Most mezcals never leave Mexico, and many never make it out of Oaxaca; to taste the best, go to the source. Oaxaca City has seen a rush of new mezcal bars. Max Garrone, of Mezcalistas.com, helps you find the right match.
For the aficionado
It’s a little funky and doesn’t seat more than 15, but In Situ is a pilgrimage site for any mezcal fan. Owners Sandra Ortiz Brena and Ulises Torrentera’s approach to mezcal is poetic, even spiritual. insitumezcaleria.com
For a crash course
With a dark-wood bar and green-glass reading lamps, Mezcaloteca looks like a bar-meets-library. Which is exactly what’s intended. Bottles are tidily labeled with agave type and production details, and bartenders speak perfect English, so it’s easy to learn as you sip. Make a reservation for a seat at the bar. mezcaloteca.com
For a scene
Lively newcomer Mezcalogía pours mezcal made by owner Asis Cortés himself, as well as many others. Straight sips are fine, but Bobby Baker, a bartender recruited from San Francisco, also mixes them with twists of local fruit, bits of exotic herbs, even insects, for the full-on cocktail treatment. Calle Garcia Vigil
To order a good mezcal...
Ask: Could I have a sip of tobalá?
Why: Tobalá is a type of agave that traditionally grew wild in Oaxaca. These days, it’s pretty rare and a totally different taste from any other mezcal you’ll try.
Ask: Can you give me a taste of your favorite espadín from Oaxaca?
Why: This type of agave is so common, some people think it’s boring. But mezcal types know it can yield wildly different flavors, and they’ll always pour you something interesting.