The “It” Beverage of The Summer of 2018

It’s official. Now that we’re in the thick of the summer of 2018 we can indeed call it: The beverage of the season is, drum roll please, the canned cocktail. This ready-to-drink format has taken not just our store, but the whole country by storm. Seems gazillions of you have taken a shine to these little aluminum canisters and the well-made, thoughtful, delicious drinks inside of them. And you’re taking them to your porches, your decks, stoops, parks, beaches and boats in record numbers.

Producers of many leading brands have rushed their versions of canned cocktails to market, which has unfortunately resulted in a glut of questionable offerings that deliver less quality and more hangover. Our team has tasted so many of them this season that they’ve lost track. But what we haven’t lost track of is our drive to separate the bad from the good, to find the tastiest, well-crafted, most fun versions of this super popular format for you.

Here are 11 we’ve added to our shelves and coolers over the past month that we just love. Most are new, others are so good we’re calling them the classics already.

Sons of Liberty Loyal 9 Blueberry Lemonade
Yep, our pals from just down the road took their incredibly popular vodka lemonade and made it more New-England-Summer by adding blueberry to the mix. It’s a touch lower in alcohol than the straight lemonade version and we love love love its refreshing, winning style.
$11.99 / 4pk
$2.99 / single

Half-Seas Sparkling Cocktails
Serious cocktail aficionados will find much to love in this line of premium bubbles made by the team behind the popular Seattle-based Scrappy’s Bitters. Each offering is made with real distilled spirits, pure cane syrup and natural flavors. They’re solid cocktails, and are as tasty as the day is long.

Half-Seas Bramble
The original Bramble cocktail was created in London in the 1980s and is a mashup of dry London gin, tart citrus and juicy berries. This sparkling version pays tribute to the OG recipe and adds a touch of effervescence for a delightful tingle. It’s an incredibly balanced, dry, adult cocktail in a fun-sized format.
$15.99 / 4pk
$4.49 / single

Half-Seas Daiquiri
The Daiquiri is arguably one of the most well-known cocktails in the world, and this canned sparkling version remains true to the original ingredients, with white rum, tart limes, sweet pure cane sugar, and the added twist of effervescence. It’s refreshing – and the only way it could possibly be easier to enjoy would be if we drank it for you. Which we’re happy to do.
$15.99 / 4pk
$4.49 / single

Half-Seas Paloma
A mix the finest Mexican tequila with Half-Seas’ own all-natural, refreshing grapefruit soda, pure cane syrup, and zesty lime make this a not-to-be missed summer treat. Bring on a platter of fish tacos, please!
$15.99 / 4pk
$4.49 / single

Bravazzi Blood Orange Hard Italian Soda
Inspired by the iconic Italian fruit sodas, these hard versions are made with lots of amore and nothing artificial. They’re bright, fizzy and fruity thanks to real fruit juice and natural cane sugar. One sip and you’ll feel as if you’re on the Amalfi Coast!
$8.99 / 6pk
$2.25 / single

Joia Sparkling Greyhound
Come on, folks. There’s so much to love here. Premium vodka with all-natural grapefruit, chamomile and cardamom. This bubbly cocktail is low in sugar and calories if that sort of thing matters to you. If it doesn’t, drink it because it’s really, really, tasty.
$12.99 / 4pk
$3.99 / single

Monaco Cocktails
And for something a bit different – you can’t go wrong with the $2.99-a-pop Monaco cocktails given the pure amount of flavor punch packed into each can.

Monaco Mango Peach
This is a sweet and easy treat for a hot day. Freshly pressed mango juice flavor is blended with two shots of peach vodka. Nothing cerebral – and nothing wrong – with that!
$2.99 / single

Monaco Tequila Lime Crush
100% blue agave tequila and fresh lime flavors. Nothing more. Nothing less.
$2.99 / single

Monaco Citrus Rush
They say it’s like an adult energy drink. We say why not. It’s vodka infused with citrus & vanilla flavors for a sweet kick and a smooth finish.
$2.99 / single

Fishers Island Lemonade
So though it’s not technically new to our shelves (we’ve carried it for the past several seasons), this can deserves a spot on this list because it delivers, year after year, a super refreshing, slightly sweet, slightly tart bang for your buck. Is $5 a lot for one can? We don’t think so, when you consider each can contains the equivalent of two well-made cocktails. Enjoy with care: it’s scrumptious flavor packs a high-alcohol wallop.
$14.99 / 4pk
$4.99 / single

Ramona Ruby Grapefruit Spritz
This wine-based cocktail made its debut at Bottles last year, but we’re including it here because it’s terrific an a no-brainer for delicious summer fun. It’s an organic ruby red grapefruit wine spritzer that all the cool kids with great taste are drinking. It’s dry and balanced and refreshing – and look at that spectacular packaging!
$19.99 / 4pk
$5.49 / single

Cheers & enjoy!

prices subject to change

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What’s In The Bottle? A Key To The Symbols You’ll Find On Product Tags Storewide.

