Here’s Where to Drink Mezcal in Westchester

Tequila’s smoky, exotic relative is making a statement on county menus.



“If you want to drink like a gentleman in Mexico, you drink mezcal. Tequila is for tourists,” said the frequent traveler next to me at Mission Taqueria, which currently has Westchester’s largest mezcal list.

Both spirits are distilled from the hulking, pineapple-like agave heart (piña), harvested only once after seven to 30 years of growth by hacking through the succulent’s serrated leaves with a machete. Tequila can be made only from blue Weber agave, and only in the state of Jalisco and certain bordering areas near the town of Tequila. Mezcal can draw from dozens of varieties (espadín, most commonly) and be made in nine states.

But they part ways in the cooking: tequila pressure-steams these babies in an oven, while for mezcal the agave hearts are buried in a rock-lined pit with wood and charcoal and roasted for days, infusing with trapped smoke before being ground, fermented, and distilled in clay or copper pots. The result: a rich, smoky spirit that has the last word in any cocktail and makes a margarita talk dirty.

National sales of mezcal have septupled over the past decade. Westchester’s been late to the trend, and for this small-batch, often undiluted product, expect to spend extra dinero. Here’s where to get your fix.

 

Mission Taqueria

472 Bedford Rd, Pleasantville; 914.741.5285

Crafting an eclectic, diverse mezcal list was part of the mission of Mission, whose owners worked with a mixologist in Mexico to develop the program. With 17 kinds on hand, it’s worth exploring a few options, including Mezcalosfera Espadin con Cacao, which adds fresh cacao before the third distillation; Rey Campero Tobalá, made with prized, wild tobalá agave (less floral than espadín); unaged Mezcales de Leyenda Joven from several regions; and Illegal Reposado, aged four months. Or, ease in with mixologist Laly Almonte’s cocktails, such as the Orchard Mezcal Negroni (sweet vermouth and a splash of Campari, topped with G.E. Massenez peach liqueur) or the Spicy Señorita with guava purée, fresh jalapeño, lime juice, and agave.

 


Photo by Leslie-Anne Brill

Cantina Lobos

217 Wolf’s Ln, Pelham; 914.380.8644

The $37-a-shot Clase Azul Mezcal, made with hand-milled wild cenizo agave that takes 12 to 15 years to mature, is far and away the most expensive hereabouts. But for that, you’ll hit the presentation jackpot: a clay jug holding the spirit in its dark depths, and the traditional orange slices to dip in chili salt and worm salt, packing an earthy umami all its own. Or get a tasting flight to try some of the restaurant’s 13 mezcals, including the whole Siete Misterios line from eight agave varieties, and 123 Craneo Organic Mezcal. From the cocktail menu, the mezcal paloma is a knockout.

 


Photo by Leslie-Anne Brill

Rye House

126 N Main St, Port Chester; 914.481.8771

If you like it hot, the Texas margarita is your vibe: Vida de San Luis Del Rio organic mezcal with mango, cilantro, and lime juice gets a swift kick from muddled fresh jalapeño and house-made jalapeño and habañero syrups, with a double-salt rim (one side chili salt, one side plain). The whiskey haven offers about five mezcals, including Scorpion Añejo with a scorpion in the bottle, a Food & Wine Best Mezcal Spirit of the Year winner. Its burnt-caramel character opens up over happy hour plates, including a Best Of Westchester truffle grilled cheese.

 


Photo by Leslie-Anne Brill

Sonora

179 Rectory St, Port Chester; 914.933.0200

Intimate cave-art ambience and Rafael Palomino’s pan-Latin dishes (with a great jazz brunch) go hand in hand with the newish Matador cocktail (pictured above): Leyenda Oaxaca Blanco mezcal’s restrained smokiness holds the reins on Ancho Reyes Chili Liqueur, with muddled grilled pineapple, lime juice, and garnishes of pineapple and Cornabria blossom. Smokier El Buho mezcal is used in the Smoky Margarita. Sip several other varieties, including Creyente Joven, a blend of mezcals from two regions of Oaxaca (a Wine Enthusiast 2017 top pick).

 


Photo by Leslie-Anne Brill

Único

10 N Central Ave, Hartsdale; 914.607.3363

Westchester’s top new restaurant is also home to a refreshing take on a mezcal cocktail. Smoke Signals blends Los Vecinos Del Campo Espadin mezcal with maple syrup, green apple purée, and Angostura bitters, served in a salt-rimmed glass and garnished with green apple slices. For an even fruitier option, the Zamna (pictured above) combines mezcal with Aperol, lemon, and chocolate bitters.

 

Curious for more insight into everything from weddings and local business happenings to golf and hearty Westchester eating? Surf through all of our daily blogs

 

 

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