6 Best Mezcals for a Smoky Margarita
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6 Best Mezcals for a Smoky Margarita (Or Other Equally Delicious Cocktail)

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(Photo: BanhezMezcalArtesanal/Instagram)

At bars across the country, mezcal has established itself as the go-to spirit for drinkers looking to change up the menu — after all, why order a margarita when there exists the mezcal margarita, or an old-fashioned when there exists the enticing Oaxacan old-fashioned?

Below, we’ve compiled a list of the best readily available mezcals for your favorite at-home cocktails. Some dial up the smoke while others trade in flavors of fruits, vegetality and rich terroir.

Del Maguey Vida

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Del Maguey Vida is ubiquitous at bar counters across the country for good reason. If you’ve ever been recommended a cheap reliable mezcal, chances are, this is the one.

At $40 and 42% ABV, this bottle delivers gobs of smoky tropical fruit above all else. Balancing in flavors and aromas of grilled pineapple, citrus and leather, Vida can stand up to a packed cocktail without overpowering its more delicate notes.

La Luna Cupreata

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Over 80% of commercially available mezcal in the United States is produced in Oaxaca. Though the region does make amazing spirit, it’s sometimes a little too easy to forget the rich heritage and production history of Mexico’s nine other mezcal-producing states.

Distilled from 15-year-matured Agave cupreata in the underrated region of Michoacán, this bottling from La Luna excels with a sweet and ashy combo of lemon custard, coconut, pepper and minerality.

While many of La Luna’s bottles sell in the $100-$150 range, La Luna Cupreata comes in at a nice affordable $38. At its price, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better mezcal pulling double duty as a solo sipper and cocktail mixer.

Banhez Espadin & Barril

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Produced by a decades-old cooperative of mezcaleros in Oaxaca, Banhez Espadin & Barril combines tried and true Agave espadin with wild foraged, herbaceous Agave barril.

The end result is surprisingly sweet, folding in notes of vanilla bean, toffee, cream cheese and honey before finishing off with hints of apricot and mesquite smoke. This one hits a fine balance between characteristic mezcal smoke and a sweet, welcoming palate.

Usually retailing around $30, this is an easy addition to the bar cart.

Mal Bien Espadin

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Similar to industry mainstays like Del Maguey and 5 Sentidos, Mal Bien presents a “curated collection” of small-batch agave spirits sourced from producers throughout Mexico.

At $35, Mal Bien Espadin dials up the complexity without sacrificing its price tag. This expression layers in notes of minerality, clay, pepper, and lemon zest — a great deal more nuanced than the average mezcal espadin.

Given its complexity and high alcohol content (45.5% ABV), this one is a great choice for cocktails where mezcal takes center stage.

Nuestra Soledad Ejutla

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Nuestra Soledad Ejutla is grown and distilled at a palenque 5,000 feet above sea level in the highlands of Oaxaca.

While lowland agave typically ups the herby spice, highland agave tends to lean sweet and fruity. This expression is no exception — on the palate, Ejutla delivers melon, sweet almond, green peppers, mango and a light lingering smoke.

Ejutla sells for $47, and, coincidentally, is bottled at 47% ABV. You get what you pay for with this one.

Catedral Mezcal Artesanal Espadin

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Last but not least comes Catedral de Mi Padre, a father-daughter-owned mezcal brand launched in 2022. Its Espadin, distinguished by a light-brown leathery bottom, is distilled by Jorge Octavio Cardaz Cualtamirano in the mountains outside Oaxaca City.

Catedral Espadin starts off with a strong wallop of black pepper followed by subdued hints of smoke, green vegetality and a dash of earthy terroir. At $59, this one sits a notch more expensive than other picks on the list but is well worth its price.

Consider mixing it into a spicy margarita, Naked and Famous, or other cocktail defined by its sharp accents.

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Pedro Wolfe is the managing editor of Tequila Raiders. With several years of experience writing for the New York Daily News and the Foothills Business Daily under his belt, Pedro aims to combine quality reviews and recipes with incisive articles on the cutting edge of the tequila world. Pedro has traveled to the heartland of the spirits industry in Tequila, Mexico, and has conducted interviews with agave spirits veterans throughout Mexico, South Africa and California. Through this diverse approach, Tequila Raiders aims to celebrate not only tequila but the rich tapestry of agave spirits that spans mezcal, raicilla, bacanora, pulque and so much more.