It’s an exciting time to be in the beverage industry, especially for our team of buyers who are very cognizant about the quality of what they consume, and the care with which it is crafted. More and more delicious and affordable offerings made using methods that are gentle to the earth – and our bodies – are available to us in Lil’ Rhody. So many in fact that we can’t just relegate them to one small area of the store anymore. That’s why you’ll find new symbols on all of our product tags storewide that communicate various characteristics about how each bottle was made. Here’s what to look for as you browse our shelves:

It’s our hope that the new symbols will lead you to new finds and will help you drink better. Cheers to that!

Our Favorite Bottle For Spritzing

If it’s summer at Bottles you can be sure we’re spritzing. We’re taking a few of our favorite bottles, mixing them with seltzer or sparkling wine, pouring them over ice in a big wine glass and enjoying the good life.

For the fizz in our spritzers this year, we’re turning to the Anno Domini 47 Prosecco, aka the AD47. It’s a beautiful bottle we brought in a few months back and one that has already become a store best-seller. It’s made from organically-grown grapes, is light and bubbly but also incredibly round, smooth and creamy, without a bitterness that some prosecco has. It’s incredibly drinkable and fantastic on its own, though priced gently enough ($13.99) to be used as the frizzante that you’ll need in your spritz.

Last year our wine director Melissa visited the winery where the AD47 is made, in the Treviso region of Veneto, about 40 minutes north of Venice. (Check out the darling little glera grapes on the vines, below.) There she learned that the wine is named after the year in which construction ended on the Claudius Augustus, one of the most important Roman roads, and along which much of the winery’s vineyards grow.

The packaging is a knock-out too: A simple and elegant label paired with the traditional prosecco closure of a straight-sided cork and string (spago). To open, simply remove the string and gently but firmly use a corkscrew to withdraw the cork. Although prosecco doesn’t have as much pressure in the bottle as does Champagne, you should always take care when opening bubbles, and always be sure you’re opening a chilled bottle.

To make a spritz of your own, here’s our Spritzer 101 guide, with recipes and inspiration.

Happy Summer!

price subject to change

 

Our Top 7 Bottles For Father’s Day

Ties are great, as are fancy socks and “Best Dad Ever” plaques. But if your dad partakes in a quality drink now and again, why not get him something he’ll really enjoy? Like, say, a bottle of artisanal mezcal, or a special Irish Gin, or a fancy ready-to-drink cocktail. Here are the seven unique bottles that we think would make terrific gifts this Father’s Day, some paired with tasty cigars by our resident stogie expert, Don.

Happy Father’s Day to Don and all you Pops out there!

Gunpowder Irish Gin
So this is interesting – it’s an Irish gin with a wonderful mix of citrus and botanicals. It’s great for the G&T-drinking dad who’s looking for something new for the summer.  $34.99, 750ml

Hazelburn 10yr Scotch
This great bottle hails from the great Campbeltown region in Scotland.  Scotches from here tend to have a unique character and style that appeal to a broad range of scotch drinkers.  It is for this reason that it makes the quintessential Scotch Gift For Dad, as it is sure to fall somewhere on his own personal spectrum of tastiness! $79.99, 750ml

Old Forester Mint Julep
The Derby may be long over, and we even have a new Triple Crown winner, but that doesn’t mean we can’t find a new excuse to give a delicious treat!  This premade cocktail comes in a liter bottle and only needs a bit of ice and a hammock to make for Dad’s perfect lazy afternoon. $24.99, 1 liter

Rough Rider Straight Bourbon
If Dad is a bourbon drinker, he may love this new release that has a bit of muscle too it, along with a pleasantly smooth finish.  And Dad can even wax poetic about his favorite random Teddy Roosevelt story after reading about this whisky’s connection to the original Rough Rider. $
34.99, 750ml

Don recommends the Montecristo #2 Pepe Mendes as a perfect pairing with this bottle. It’s full-bodied, from the Dominican Republic. $16.99

Marca Negra Mezcal
If you’re looking to give Dad something other than brown liquor this year, give a quality mezcal a chance!  Smooth and smoky, Marca Negra is a show stopper. If Dad is a cocktail fan try substituting this for whisky or gin! $74.99 750ml

Don recommends the Sam Cristobal Revelation as a terrific partner for the mezcal. It’s $9.99.

