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The Best Bang For Your Buck Mezcals For Winter, According To Bartenders


best winter mezcals
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The idea of a budget mezcal might as well be an oxymoron. It’s up there with “jumbo shrimp” and “Amtrak schedule” as a phrase that doesn’t really make an awful lot of sense. If you want to go cheap on Mexican spirits, there’s a plethora of plastic handled, bottom shelf tequilas — perfect to mix into your favorite cocktails. They might also come with a wicked hangover the next morning but that’s neither here nor there.

If you want to delve into the world of mezcal this winter (and you should), you’ll have to pay a little more (don’t worry, it won’t leave you penniless). Don’t worry, the payoff is huge. The smoky, vegetal flavor of mezcal is perfectly suited for slow sipping on cold winter nights. So we asked some of our favorite bartenders to tell us their favorite “bang for your buck” mezcals to drink this winter.

El Silencio Espadin

Tara Shadzi lead bartender at BOA Steakhouse in Los Angeles

“What’s the best budget mezcal? El Silencio Espadin. We carry it at BOA. It’s smoky, has character, and works well in margaritas or on the rocks.”

Agave de Cortez

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Johnny Livanos, general Manager at Ousia in New York City

“My favorite mezcal that is good on a budget is Agave de Cortez. The Cortez family has a huge line of mezcal, making the famous and rare mezcal called El Jolgorio. Their entry-level mezcal is called Agave de Cortes and retails for around $34.99. It is super smooth, and just the right amount of smokey, making it perfect for mixing in cocktails.”

Banhez Mezcal

Nahm Kim, head mixologist at Sunda New Asian in Chicago

“Banhez mezcal. A co-op project that distills the mezcal utilizing classic techniques while being conscientious of the community it comes from and the environmental impact it has. Smoky but balanced with some nice notes of agave and charred pineapple.”

Yola Mezcal

Hope Ewing, beverage director at Rappahannock Oyster Bar at ROW DTLA in Los Angeles

“Budget mezcal is a contradiction in terms. If it’s cheap, you can be pretty sure someone is getting screwed over. I prefer to splurge a bit on brands like Yola and Mal Bien that are doing right by the producers and enjoy it that much more.”

Mezcales De Leyenda

Jason Rodriguez, beverage director at HALL in New York City

“Mezcales De Leyenda is one of those hidden gems in the spirits world. For the quality of mezcal that is produced by this amazing company, the price point is beyond a steal. From a small town near the Sierra Madre of Oaxaca, Mexico, this full-bodied and delicious mezcal boasts bright citrus flavors, fresh green leaves and a beautiful herbaceousness that can’t be beat.”

Los Vecinos

Cari Hah, bar manager at Big Bar in Los Angeles

“Great price under $30 at most retail spots. At 45% abv it’s a powerful player in cocktails with full flavor and lovely aroma that definitely shines through. This Mezcal is a collaboration between Sazerac and Carmen Villareal of Casa San Matias. It’s an artisanal mezcal from the village of San Miguel Ejutla in Oaxaca’s central valley. Carmen has connections to the area and she works with a co-op of grower distillers to produce this mezcal. The distillery is owned by ten growers who farm individual plots around the village before harvesting and traditional underground roasting. The agave is pressed on a stone molino and fermented naturally in wooden vats before double distillation in copper pots. The flavor is fruity, smoky but not overbearingly so, and finishes green and grassy.”

Del Maguey Vida

Adam Peabody, bartender at LH Rooftop in Chicago

“For me, Del Maguey is the end-all be-all for mezcal. Their founder Ron Cooper is largely the person responsible for the spirit’s resurgence in recent years, and they really do a great job in preserving the traditional methods of producing it. Del Maguey Vida is an approachable and budget-friendly bottle to start with if you’re interested in familiarizing yourself with mezcal.

Ilegal Mezcal

Josh Cameron, head bartender at Boulton & Watt in New York City

“Do not drink budget mezcal! Or, increase your budget. Ilegal Mezcal isn’t exactly the cheapest, but it will have you singing along to Rebecca Black’s “It’s Friday.” Just, please, don’t tell anyone I admitted that.”

Bozal Ensamble

Andrew Hannigan, bartender at Bastion in Nashville

“What’s my favorite budget mezcal? Bozal Ensamble. Three different agave varieties give this mezcal a lovely complexity. I love the tropical notes with earthy undertones and mild smoke. Easy everyday drinkability.”

Peloton Mezcal

Eryn Reece, head bartender at BANZARBAR in New York City

“The best bang for your buck would be Peloton Mezcal. Delicious on its own and has enough body and smoke to stand up in any cocktail.”

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