Whiskey may get most of the attention this time of year, but tequila and mezcal should absolutely have a place on your holiday table as the spirits are more complex than just for margaritas on a summer day.
Whether you’re considering a crisp, herbaceous blanco tequila, a rich and warming añejo, a smoky mezcal, or anything in between, the great agave spirits of Mexico have the potential to pair perfectly with the richer foods of the season and to elevate an otherwise familiar meal to new heights.
Here are 17 of our favorites for you to add to your table, bar cart or give as gifts this year. In no particular order, we listed them alphabetically.
1800 Reserva Tequila Cristalino Añejo
With a bit of Port wine cask-finishing, this is a fantastic cristalino añejo, showing a decidedly plush texture that flashes with banana bread, roasted marshmallows, and vanilla pot de crème, all finishing with a subtle hint of roasted fennel bulb. Wonderful example of the style, and the sweetness makes it dangerously easy to sip…or gulp.
Avión Reserva 44 Tequila Extra Añejo
So much more subtle on the nose than I expected, with elegant suggestions of spiced vanilla, leather, and cigar tobacco that all precede a beautifully spiced palate whose deeply savory character rings through with forest floor, leather, tobacco, and preserved and dried citrus fruit: Excellent consistency between the aromatics and the flavors. This aged for 43 months in barrel before being transferred for a final month in a small one, which increases the ratio of wood to tequila.
Bozal Mezcal Artesanal Cenizo Single Maguey
Part of Bozal’s fantastic single maguey line, the Cenizo absolutely sings with gently smoky notes that carry a distinct sweetness, as well as flashes of tropical fruits—dried papaya most prominent among them—and then savory, smoky flavors of grilled sausage, toasted fennel seeds, and smoldering cigar tobacco, as well as a hint of brown butter and bananas foster, finishing with lingering notes of toasted chestnuts and cocoa powder.
Casamigos Tequila Reposado
Bottled after seven months of wood aging, this is available in standard 750ml bottles as well as one-liter packaging, which is a good thing: Once you start drinking, it’s hard to stop. This is plush and generous on the nose, with aromas reminiscent of slow-cooked honey, chocolate, and singed mint, all teeing up flavors of vanilla crème brûlée, orange creamsicle, caramel, milk chocolate, and a touch of nut-flecked nougat. So generous, and with a texture of pure velvet.
Casa Noble Tequila Joven
Bottled at 102 proof following a six-week stint in barrels, this is subtly kissed with vanilla aromatics that precede a velvety palate swirling with singed vanilla, carob, black-bean mochi (unexpectedly enough), and a touch of citrus pith. Fascinating and delicious.
Cenote Tequila Cristalino Añejo
This is a very pure expression of cristalino, with the drying texture of oak tannins through the finish, making it uniquely well-suited to pairing with food. Flavors of spice, preserved citrus, mineral in an almost chalky vein, and hard apples are lifted with cinnamon and allspice.
Cincoro Tequila Añejo
A sweeter style that carries it off beautifully. Palate-coating flavors of nougat, brown-sugar caramel, cinnamon-spiced hot chocolate, and grilled nectarines have heft and balance. This was aged in ex-Kentucky bourbon barrels for 24 – 28 months, and that time is deliciously evident. A Bourbon-lovers tequila…and the bottle itself is utterly gorgeous.
El Mayór Tequila Reposado
Reminiscent of sweet fig pudding as soon as you sniff this, with a touch of honey-coated almonds, all preceding flavors of vanilla and fresh-picked peppermint. There is a spine of minerality running through it all, providing excellent linearity to the structure. Aged for a minimum of nine months in barrels.
El Sativo Single Estate Tequila Blanco
Certified Kosher and USDA Organic, this blanco has a deliciously fresh minty note, with hints of chamomile and citrus that resolve in a subtly herbaceous and vaguely spicy finish. An excellent blanco.
Espanita Auténtico Tequila Añejo
Bottled after an 18-month trip through oak, this boasts fantastic aromas of Amarena cherries, candied oranges, and cooked brown sugar, all setting up a palate of remarkable energy and lightness despite its extended aging, with gently charred marshmallows, candied orange peels, the suggestion of dried lavender, and a hint of earthiness anchoring it all.
Exótico Tequila Blanco
Crafted from agave grown in the clay-rich, red-tinged soils of the Jalisco highlands, this unexpectedly affordable tequila boasts herbal, subtly floral flavors that finish with notes of chamomile and peppercorn spice.
Insólito Tequila Reposado
Crafted from 80% Highlands and 20% Lowlands agave, and then aged for six to 10 months in American oak barrels, this reposado is sweet on the nose, with vanilla and caramel setting the stage for a decidedly fruity palate— grapefruit and orange, primarily — that resolve in a delicate, slightly herb-tinged finish. An easy sipping tequila that will also do well in cocktails.
Lobos de Sangre Azul Tequila Extra Añejo PX
This remarkable expression was aged for three years in white oak before a final 12 months in ex-PX Sherry casks, which has given it a beguiling sweetness on the nose that finds an excellent counterpoint in dried orange peels and cigar humidor. On the palate, it has vivid concentration and a great balance between roasted agave notes alongside sweet spice, dried tropical fruits, and a hint of incense and caramel on the finish.
Partida Tequila Cristalino Añejo
I absolutely love the sweet and gently toasty spice on the nose here: It’s both assertive and elegant at the same time. This is a uniquely savory, almost funky expression of the style, and whereas many of the other ones highlight the sweeter characteristics, this cristalino anejo leans more heavily on the savory, almost briny notes of oyster shells, citrus pith, roasted bananas, and crunchy autumn fruit, with a hint of golden raisins that sweeten up the spicy finish, itself marked by Szechuan peppercorns and apricot pits.
Roca Patrón Tequila Añejo
The Roca Patrón line is crafted from agave that’s crushed using a volcanic tahona stone wheel, which extracts a deep range of flavors. A creamy yet assertively structured texture is flecked with flamed orange oils, coffee, allspice, cinnamon stick, floral Szechuan peppercorn, and subtle toastiness.
Tres Agaves Organic Tequila Blanco
This USDA Certified Organic tequila is crafted from agave grown in Amatitán, in the Tequila Valley. Assertive, impeccably balanced flavors of hard pears and sweet spices linger with persistence on the palate for nearly a minute after it’s sipped. Cocktail-friendly, but just as rewarding on its own.
Vamonos Riendo Mezcal Artesanal Joven
A blend of mezcals from both Espadín and Tobalá, this is a plush-textured spirit, more fruit-forward than expected, with subtle notes of smoked honey and orange blossoms, as well as bright citrus flavors joined by a touch of caramel drizzle, cinnamon, and honeydew melon. It’s a great mezcal to begin to learn about and appreciate the category, yet it still has enough complexity to be joyous for connoisseurs, too.