Santa Teresa 1796
A true work of time and art, this Solera Rum is a blend of many aged barrels, including some that are 30 years old. Though this is a common way that Sherry is made, it’s relatively new to the rum game. The result is a perfectly smooth and pleasantly sweet rum that is just what should be in Dad’s glass as he sips an after dinner toast! $44.99, 750ml

Peerless Rye
Possibly one of the best ryes we’ve every tried, this one is definitely tailored for the Dad who is a ‘Rye-Guy.’  It’s an investment for sure, but let’s be honest with ourselves… we’ve all cost Pop waaaay more aggravation than it’s worth over the years – maybe you should by two? $
124.99, 750ml

Don recommends the Oliva Serie O’Perfecto from Nicaragua with this rye. It’s $7.99.

Cheers!

prices subject to change

A Fabulous “40 Ounce” French Wine

We were a touch skeptical too – after all, it’s our job to be. Our shelf space and your palate are too precious for us to give in to every pretty label that walks in the door. We need to have solid reasons to bring in bottles: just having great packaging is not one of them.

Which is why we were thrilled that the 40 Ounce Rosé had some serious chops to back up its super clever, ironic packaging. The twist-off-topped large format bottle primarily known for holding the cheap buzz that is malt liquor (mass-produced, highly sweet, high alcohol content, get-drunk-fast swill) contains precisely the opposite: the wine is made from high-quality gamay, merlot, cabernet franc and pineau d’aunis grapes grown sustainably in France’s Muscadet and Touraine regions; it’s light, dry, delicious and fun, and at just 12.5% ABV, it will not numb your brain after a sip or two.

Though it was available last year in only a few large states, it was an immediate internet sensation, selling out before the summer was over.  We’re happy to say it’s now available in our little but mighty region. And we have it at $17.99 for the bottle, while supplies last.

Cheers & Enjoy!

price subject to change

Our Top 9 Rosés, Part II

Last week we shared with you five of our favorite rosés that have arrived thus far in 2018. (We also shared our POV on the so-called “Rosé Season.” If you’re confused about when you should drink rosé, give it a read.)  

This week we present the remaining four of the earliest-arriving bottles that are now atop our list. Some are new to our shelves, others will be easily recognizable to our rosé regulars: They’re the classics that once again with this vintage, proved their worth. Chateau Montaud
Provence, France
Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Tibouren
It’s a year-over-year classic and staff favorite with good reason: the Montaud is a dry rosé-drinker’s dream! It’s light with fruit and spice notes and finishes with hints of peaches and stone fruits. Get a bottle for the night, or a box for the weekend. You’re welcome.
1 Bottle (750ml): $12.99  3L Box (as shown: that’s 4 bottles, folks): $27.99

 

Bodini
Mendoza, Argentina
Malbec
Bright, shiny and clean, the Bodini bursts with cherry and strawberry aromas and subtle notes of spice and pepper. It has a touch more body when compared to super light styles, and finishes with a fresh, balanced acidity. It’s a terrific pick for those just starting to drink the pink.
$10.99

 

Honoro Vera
Jumilla, Spain
Tempranillo, Syrah
This is another year-after-year store best-seller — and not just because of that super-cool label. It’s a beautifully crisp, salmon colored rosé with mild watermelon rind aromas, and bright strawberry and cherry flavors. It’s a juicy sip of the weather we’ve been waiting for all winter, and what one of our regulars calls “a rosé party in my mouth!”
$12.99

 

Peyrassol “#LOU”
Provence, France
Cinsault, Grenache, Syrah
It’s baaaack…this was the runaway hit for us last spring/summer and this year’s bottling is just as tasty. Think white flower blossoms, peach and light berry fruits, with a good though not overpowering acidity, and a spicy minerality on the finish. Then think about how much fun you’ll have drinking it. This was one of the bottles that sold out fast last year – be sure to stock up!
$14.99

Stay tuned over the next few weeks as we share more of our favorites as they arrive.

