When it comes to finding the best mezcal for mixed drinks, you’ve got a lot of options. Perhaps you’re looking to add subtle smoke to a Margarita, a Paloma, or a Mexican Martini. Or maybe you’re looking for a new take on gin, bourbon, or whiskey drinks like an Old Fashioned, a Moscow Mule, or a Negroni. They’re all great with mezcal.
The good news is that there are a ton of amazing mezcals out there. This list is not meant to be The Best Mezcal or Mezcal you Need to Try Right Now, or anything like that. The best mezcal should be sipped neat, and not used in cocktails. Many of the mezcals in this list are great served neat, but they also make for the best mixers. Here are a few to look for at the liquor store or on your next trip to the bar:
Ilegal Mezcal is a badass brand, and their Joven is a fantastic mixer. It’s neutral and round, with deep fruity notes that mingle nicely with slight hints of smoke. Their whole lineup is really great, but the Joven is the best for mixing. While enjoying your first Ilegal cocktail, jump on Instagram and check out their incredible marketing at @IlegalMezcal. They do a really great job of telling their story, and their history is super interesting. This mezcal is dynamic, and works well in just about any cocktail.
Mezcal Union is made with several different types of agave, which makes it unique on this list. All of the other mezcal on this list is made with farm-grown agave Espadin, but Mezcal Union is made with a blend of agave Espadin and wild agave Cirial (and sometimes agave Barril for some rare batches). The addition of this wild agave gives it a much more dynamic character, with a more complex flavor profile. The popularity of Union is growing quickly. Grab a bottle (or two) and find out why.
Gracias a Dios Espadin is the smokiest option on this list. At 45% ABV, this mezcal is no slouch. It has full flavor and a body like a bare-knuckle boxer. This mezcal isn’t available everywhere, but it’s a great choice for those looking to add considerable smoke to a margarita or other classic tequila cocktail. They have other expressions that are made with different types of agave, but those are really meant for sipping neat. The Espadin is their best mixer, and it’s the best choice for those who like it smoky.
Wahaka Espadin is very well balanced. This mezcal has won a ton of awards and they’re a staple at many cocktail conferences. It’s got a nice feel for the line between smoky and sweet. It’s a good choice if you’re making fruitier cocktails as it won’t overpower the drink in either direction (unless you mix drinks like me: 97% mezcal, 3% other ingredients). Wahaka makes some other expressions as well, and some of them are sold for around $250 a bottle. Obviously you wouldn’t make a cocktail with these pricier releases, but the Espadin is a high quality mixer at a fair price.
Mestizo Anejo is last on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s the least desirable. In fact, Mestizo is unique on this list given that it is aged in oak barrels for sixteen months. None of the other mezcals listed are aged. The barrel aging gives this mezcal a sweet caramel color and finish that works well in any cocktail that would normally include an Anejo tequila. It also serves as a great whiskey substitute in mezcal Old Fashions.
Any of the options listed above would make for a good cocktail. Other honorable mentions include Marca Negra Espadin, El Buho, and Del Maguey VIDA. They’re all great mezcals too. Just make sure to stay away from any mezcal that’s made by Toby Kieth, Sammy Hagar, or George Clooney. They might be fine people, but their companies know nothing about mezcal. Don’t be like them. Be your own rock star, and choose something else.