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An expert shares tips on where to find the best mezcal in Oaxaca—and how to properly ask for it in Spanish.

Most mezcals never leave Mexico, and many never make it out of Oaxaca. To taste the best, you have to go to the source: the booming mezcal bars of Oaxaca City.

Here, expert Max Garrone (of Mezcalistas) 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. @MezcalogíaOficial

How to order a good mezcal

Ask: ¿Podría tomar un sorbo de tobalá?
Translation: 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.

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Ask: ¿Puedes darme una muestra de su espadín favorito de Oaxaca?
Translation: 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.

>>Next: The Surprising Stories Behind Your Favorite Tequilas