Cheers & enjoy!

Prices subject to change

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Our Top 9 Rosés, Part I

OK, let’s start with a fact: Despite what the mainstream media, your Instagram feed and your Aunt Jenny are putting out there, this is not the start of Rosé Season. There isn’t anything in the official anything anywhere stating that rosé can only be sipped in the warmer, sunny, cheerful season. There’s no “Rosé Rule” that, like the No White After Labor Day silliness, applies to pink wine. Rosé is one of the most versatile styles in the history of wine, and pairs remarkably well with pretty much anything you can throw at it – cold weather and winter fare included.

That said.

What spring does represent is the start of Rosé Arrival Season. It’s when the fresh new batches of rosés made with fruit from the previous year’s harvest are released to us at Bottles, to offer to you. It’s when we get to taste hundreds of new vintages to decide which we think you’ll fall in love with over the coming year, whether enjoyed on your porch on a sweltering July night, or with your family over Thanksgiving dinner.

This year’s feat of selecting was harder than ever, what with the increasing oceans of rosé being produced all over the world. We do our best to bring you the best of the new, while still making available the classics that prove themselves worthy of our precious shelf space — and your wallet — year after year.

A reminder: for many rosés, this Arrival Season is fleeting. Some are made in miniscule batches, meaning once they’re sold out, they’re gone for the year. So if you spark to one bottle in particular, check with our team on its availability so that you can squirrel some away for your November turkey feast.

Here’s a look at five of the rosés that made our short list from the early arrivals:

Domaine Houchart
Provence, France
Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Mourvedre
This is one of the “now you see it, now you don’t” rosés: It’s one of the first to arrive, and because it’s made in incredibly small quantities and is just delicious, it’ll be one of the first to sell out. It has a spicy acidity, ripe cherry and raspberry flavors, and finishes with a touch of white pepper. Get it now while the getting is good.
$13.99

Radley & Finch
West Cape, South Africa
Cinsault
A super easy-drinking, bright and fresh rosé with undertones of a juicy fruit salad. Its acid level is pretty low, which makes it very crowd friendly and a perfect introduction to rosé for those new to the style.
$10.99

Casa Americo
Dao, Portugal
Tinta Roriz, Alfrocheiro
We’re calling it: this is going to be the sleeper hit of the season. It’s new to Bottles and not yet on the industry’s radar screen, which is why we’re able to offer it at such a great price. It’s lively and refreshing like a bowl of ripe raspberries. It has lovely wildflower aromas, too.
$8.99 (yep. $8.99)

Barnard Griffin
Columbia Valley, Washington
Rosé of Sangiovese
This new-to-Bottles bottle won a huge rosé award last year on the West Coast (The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition), so we’re thrilled that it’s made its way to us this year. It’s dry, packed with fresh watermelon, pomegranate, cranberry and citrus flavors, and backed by a lip-smacking acidity. It’s made from Italy’s most famous grape — sangiovese, the main grape in Chianti — so it’s no surprise that it pairs beautifully with a bowl of spring pasta, enjoyed on the porch.
$13.99

Massaya
Beqaa Valley, Lebanon
Cinsault, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon
You’ll be hearing lots from us soon about this really amazing Lebanese winery in the Beqaa Valley. For now, though, trust us that this beautiful bottle will charm you to no end. It’s full of ripe summery strawberry fruit with subtle spice notes, and satisfies with a dry, crisp finish.
$18.99

Tune in next week for Part II when we share the remaining four rosés that are among our favorites this year.

Cheers!

All prices subject to change

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A Rosé Cocktail For The Derby

Derby Day is almost upon us which means diehard fans are dusting off their julep tins, fancy hats, and lyric sheets to My Old Kentucky Home. Though we don’t have anything against the classic Mint Julep – the unofficial cocktail of The Kentucky Derby – we’re mixing things up a bit this year and will be drinking a julep-inspired cocktail that uses two of our favorite seasonal beverages: rosé and cider.

