It wasn’t too long ago that in the United States, enjoying agave spirits meant all tequila, all the time. Nowadays, it’s nearly impossible to keep track of all the small-batch mezcals now lining bars across the country. Mezcal has outgrown its American reputation as being purely a vehicle for adding intensely smoky notes to cocktails: The spirit can offer many flavor profiles, from vegetal to floral, or even savory and spiced, depending on how and where it is made. To learn about some of the coolest bottles on the U.S. market right now, we asked bartenders across the country to share the bottles they’re the most excited about adding to their lineups. Here’s what they said:
The best new mezcals, according to bartenders:
- Rey Campero Tepextate
- Cut Above Mezcal
- Codigo 1530 Mezcal
- Los Siete Misterios
- Mayalen Borrego
- Dos Hombres Mezcal
- Mezonte Michoacán
- Ilegal 7 Year Añejo
- Cinco Sentidos Pechuga de Mole Poblano
“One of my favorite mezcals that’s earned a spot on my bar is the Tepextate from Rey Campero. Its vegetal notes like green bell pepper [and] underlying mint will turn some heads for sure. And Rey Campero has a deep commitment to sustainability, planting a new maguey for each one harvested. Additionally, their Espadin expression is also super delicious, and of a much higher quality than you typically see in a ‘cocktailing’ mezcal.” —Keith Meicher, beverage director, Sepia, Chicago
“The best new mezcal that I’ve put on my bar is — believe it or not — a non-alcoholic one! We are a 100 percent organic, plant-based Mexican restaurant with a focus on agave spirits, [so] obviously, our house Margarita, the Purista, is going to be one of our top sellers. We offer our Purista however the guest wants: tequila or mezcal, spicy or classic. I wanted to offer that same experience to those that are not imbibing. Cut Above offers both an Agave Blanco and Mezcal, offering our guests that aren’t drinking the same experience as those that are.”—Sean Stewart, beverage director, Gracias Madre, Los Angeles
Don't Miss A DropGet the latest in beer, wine, and cocktail culture sent straight to your inbox.
“One newer mezcal I recently enjoyed was Codigo 1530 Mezcal. Codigo has a strong emphasis on tradition, heritage, and sustainability. In addition, they use two to three times the amount of agave in their expression. With that increase, you really get to see the agave shine, especially in their mezcal.” —Jazz Craft, beverage director, Proxi, Chicago
“Los Siete Misterios creates both artisanal and ancestral mezcals. Los Siete Misterios [which translates to The Seven Mysteries] are a family from multiple communities that work together to produce a well-rounded and high-end mezcal. They also own an agave nursery and work with partner ‘mezcaleros’ to promote sustainability. ”—Olivia Whirty, bar manager, Giusto, Newport, R.I.
“Mayalen Borrego from Guerrero, Mexico, is my most prized mezcal to date. It is made from 100 percent wild Cupreata agave. The Borrego is made in an unconventional pechuga style: In the second distillation, they hang a lamb leg in the still. The lamb is stuffed with various fruits, nuts, and local spices, which imparts a juicy, savory, mind-blowing tasting experience. You can taste the lamb on the finish in a luxuriously oily way. Mayalen’s products are 100 percent hand-crafted and organic. Like many, they believe that the climate, water, and soil conditions of the agave have a direct effect on the resulting mezcal.” —Judy Elahi, bar director, 101 Hospitality, Washington, D.C.
“One of my favorite mezcals right now is Siete Misterios. Their pechuga is probably my favorite mezcal out there.” —Mathew Scherl, general manager & beverage director, Lagos Restaurant & Lounge, New York City
“Dos Hombres Mezcal is our workhorse that we use for neat pours and cocktails alike.” —Corey Dixon, bartender, Park Lane New York, New York City
“Out of all the mezcals on the Vernick Fish bar, my favorite and newest to join our selection of mezcals is Mezonte Michoacán from Jorge Perez. As a small-batch producer, Mezonte products are true to the nature of the spirit. For me, it really sets itself apart from other mezcals because it ends with a really good sweetness yet has a really assertive flavor. For a spirit that is almost 100 proof, it drinks really nicely. Mezonte Michoacán is made with maguey alto agave, which is a low-sugar-yielding agave, which makes the palate very unique.” —Jon Bamonte, lead bartender, Vernick Fish, Philadelphia
“A limited release of Ilegal 7-year-old mezcal. Extremely rare and limited edition. Estuary was able to get three bottles. It is meant to be a sipping mezcal, and retails for $40 a shot.” —Nial Harris Garcia, beverage director and sommelier, Estuary, Washington D.C.
“Derrumbes has been taking up a lot of space at my bar because each expression is so different and special. They have six expressions, and they use endemic agaves from the estate with different cooking and distilling processes. It’s a great way for guests to understand and taste the differences between species and terroir. There’s an expression for both beginner and experienced mezcal drinkers.” —Alejandro Vaca, beverage director, Sor Ynéz, Philadelphia
“I’ve been loving Cinco Sentidos Pechuga de Mole Poblano. The name of the producers, Cinco Sentidos, refers to the mezcalero (mezcal maker) practice of using all five human senses during production, as well as a reference to their five master distillers. The mole used in this mezcal consists of chocolate, apples, banana, mulato chile, ancho chile, cinnamon, cumin, peanuts, almonds, and sesame seeds. This Mezcal is done in the style of pechuga, which uses a suspended chicken breast during a third distillation, which makes a great conversation piece for D.C.’s mezcal-obsessed bar patrons.” —Sulaiman Popal, bar manager, Lapis, Washington, D.C.
“Ilegal’s 7 Year Anejo mezcal allows me to truly round out my bar with a mezcal that can compete with the best whiskeys. The explosion in popularity of agave spirits has finally been met with a worthy sipping mezcal!”—Justin Sievers, co-owner, The Mulberry, New York City