Cinco de Mayo: Raise a glass with a fine tequila or mezcal

Contrary to popular belief, Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican Independence Day. That is 16 September, and commemorates the 1810 call to arms which led to the expulsion of the Spanish. It is in fact an annual remembrance of Mexico’s 1862 defeat of the Second French Empire, although today it is more a general celebration of Mexican culture, particularly its fine heritage for agave spirits.

As Britain moves beyond the era of tequila slammers, the growing respectability of agave-based spirits has been accompanied by increased variety and availability. There are more than 200 species of agave that can be turned into mezcals, and once you start going down the rabbit hole, you’re not going to want to stop. So if you’re planning to raise a glass this Cinco de Mayo, here are some delicious and varied options that you might want to try:

El Destilado Sierra Negra Mezcal (Release 4)

El Destilado partners with small distilleries using different varieties of agave, to demonstrate the effects of terroir and ancestral production methods. They offer unique, never to be repeated, small batch releases; some of which yield as few as seventy half-litre bottles. These limited editions, using hard-to-find species of agave, are intended to show the ephemeral nature of each spirit, and spur mezcal lovers to become collectors. 

Their Sierra Negra mezcal is made in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca, with a locally sourced agave that has a growth cycle of 15 years – twice the time that it takes most Blue Weber Agave to grow. Peachy, but earthy, it has a pleasant minerality throughout.

£54.75, buy it here

Derrumbes Michoacan

Derrumbes does not make mezcal. It is a brand that partners with small producers from different regions of Mexico, enabling them to sell their products in the global spirits market. The mezcals are made with locally available agave varieties, using traditional methods, baking the agave in underground pits, with some crushing the pinas by hand. 

This mezcal, from the western coastal state of Michoacan, is made with Cupreata and Alto agave, and distilled in traditional Filipino wooden stills. Barbecue smoke is balanced by crisp flavours of green apples and fresh cut grass.

£69.75, buy it here

Maestro Dobel 50 – 1970 Extra Anejo Tequila

Established by Juan Domingo Beckmann – whose family has owned Jose Cuervo for 11 generations – Maestro Dobel are innovators in the field of tequila. They were the first company to release a Cristalino Tequila; a blend of aged spirits that are charcoal filtered to remove the colour, and appeal to consumers in the expanding market for white spirits. 

The latest in a series launched in 2017, Maestro Dobel 50 – 1970 is an eight-year-old Extra Anejo, which has been finished in French oak barrels that previously held Amarone, a famously intense Italian red wine. The result is a complex blend of tropical fruit flavours, and wood spice, with a bitter-sweet finish. Only 50 bottles were released in the UK market, so limited stock remains.

• £2,200 (1,750ml), buy it here

MayaJules Mezcal Artesanal Mezcal

MayaJules is named for its founder, Jules Marhol – who comes from a background of high-end hospitality in Las Vegas, LA and New York – but also for Mayahuel, a pre-Columbian goddess associated with agave plants, fertility and maternity. 

MayaJules is a unique blend of three different mezcals purchased from artisanal distillers, most of whom are women. The components are 81 per cent from sustainably farmed Espadin, 15 per cent from foraged Tobala, and 4 per cent from foraged Tobasiche. Apple and floral notes predominate, with a gentle background smoke. Perfect for Cinco de Mayo.

£120, buy it here

Mi Campo Reposado Tequila

Mi Campo is Tequila for oenophiles. Even their blanco is rested for a month in Napa Valley Chardonnay casks, to round out its flavour. Blue Weber Agave is gently pressed to lessen the bitter flavours that you might find in tequilas made using more destructive methods to extract the plant’s sugars. The resulting liquid is fermented in the open, surrounded by citrus trees, before it is double-distilled. The Reposado then spends three months in a combination of Napa Valley Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon French oak casks, where it develops a lustrous golden colour, and a sweet, rich, fruity, butterscotch flavour, with a peppery tail.

£43.95, buy it here

Mijenta Anejo Tequila

Mijenta is the first Tequila producer to obtain BCorp status, using sustainably sourced Blue Weber agave from Jalisco. Maestra Tequilera Ana Maria Romero studied 750 Tequila brands, and identified 600 individual flavours and aromas as she developed her own spirit. While their unaged blanco has delicate flavours of melon and cinnamon, it really benefits from cask maturation. Their Gran Reserva, which spends a minimum of 18 months in a combination of ex-Bourbon American white oak, French oak, French acacia, and cherry wood casks, is immediately accessible to whisky-lovers, with deeper levels of spice, nutty creme caramel, and a hint of cherries.

£152, buy it here

Ojo de Dios Hibiscus Mezcal

Ojo de Dios (ODD) is a mezcal made in Oaxaca, by third-generation mezcalero Francisco Ortiz, and blended by Cynthia Villalobos and Citlali Velazquez. 

In addition to their Joven (unaged) Mezcal, and a version blended with locally produced coffee, ODD has made a world-first, hibiscus-infused mezcal. Capturing the essence of agua fresca de Jamaica – the spiced, hibiscus flower cordial that is one of Mexico’s most popular non-alcoholic beverages – the tart, almost cranberry, taste of hibiscus flowers accentuate the pineapple and sweet fruit flavours of the spirit, making ODD Hibiscus Mezcal great to drink on its own, and perfect for reinterpreting tiki cocktails.

£39.99, buy it here

Quiquiriqui Pechuga Con Mole Mezcal

One of the most intriguing types of mezcal are pechugas. Initially these were made by hanging a chicken breast inside the still, on the assumption this would create a more flavoursome, fuller-bodied spirit (“pechuga” means breast, in Spanish). However, in recent times, recipes have become more extravagant. 

For instance, a collaboration between the mezcal-makers Del Maguey and Spanish chef Jose Andres resulted in an expression involving Iberico ham. Rather than using meat, Quiquiriqui’s Pechuga Con Mole Mezcal is made by infusing their Espadin spirit with a homemade black mole (a saucy marinade typically including smoked chilis, nuts, seeds, dried fruits, spices, and chocolate) before re-distillation. The flavours of the mole carry over, with wildly satisfying effect. Ideal for Cinco de Mayo.

£69.25, buy it here


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