Bartenders Share The One Mezcal They’d Drink For The Rest Of Their Lives

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When it comes to summer spirits, mezcal often gets lost in the shuffle. If you’re not a connoisseur of Mexican spirits, you’re much more likely to grab for a bottle of tequila instead. But tequila’s smoky, unctuous cousin is a fascinating alternative to mix into you favorite tequila-based cocktails.

“Mezcal is tricky, for the most part, you either like it or you don’t,” says Shane DeForest, bar manager at The Spot in San Marcos, Texas. “The first time I tried it, I was thrown off.” Like many neophytes, DeForest wasn’t ready for the smoky flavors that come from the underground agave roasting process. He had to adjust his nose and palate, similar to a whiskey drinker getting used to Islay Scotch.

Eventually, DeForest fell in love with mezcal, as many bartenders — with their ever-deepening spirits acumen — often do. In fact, mezcal is having something of a moment right now, especially in refined, $20 cocktails. But in an increasinly crowded marketplace, which bottle should you buy? We asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us the one mezcal they’d be thrilled to drink for the rest of their lives.

Wahaka Reposado con Gusano

Phil Testa, beverage manager at Dream Midtown in New York City

If I could choose one Mezcal brand to use for the rest of my life, I would choose Wahaka Reposado con Gusano. There are so many delicious Mezcals now, but this is a stand-alone tasty mezcal. It’s a reposado, so it’s aged in re-charred American oak barrels and the flavor is well-rounded. For me, it’s best enjoyed on the rocks – no lime!

Del Maguey Pechuga

Chris Heinrich, lead bartender at Tre Rivali in Milwaukee

Mezcal: Del Maguey’s Pechuga. They take an already stellar mezcal, shower it with wild apples and plums, more fruits, almonds, rice, and distill it a third time with a chicken breast hanging overhead in the still.