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DRINKS



USUALLY ASSOCIATED with citrus-spiked margaritas and muggy afternoons spent on beach towels, tequila is perfect for summer. But with temperatures dipping and thermal underwear emerging from storage, it’s time to discover a more season-appropriate spirit: Meet mezcal, another potent Mexican creation that’s smokier, rougher, and more complex than its fair-weather familia. Like tequila, mezcal comes from the juice of the agave, a succulent, fleshy-leafed plant indigenous to the southwestern United States, Central America, and South America. But while tequila is mass-produced from only the Weber blue agave, mezcal bubbles from small Oaxacan villages that use ancient techniques to prepare one of the world’s oldest, most pure intoxicants. The liquor’s distinctive taste is the result of a process during which pineapple-shaped agave cores -- known as piñas -- are baked for several days in a fire-heated earthen oven, mashed, fermented in wooden vats, and distilled twice. Beginners can best enjoy the spirit’s intensity by priming their palate with a tiny sip. “Taste it straight to get a real sense of what this incredibly beautiful spirit is,” says Ron Cooper, who compares his Del Maguey line of mezcals to single-malt scotch. “You shouldn’t have raspiness in your throat if it’s a good mezcal. You should have warmth that goes all the way down to your solar plexus.” Cheers.


3 TO TASTE


Del Maguey Chichicapa
$70. Smoky, fruity, sweet, and spicy with a long finish

Los Amantes Reposado
$70. Smoky, soft, sweet, and warm

Sombra
$50. High palate with smoke, fruit, spice, and a soft finish



BARS WE LOVE FOR DRINKING MEZCAL


Mayahuel
NEW YORK CITY
Among this hot spot’s striking array of cocktails is the Smoked Palomino: Amontillado sherry, crema de mezcal, grapefruit, and lime. 304 East Sixth Street, www.mayahuelny.com

Drink
BOSTON
This intimate bar packs in patrons with elaborate concoctions -- like a martini with Minero mezcal, orange-peel bitters, elderflower liquor, and a burst of lemon. 348 Congress Street, www.drinkfortpoint.com

Malo Restaurant
LOS ANGELES
People-watch the skinny-jeans set while you indulge yourself with the Medicina Latina: 4 Copas Reposado tequila, fresh ginger, agave, lime, and Del Maguey mezcal. 4326 West Sunset Boulevard, www.malorestaurant.com

Beretta
SAN FRANCISCO
This urbane little tavern serves the Single Village Fix -- Del Maguey Minero mezcal, lime, and pineapple gomme -- a cocktail with a quaint name but tropical fl air. 1199 Valencia Street, www.berettasf.com

Oyamel
WASHINGTON, D.C.
An excellent argument for globalization might be the Hada Verde, a blend of absinthe, Sauza blanco tequila, Chichicapa mezcal, and pineapple juice. 401 Seventh Street Northwest, www.oyamel.com

Jimmy’s
ASPEN, COLORADO
After mastering the slopes, relax with the Bloody Bull, an updated brunch classic that substitutes Del Maguey Santo Domingo Albarradas mezcal for vodka. 205 South Mill Street, www.jimmysaspen.com

Teardrop Cocktail Lounge
PORTLAND, OREGON
Portland has become a culinary hot spot, and the Venial Sin -- mezcal, blanco tequila, yellow Chartreuse, elderflower, and Thaichili tincture -- won’t diminish the buzz. 1015 Northwest Everett, www.teardroplounge.com