What's the best way to taste mezcal? Del Maguey's Ron Cooper has this advice: "Take the tiniest sip you can possibly take and squeeze your tongue into the roof of your mouth and into the front of your teeth and the mezcal will go to the back of your tongue and over your palate and down the throat. Wait 30 seconds before taking another sip, and your palate will be awakened. After that, sip normally and the mezcal will be softer and sweeter. Once you've consumed mezcal three or four times, you won't have to tune up your palate, because you'll know what you're expecting. The motto is: Sip it. Don't shoot it."
Six mezcals to try:
Alipús San Andres: An espadin grown at 5,000 feet. Bright and earthy. About $40.
Mezcal Vago Elote: Infused with corn roasted on the comal. Smooth and silky with a long finish. Great for cocktails too. About $55. One of the newest brands on the market from a surfer and traveler who married into a Oaxacan mezcal-producing family.
Del Maguey Vida: An affordable basic with plenty of character. Makes a great cocktail with grapefruit-infused syrup. About $40. (If you want something with an even more complex character, treat yourself to a bottle of Del Maguey Chichicapa with notes of citrus, smoke and chocolate. About $70.)
Tosba Espadín Mezcal: Relatively new on the market, affordable and with a wonderful smoky character. About $35.
Los Amantes Joven: A new one on the market in California from artist Guillermo Olguín, who has a sweet little mescaleria in Oaxaca City. Smoky and intense. About $55.
El Jolgorio Tepeztate: Made from the wild-harvested tepeztate agave. Sassy and bold, wonderfully complex, for a splurge. About $115.