We stumbled upon this version a few weeks back when we joined our pals at The East End for a private tour of Boston Beer Company. It’s made from Angry Orchard’s Rosé Cider (new this year and flying off the shelves) and is simple and beautiful and delicious:
Rosé Julep
(makes 1 julep tin full)

.5 oz bourbon
.5 oz creme de cassis
.5 oz simple syrup
6-8 mint leaves
4-5 oz Angry Orchard Rosé Cider
crushed ice

Muddle the mint in the bottom of a julep tin. Add the remaining ingredients, then fill the tin with crushed ice. Garnish with a lavish mint bouquet, and you’re off!

Happy Derby Day from all of us at Bottles + The East End!

Team Bottles + The East End at Boston Beer Company in March 2018

10 Mezcals: Our Current Favorites

Last week we dove headfirst into mezcal with the hopes of getting you as passionate about the spirit as we are. This week we’re hoping to help you put your new knowledge into practice by sharing 10 of our current favorite bottles, all stunning expressions of the art, tradition and skill that goes into artisanal mezcal making. Take one or two or more home and taste them side-by-side for a truly instructive (and really, really delicious) tasting experience.

Del Maguey produces spectacular single village mezcals, all with very distinct personalities. The “Minero Santa Catarina Minas” is made in a region of Oaxaca that’s only accessible via a small mountain pass, using clear, clean water and well-fertilized pinas that make this bottling extraordinarily approachable. It has mellow flavors of vanilla, fig, charred honey and a hint of lemon – just delicious. $69.99

The Del Maguey “Vida de San Luis del Rio” is an excellent, soft, versatile and user-friendly mezcal made by mezcalero Marcos Cruz Mendez in Oaxaca. The Espadin agave is roasted over a wood burning pit, which lends a complex array of flavors that include honey, vanilla, ginger, cinnamon, burnt sandalwood, banana, and tangerine. A terrific gift for a mezcal newbie, it’s suitable for sipping on the rocks or for cocktails. $34.99

Made by mezcalero Espiridion Morales Luis and his son, Del Maguey’s “Santo Domingo Albarradas” comes from a lush, tropical region in southern Oaxaca similar in many ways to parts of Hawaii. It’s light, with lots of pear and spicy wood notes, with a clean and dry finish. This is the mezcal to pick when you’re looking for something that’s more elegant and refined, but not too dear. Great for sipping either neat or with a single cube. $69.99

Bozal’s “Cuixe.” Sure, it’s a great looking bottle (really) but it’s more than just a pretty package. Cuixe is a very tall, very fibrous agave, which the mezcaleros roast over a wood burning pit. Its flavor profile is a balancing act between fresh and tropical fruit flavors, and earthy, piney, starchy ones. And at this easy price (for a mezcal) it’s a great starting point for those looking to explore. $59.99

The Bozal “Castilla” is made from the Castilla agave, which is a close cousin to Espadin, but is smaller and harder to find. The piñas used in the making of this bottle were harvested deep in the Oaxacan valley, in San Juan Bautista Jayacatlan, and contribute a lush, fruity, tropical nose to an otherwise austere mezcal. It finishes with notes of mint, mocha, and subtle smoke. $89.99

If you’re really into mezcal, grab a bottle Bozal’s “Coyote” while it’s here. It’s extremely subtle and beguiling, with a rich minerality and marked dark chocolate/cocoa notes. It finishes dry and balanced and wants nothing more than an ice cube to liven up. It’s made in Sola de Vega, Oaxaca, in very minute quantities. Very special. $89.99

The Alipus mezcals highlight the regions and terroir of their origins. The San Andreas, made by Don Valente Angel Garcia Juarez in Miahualtan, Oaxaca, is the most well known, with a bright and fragrant Espadin agave characteristic, backed up with a piquant alcohol kick. It’s a very food-friendly mezcal: The bold flavors stand up well to grilled or roasted meats, veggies and spicy dishes. $44.99

This “San Juan” is the smokiest Alipus. San Juan del Rio is made from Espadin grown high in the Oaxacan mountains where it is very dry, by mezcalero Don Joel Cruz. It’s another bold offering, with subtle fruity agave notes balanced by a rich, mouth-coating smokiness. This is the mezcal for that Scotch drinker you know who refuses to try anything but Scotch. $44.99

The Pierde Almas “Dobadaan” is the bottle for the super fan. It’s the only commercially available Dobadaan (a variety of agave) that we know of, and it’s extremely rare. It’s made in San Baltazar by Alfonso Sanchez and Gregorio Velasco. The aroma is of a smoldering autumn leaf fire, smoky and rich, with stewed fruit flavors and a finish of clove and sandalwood. $84.99

