We understand why mezcal newbies can sometimes have trouble getting into the agave spirit. Its vegetal and smoky flavors are robust, and can be polarizing. But not all mezcals are intense smoke bombs. These five bottlings are sweet, citrusy and perfect for the beginner. If you think you don’t like mezcal, these will change your mind.
The founders of Gem & Bolt mezcal aren’t your typical distillers. Adrinadrina and Elliott Coon are friends and artists who happen to be the daughters of bohemian bootleggers. Their mezcal is distilled from espadin agave and infused with damiana, a flowering bush that’s native to Mexico and known for its mood-elevating properties. The mezcal is more citrusy than smoky with a bright agave flavor that’s perfect for people who are new to the spirit. Mix it into an Agua Sage for a clean, refreshing summer drink.
This was one of the first mezcals we ever tried and loved, so it always has a special place on our bar. Montelobos is produced by fifth generation mezcalero Don Abel Lopez from 100 percent espadin agave. The piñas are roasted in stone-lined pits and fermented with wild yeast. The resulting liquid is sweeter than most mezcals with flavors of tropical fruit and a subtle smoke that wouldn’t be out of place at your next barbecue. Mix it into a Margarita and serve with grilled shrimp tacos.
This full-bodied mezcal has enough smoke to stand up in cocktails, but it’s not too robust to sip on its own, especially if you’re just getting to know the spirit. On the palate, its rich, fruity flavors bring to mind lightweight whiskies—think notes of figs and charred plums and apricots. It has a long, lingering finish that leaves the tongue with a sprinkling of baking spices. Try it with a pint of Stiegl Radler Grapefruit Beer for a refreshing, bartender-approved Boilermaker.
We love Mezcales de Leyenda’s entire collection of organic agave spirits, but this grassy, earthy bottling, made from espadin agave grown in Oaxaca, is a perfect way for tequila drinkers to get into mezcal. Produced by master mezcalero Saul Martinez, the agave is cooked in a traditional lava rock pit for three days before it’s crushed by a horse-drawn stone tahona. The flavor is citrusy with a light smoke on the finish. If you’re not ready to enjoy this spirit alone, we suggest mixing it in a Pineapple Margarita.
If you don’t mind splurging on a spectacular mezcal, then this beautiful bottling is worth your attention. It’s made from tobala agave, which grows in the highest altitude canyons in the shade of oak trees. It’s smaller than other agave varieties, so it takes about eight times the number piñas needed for types like espadin or blue. Del Maguey’s Single Village Tobala is sweet and tropical on the nose with rich notes of mango and cinnamon on the palate. Don’t mix this mezcal with anything, but do serve it with a side of sal de gusano and orange slices.