezcal knowledge – possibly keeping a bottle or two handy at the home bar.
From here, we’ve gone ahead and pulled our resources to develop this list of 8 mezcals that meet at the corner of quality and affordability. Especially if you plan on mixing up some mezcal-infused cocktails this summer, those at a lower price point are a fantastic way to kick things off. It’s also here where we find an absence of gimmicky worms or other kitschy branding efforts to distract from what lies inside the bottle. Instead, we have a handful of delicious mezcal that won’t break the bank but certainly get you turned on to the magic of the Mexican spirit.
Illegal Mezcal Joven
One of the great small batch Mezcals out there, Illegal offers something of a fine introductory spirit for those who are still a bit new to the scene. This isn’t, however, to say Illegal is a sub-par brand. Instead, their offerings tend to be on the mellower side and not as harsh as others. The Joven (un-aged) offers full-body agave flavor complete with mineral and eucalyptus aromas that warm up the senses with notes of fresh citrus, green apple, and red chiltepe. Perfect for cocktails or simply sipping on its own.
Del Maguey Vida Mezcal
Straight from the mezcal motherland – Oaxaca – this organic spirit from Del Maguey is a fantastic offering at an introductory price point. Vida is a relatively new mezcal as well – launched in 2010 but already in high demand at craft cocktail bars across the US. Each batch is also twice distilled in small wood-fired riverside copper stills and offers up fruity aromatics on the nose along with hints of ginger, cinnamon, burnt sandalwood and citrus on the palate.
Don Amando Mezcal Rustico
Since the 1700s, the Arellanes family has crafted one of Oaxaca’s most celebrated mezcal spirits in the highlands of southern Mexico. Originally produced in clay pots, tradition has kept 11 generations of distillation strong with this spirit. Needless to say, you won’t be disappointed with Don Amando – distilled from earthen-roasted agave hearts fermented together with their piña fibers for a rich and enjoyable experience. The mezcal also boasts a decent amount of smoke on the palate along with floral, citrus and some creaminess to round things out quite nicely.
Alipus San Andres Mezcal
Made from 100% Espadin Agave from the Lowland hills of San Andrés Miahuatlán, this mezcal is twice distilled in copper alembics after the agave is roasted in a large conical pebble stone underground oven, cooked with red oak and milled in an electric shredder. The end result? A mezcal characterized by the mineral-rich soil in which the agave was grown and clocks in between 47-49% ABV.
Bruxo No. 1
A traditional mezcal, Bruxo No. 1 is made with 100% Espadin agave to give it just the right amount of smokey notes with every sip. It’s also a very approachable spirit – due in part to both its fruity and floral aromas in conjunction with a richness and texture that makes this mezcal ideal for complex cocktails. Also, in case you were wondering, “Bruxo” in Spanish means “wizard” which should entice mezcal drinkers of any caliber to give this affordable bottle a shot.
El Jolgorio Nuestra Soledad
Made from 100% Espadin agave grown in La Compañia – a small town in what’s known as the Valles Centrales Region – El Jolgorio’s Nuestra Soledad mezcal is fermented in open-air tanks and then double distilled in copper alembic stills after the agave is initially roasted in pit ovens with mesquite and oak. What results are tasting notes complete with roasted green pepper and fruit along with your expected smokey flavor – compliments of the distillation process. Certainly a fine base for any light and airy cocktail.
Amaras Cupreata Mezcal Joven
The region of Mazatlan is known for quality mezcal. So it comes as no surprise we opted to include this fine spirit on the list – made from 13-year-old cupreata agave, double distilled, and peated with red oak wood. What follows are subtle notes of pumpkin seeds, leather, and cocoa on the nose, vegetal flavors along with hints of bell pepper and spice on the palate, and a long finish with a mild peppery spice. Delicious and unique with added depth, this is one mezcal that’s sure to please.
Mezcal Vago Elote
Nothing beats traditional methods. Especially when it comes to something like mezcal. That’s why Mezcal Vago Elote is so special – because it’s made in Oaxaca by a farmer who produces everything on his land in Candelaria Yegolé. The base here is single distilled mezcal espadín which is then infused with corn between the second and third distillation. The result is a lovely mouthfeel complete with aromas of Mexican corn and toasted nuts while a palate alluding to layers of honeycomb, green tropical fruit and smoke make this one unforgettable expression for the taking.
What's the Difference: Mezcal vs. Tequila
Need a little more info about the difference between mezcal and tequila? Be sure to check out this handy guide for a more detailed explanation. Your local bartender will thank you for it.