9 Mezcals to Make Cocktail Magic

For less than $75, each of these bottles is a gateway to the world of mezcal.

The best mezcals

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After years of being relegated to the shadows of premium tequila, mezcal is finally moving from the proverbial wings of the bar to center stage. Still, there remains a fair bit of misunderstanding about what exactly mezcal is, how it’s different from tequila, and where it comes from.

Ultimately, mezcal is a broad category of spirits made from agave and tequila is a small subset of mezcal. Think of this as similar to how bourbon is a kind of whiskey, or Chardonnay is a kind of wine.

From there, however, things get more complicated with mezcal. After all, unlike tequila, mezcal can be produced from a wide range of agave varieties, as opposed to tequila, which is required to be crafted solely from the Blue Weber. And that range of agaves, and the terroirs in which they grow, means that mezcal has the potential to be produced in a broad range of styles.

It’s worth stressing here that not all mezcal comes off as a smoke bomb. In fact, there are many top producers that are working to place a particular mezcal’s origins front and center. Amarás, for example, goes as far as using native yeast in their initial fermentations, an important and terroir-specific step that wine lovers will find familiar.

Across the range of mezcal, exciting expressions are being crafted. These nine, all under $75 except for one, are a great place to start.

The Best Mezcal Under $75

Amarás Espadín Mezcal Joven Artisanal

The best mezcals


Amarás produces a wide range of excellent mezcals that channel not just the variety of agave they've been crafted from, but also the land in which the agave grew. This one is made from Espadín harvested from the Oaxaca mountains, and then fermented with indigenous yeast, as all of their lineup is. It’s a wildly drinkable mezcal, lifted with floral notes that find a fascinating counterpoint in subtle coffee beans, but it’s the fruit that’s most notable: Ripe and vibrant hints of dried pineapple and guava, finishing with a saline note that ties it all together.

Bosscal Damiana Mezcal Artisanal

This is a fascinating mezcal that’s distilled from the Cenizo variety, with damiana flowers in its second run through the still. That floral note is front and center, but more spicy than perfumed, with a distinct hit of dill. Additional flavors of beeswax and bananas foster dance alongside brown-sugar caramel and smoke.

Bozal Madrecuishe Single Maguey Mezcal Artesanal

The best mezcals


One of the many single maguey expressions from Bozal, this Madrecuishe – a variety of agave –  is grown in San Luis Amatlán in the state of Oaxaca. This mezcal has assertive yet balanced smoke that amplifies peppercorn, charred chipotle, as well as celery seed flavors, all lifted with bright citrus acidity and structured with a serious spine of minerality. 

Convite Espadin-Madrecuishe Mezcal Premium

This is a brighter style of mezcal, with upfront citrus notes lent complexity by fennel and celery seed flavors as well as a hint of peppery spice alongside a bass-note hum of white chocolate.

The best mezcals


Cutwater Mezcal Reposado

From canned cocktails to gin, vodka, whiskey, mezcal, and beyond, Cutwater’s portfolio of spirits is large. This mezcal is crafted from the Cenizo variety grown in Durango, Mexico. Assertive and sweet smoke as well as caramelized red apples and deeply roasted green bell peppers are joined by the sweet spice of oak aging, making it perfect for a smoky, mezcal-based Old Fashioned.

Del Maguey Las Milpas Single Village Mezcal Artesanal

A notably savory expression, this bottle has assertive mineral aromas and flavors that are wrapped with notes of papaya fruit leather, as well as something reminiscent of fennel. But it’s the savory characteristics that command the most attention, with cured black olives and cigar tobacco riding through the long finish. Alongside a steak grilled over charcoal, this mezcal will sing.

Illegal Espadín Mezcal Joven Artisanal

The lift of singed mint leaf defines this fascinating mezcal, lending the well-calibrated smoke a sense of freshness that makes drinking several of these in succession all too easy. Candied orange slices, floral peppercorns, and a certain pine-needle sappiness round this complex mezcal out. 

Los Siete Misterios Doba-Yej Mezcal Artesanal

The best mezcals

Siete Misterios

Nicely concentrated and with a subtle suggestion of smoked caramel, this elegant mezcal shows flavors of kumquats and orange blossoms, as well as green bell peppers and a briny finish. Doba-Yej translates to Espadín, the name of the variety of agave that this is crafted from, in the Zapotec language.

Ojo de Tigre Mezcal Joven Artesanal

Produced from a combination of Espadín and Tobalá agave varieties, this mezcal is more spirit forward, but it doesn’t lack complexity. Each sip shows fresh-picked herbs, a hint of cocoa powder, and sweet vanilla. This is very good on its own and also a terrific addition to a range of cocktails: It makes for a successful Ranch Water, as well as a lovely riff on a Bloody Mary.

The Producer Espadin and Cuishe Mezcal Artisanal

Much less smoke-driven than you might expect – the minerality is far more prominent – this expression serves as a good point of entry for tequila lovers who haven't yet been bitten by the mezcal bug. It’s fruit-forward with lots of green melon flavors, and it also boasts notes of jalapeño. Interestingly, the agave piñas are roasted with bags of chiles in the oven, and then they're crushed with a traditional tahona wheel that’s pulled by donkeys.

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