All tequilas are definitely not created equal, so don’t settle for simply doing shots with salt and lime; instead, look for a smoky mezcal or top-shelf tequila to sip the next time you’re vacationing in Mexico.
“Tequila is a type of mezcal made from the blue agave plant and primarily made in the western state of Jalisco,” wrote Bloomberg. “Mezcal, which can be made from any agave, mostly comes from farther south in Oaxaca.”
When you’re searching for the best vacation home rental in Mexico for those who love tequila and mezcal, keep in mind that the best varieties are made sustainably and by hand. Still, with upwards of 1,700 tequila brands to choose from and a growing number of mezcals following suit, it can be a bit tricky to know which ones to sample, so here’s some advice from the experts.
Boasting a collection of mezcals, this brand is the brainchild of Ron Cooper, who is often credited for being the person who brought mezcal to the United States. Each variety is created in a single village in Oaxaca and many of them are served in New York City’s agave-focused cocktail bar Mayahuel. We recommend the very smoky Chichicapa and the much sweeter Ibérico, as well as the 100 percent Tobala, which is made using wild agaves that take 20-30 years to mature, which is more than twice as long as the coveted blue agaves that are used to make the best tequila.
Originally developed by a bar in Guatemala, Ilegal Mezcal now works with three small distilleries in Oaxaca, two of which are owned by former undocumented workers who once worked as barracks in California. In addition to making amazing liquor, the brand is committed to social activism and sustainability and is also known for strongly supporting its mezcaleros.
Each bottle of liquor is carefully crafted using mostly wild agaves and traditional methods at Mezcal Real Minero, which is a fourth-generation distillery located in Oaxaca. The agave is baked in earthen pits before it is fermented in the open air in wooden tubs and distilled through a series of earthenware pots and bottled unaged. Although every bottle is perfection, we recommend the Barril, which has an earthy, herbaceous flavor.
Produced only in micro-batches, bottles of Mezcalosfera are all unique and have the labels to prove it, listing the name of the maestro mescalero who handcrafted it, the types of agave that were used and how much of each, as well as the date it was distilled, how many liters and how long it was fermented. We recommend the Mezcalosfera de Mezcaloteca Tobala, Verde, Madrecuixe, Cuixe, Espadin blend… Provided you’re willing to spend around $160 per 750 ml bottle.
Made using agaves that are grown in a tropical climate with coffee, mango and sugar cane, Mezcal Tosba hails from the Cajonos-Villa Alta region of Oaxaca in the Sierra Juarez mountains and boasts delicious, fruity notes. This variety of mezcal is very light and easy to drink, but can be hard to find.
Driven by the idea of terroir, tequila (like mezcals and fine wines) should taste like where it’s from. Although every tequila is made using the blue agave, Carlos Camarena’s Tequila Ocho brand uses agaves that are grown on a variety of estates in Jalisco and each bottling reflects the estate’s unique climate, as well as its altitude. We recommend the just released 2016 vintage from the Puerta del Aire estate, which is the first variety to come from a new bat-friendly pilot program. Bats are a natural pollinator for agaves and therefore essential for the continued health of the area’s natural environment.
Also focused on the importance of terroir, the Siembra Valles brand makes tequila the old-fashioned way – without machines and is also a bat friendly operation. For sampling, we recommend the Ancestral Blanca tequila, as well as the Reposado.
What’s your favorite tequila and why? Share your thoughts in the comments section and join the conversation!
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