The hardest thing about discovering mezcal is that sooner or later you will come to the realization that some of the best mezcals are the hardest to find and are highly allocated. If you want mezcals that are easy to find, mezcals that you can buy regularly without worrying about whether or not they’ll disappear from your nearest liquor store, this list is for you. Here, the seven best mezcals that you can regularly find in bars and liquor stores across the country.
The passion project of winemaker and master sommelier Richard Betts, Sombra Mezcal is made in Oaxaca from single estate, organically grown agave. After being crushed, the agave piñas are fermented with wild yeast for eight days, then double-distilled in a copper alembic still and bottled at 90 proof. Subtly smoky and herbaceous, the mezcal has notes of sage, hot peppers, lemon zest and custard. It is a delicious addition to citrusy cocktails like Siestas or tropical agave-based drinks like Mango Margaritas.
Spanish for “the Owl,” El Buho Mezcal is produced in Santiago Mátatlan, Oaxaca, and made from 100 percent espadín agave. Bottled at 86 proof, the mezcal is smoky and savory on the palate. Upfront there’s tons of umami, with notes of beef stock, barbecued ribs and huitlacoche. On the finish the spirit has a salty minerality and layers of smoke. Especially delicious in more brazenly boozy stirred cocktails, this mezcal is the perfect addition to a Oaxacan Old Fashioned or a Mezcal Manhattan.
Founded by artist Ron Cooper, Del Maguey is one of the principal catalysts behind the explosion of artisanal mezcals and was one of the first craft mezcals to become available stateside. The brand’s Vida label was designed to be affordable and versatile. With light smoke only on the finish, this mezcal has notes of sandalwood, wet stone, guava, banana and honeycomb. It is an incredibly delicious cocktail workhorse and a staple on our back bar.
This unaged mezcal is also produced in Santiago Matatlán and made from 100 percent organic espadín agave. Translating to “Mountain of Wolves” in English, Montelobos was created by Dr. Iván Saldaña and fifth generation mezcalero Don Abel Lopez. Almost briny on the palate, it has notes of sage, rosemary, red clay, pit roasted lamb and lemon. It’s just as easy to sip straight as it is to drink in a Highball like a Paloma.
Yet another mezcal produced in Santiago Matatlán, Pelotón de la Muerte (which translates to Brigade of Death) is an unaged mezcal made by master mezcalero Cutberto Santiago. Fermented in wooden vats, the mezcal is double distilled on copper pot stills. Vibrant and fruity, it has notes of kiwi, soursop and pineapple. On the finish, there are flourishes of soft smoke and a green peppercorn spiciness. If you’re new to drinking mezcal straight, this bottling is an excellent introduction.
Produced using two different types of agave—including farm-grown espadín and wild carial—Mezcal Unión Uno is made by a group of mezcal families and master mezcalero Pedro Hernandez in San Baltazar, Oaxaca. Floral and fruity, this mezcal has notes of overripe banana, Champagne mango and custard. Similar to a blanco tequila on the finish, it reveals flavors of limestone, jalapeño and white pepper. It’s simply one of best the mezcals to drink in Margaritas.
New to the market, this is the first mezcal released by Casamigos—a company as famous for its celebrity founder (George Clooney) as its expressive, quaffable tequilas. Made from 100 percent espadín agave, the mezcal, packaged in a matte black bottle, will appeal to any palate, especially novice mezcal drinkers. With very little smoke, the mezcal is light and herbaceous, with flavors of oregano, sea salt, limestone, tamarind and mint. On the finish, it has a touch of barbecue ash and black pepper. While it technically could be used as the base in just about any classic cocktail, we prefer to drink it straight.