Here it is. The King Of The Agave. Tobala is grown in the wild, and yields ridiculously low harvests. A mezcal made from Tobala is something to be prized and savored. Do yourself a favor – if you’re into mezcal, put this El Jolgorio Tobala on your bucket list. It’s made by Gregorio Garcia, Gregorio Hernandez, Valentin Cortes in Oaxaca’s Santiago Matatlan and is worth every penny. Trust us. $124.99

To learn more about mezcal, stay tuned into our newsletter, where we’ll be announcing our May schedule of mezcal tastings. We’ll be opening up a new bottle or more each Thursday in May 2018. We hope to see you in store!

prices subject to change

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All About Mezcal

At the time of this writing, mezcal is undeniably the hottest spirit amongst true cocktail aficionados. The demand for quality mezcal is growing, specialized mezcal bars are sprouting up in cities around the globe, and more and more premium brands making their way to our shores from Mexico. Yet there’s still a fair amount of confusion around what mezcal is, and why it is costs so much.

Simply put: Good mezcal ain’t cheap, and cheap mezcal ain’t good. Read on to find out what mezcal is, and why the good stuff is absolutely worth exploring and enjoying.

What is mezcal and how does it differ from tequila?

Mezcal is a category of spirits made from a distillate of fermented agave that comes from any of the 10 Mexican states listed above.

Mexico’s more famous spirit, tequila, is a type of mezcal that can be made only in the five states of Nayarit, Tamaulipas, Guanajuato, Michoacán, and  Jalisco. That said, 90+% of all tequila comes from Jalisco.

Different species of agave, climates, production methods, and other factors all contribute to the myriad differences between between individual mezcals and between tequila and mezcal, but very simply put:

  • tequila can ONLY be made from the “Blue” agave (agave tequilana).
  • the piñas (the harvested heart of the agave plant – it looks like a pineapple) used in tequila production are pressure cooked inside a giant industrial oven and often distilled in larger industrial-scale stills with large production capability.
  • mezcal, on the other hand,  can be made from any of the 50+ known species of agave, including “Blue,” although 90+% of all mezcal is made from Espadín (agave angustifolia).
  • piñas for mezcal are most often cooked in earthen pits (less often in rustic brick ovens) over mesquite or other hardwood. In some instances, these ovens are lined with volcanic rock or some vegetation to separate the piñas from the fire.
  • mezcals are distilled in extremely small clay or earthen stills, sometimes copper, often with rudimentary cooling and filtration systems.

In terms of how these production differences translate into flavor, you’ll find that steamed, or pressure-cooked tequila is usually a sweeter, mild, and fruity spirit, while the roasted, baked mezcal is much more robust: smoky, earthy, vegetal, and herbal.

What is agave?

Agave is a species of succulent in the asparagus family. A remarkable plant that can thrive in low moisture areas, its use is intrinsically tied to the history of the regions in which it grows. It is an extremely useful plant with edible leaves, flowers, stems, and sap. It has a fibrous core and stiff leaves that are used to make pens, rope, clothing, baskets, musical instruments – the list goes on.  Agave grows wild, abundant, and reliably in Mexico, so it became a natural source for spirit production, as opposed to labor-intensive grains or grapes.

Agave comes in many different shapes and sizes. Some are very large, growing up to 10’ tall and weighing a hundred pounds when harvested, while others grow more like shrubs, and will weigh 5-10 pounds at harvest. Each agave has its own unique life-cycle. Some mature in 5-8 years, others in 7-10 years, still others in 20 years or more. Each agave flowers once, and then dies. This is its natural life-cycle. The cortadors (farmers who cut a harvest agave for the mezcaleros) decide when to arrest this flowering to allow the agave to fill with nectar before harvesting and roasting.

And just like wine grapes, each agave has its own unique flavor characteristics, much like a pinot noir is distinct from a cabernet sauvignon, or a malbec, or a zinfandel, etc., that is influenced by its climate and soil. A sauvignon blanc from France’s Loire Valley will taste very different from the same grape grown in California. In the same way, a mezcal produced from the same Espadín variety will taste very different when grown in the hot, dry desert of Chichicapa as opposed to one made in the lush, tropical forest of Santo Domingo Albarradas.

Why the high price tag?

