Mexico may be known for its vegetal tequilas and smoky mezcals, but those two standbys aren’t the country’s only boozy offerings. Mexico’s liqueur game is seriously on point and impressively eclectic. From a supremely balanced fernet to deliciously spicy chili liqueurs, here are six fantastic Mexican liqueurs you need to try right now.
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Henri Vallet, the French inventor of these two liqueurs, immigrated to Mexico in the 1860s during a period of French colonization and never left. His original recipes are still used to make Fernet-Vallet and Amargo-Vallet Angostura, both of which have been on the market in the U.S. since 2013. The fernet is noticeably milder and more balanced than some of its more pungent brethren. While it has that signature menthol note, it also leans gently on clove, cardamom and rhubarb notes. Amargo-Vallet Angostura is a take on an Italian amaro made from a maceration of cherries, cloves and angostura bark, as well as a variety of other spices and roots. It’s chocolatey on the palate and a delight in cocktails.
Coming in at 30 percent ABV, this anise and honey liqueur is a Mexican staple. Made in the Yucatán, it is supposedly the modern incarnation of an ancient honey liqueur made by the Mayans. This particular recipe has been around since the mid-1500s. The honey used to make the liqueur gets its flavor from the Xtabentún, a small white flower with a trumpet shape similar to that of a Morning Glory.
Ancho Reyes’s first offering, Ancho Chili Liqueur, was a big hit among the bartending community when it first arrived stateside in 2013, thanks to its heat and drinkability. Made in Puebla, the spicy elixir gets its kick from specially sourced ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers). It starts with a sweet twinge on the palate and ends with a slow and lingering spice. The brand’s newest offering, Ancho Reyes Verde, is made with fresh poblano pepper, resulting in a milder liqueur that’s more peppery than hot.
When you think of Mexican liqueurs, the first one that comes to mind is probably Kahlúa, the coffee-flavored staple of White Russians. But it’s not the only coffee liqueur made in Mexico—far from it. The country has a rich tradition of turning its precious coffee beans into liqueurs. Cazcabel’s contribution to the category has a rich agave-forward flavor, thanks to a base of blanco tequila, which many others are missing. It sits on the drier end of the spectrum, making it suitable for sipping or mixing into cocktails.