What Is Mezcal and Why Is It the Hottest Spirit in America?

Mezcal’s migration to the American bar scene has made huge strides

Joven (young) mezcal has been bottled and unaged for less than two months. 

Every spirit has its moment. Some perpetuated more than others one could say, but we’ve got a feeling that this traditional Mexican agave-based liquor is here to stay. There’s a certain allure to mezcal, the sultry, smoky cousin to tequila, and it’s easy to love the earthy salinity often found in a quality bottle. Cocktail culture in the United States, particularly in New York, is all about pushing the boundaries of flavor profiles while maintaining balance and appealing to the novice, the experienced palate, and everyone in between.

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With its ancient roots and fluid seasonality it comes as no surprise that mezcal has caught on like wildfire, appearing in the limelight across the country, both on its own and in cocktails. The pioneer in bringing top quality mezcal into the U.S. was artist Ron Cooper's Del Maguey, a collection of small-village artisanal mezcals. Younger brands, including Fidencio, Sombra, and Ilegal followed suit, rising in the ranks as quickly as their predecessor.

 We sat down with Ilegal Mezcal founder John Rexer to talk about how mezcal has been taking the American bar scene by storm. "People may think there is a mezcal boom, and that this all happened very fast,” Rexer said. “But in truth, this is more like the proverbial 10- to 20-year overnight success. There are so many great little brands who have been plugging at this for years, working to do things in a sustainable and thoughtful way. ‘Poco a poco’ meaning little by little, as commonly said in Mexico.”


To learn more about mezcal, read on.