Quality mezcals are, quite literally, handmade, artisanal products. “Artisanal” is a much overused word in today’s marketing canon, and its meaning has become muddied through repeated use. It bears reminding what “artisanal” means.

According to Miriam-Webster, “artisanal” is defined as:

1: of, relating to, or characteristic of an artisan

2: produced in limited quantities by an artisan through the use of traditional methods

So unlike mass-produced foods easily found in your grocer’s freezer section and the large chain fast-food restaurants who claim to sell “artisanal” products, premium mezcal is absolutely, wholly artisanal. It is made in small batches by a handful of people in an extremely labor-intensive processes under less-than-ideal conditions in the same method that it’s been produced for hundreds of years. Where the cuts on the agave are made, how the pits are dug, how long the agave is roasted, what wood is used to fuel the oven, the temperature at which it’s distilled – all these decisions and many more have been passed down from father to son, grandfather to grandson for generations.

Furthermore, most of the villages where mezcal production takes place are in remote locations, and the agave that is used is often grown dozens if not hundreds of miles away from the village. When you take into account the amount of time it takes for an agave plant to mature, then to be harvested at just the right time, transported to a palenque (the cool name for a mezcal distillery), roasted and tended by hand (the cooking process can sometimes take weeks to complete), mashed either by a giant stone (called a tahona) pulled in a circle by a horse or, more commonly, beaten into a pulp by hand, then distilled twice in super small batches – you can see where the time and effort add up. And we still haven’t gotten the finished spirit bottled, tested and approved by the mezcal authorities (yes, every batch is tested for proof and quality before it can be released), and then transported north to the United States, where tax must be paid…it all adds up.

A good mezcal is going to run you about $35-$40 dollars (note, not a bad mezcal, not a stupendous mezcal, but a solid bottle). For a superior mezcal, you’re looking at closer to $50-$70. And a rare, extraordinary mezcal is going to run you $80 – $100+. (Cheap mezcal is the one with the worm in it and is garbage – we’re not talking about those here.)

A final consideration in expense, and an important one, is the agave used to make the mezcal. As mentioned earlier, most mezcals are made from Espadín. This is because Espadín matures relatively quickly (5-7 years) and has a hefty yield. A single Espadín piña will make about 15 liters of finished spirit. A mezcal made from the small, wild-growing Tobala agave is going to be much more expensive. Tobala takes closer to 25 years to mature, and each piña yields a mere liter. Due to it’s small size and concentration of flavors, Tobala is often referred to as the ‘King of Agave’ because the Mezcals it produces are so darned tasty.

Is Tobala better than Espadín? Is Espadín from southern Oaxaca better than an Espadín made in San Luis Potosi? No! They are merely different, and just like anything else, people like what they like. That doesn’t make them wrong or right, better or worse. Tobala is more expensive because it’s harder to find and produces smaller quantities, but that doesn’t preclude that any mezcal made from Espadín is inferior in any way.

To help you on your road to discovery, we’ll be featuring a variety of mezcals at all price points. This week, we start with the unique and delightful Reyes y Cobardes mezcals, which can give you a sense of the variances in flavor that different regions and agaves can give you.

Their “Cupreata” is made by Don Rafael Cuenca, a fourth-generation mezcalero in Zitlala, Guerrero. It’s an easy and welcoming mezcal, with sweet flavors of lemon, citrus and vanilla, under a soft smoky blanket. At a relatively low 83°, it’s an excellent entryway into the world of mezcal, equally suited to sipping or mixing in a cocktail.
$34.99 (IL) through April 30th. Regularly $39.99

The Reyes y Cobardes “Duragnesis” is made by Don Jorge Garcia, a third generation mezcalero who harvests his own agave off the banks of the river on his family farm in a town with a mere 140 residents. This is an unusual mezcal, with characteristics of wet earth, a touch of funk and a cheesy-aroma which is typical of the Cenizo agave plant. It’s a great starter mezcal, especially if you’re looking to experiment with savory/smoky cocktails.
$34.99 (IL) through April 30th. Regularly $39.99

Tune in next week when we present more of our expanding mezcal selection. And if you want to geek out with us even more, stop in the store anytime to talk with our team members who’ve been bitten by the mezcal bug.

Wherever your exploration takes you, we hope you’re able to try this extraordinary spirit and find something to love. Many who develop a taste for mezcal never look back, and they never drink tequila again!

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prices subject to change