Culture Something Delicious to Sip on for Cinco De Mayo: llegal MezcalThis handcrafted, small-batch Mezcal is ripe for sipping or as the base spirit in cocktails for any occasion that matters.
- Words Neal Wanderman
- Images Ilegal Mezcal
Often, cheap, mass-produced booze serves as an excuse to toss a few back or raise a glass in celebration of something —maybe anything. When it comes time to enjoy a drink, it’s about admiring the craft and appreciating the effort that went into the product.
Sustainably produced, responsibly distributed, handcrafted Ilegal Mezcal is made sin prisa (“without hurry/rush”) using artisanal methods by dedicated craftsmen who take pride in their work.
So, what is mezcal? It’s distilled alcohol that’s derived from the agave plant. And Ilegal’s mezcal is all-natural with no artificial colors, yeasts, flavors, or additives. Its bottles are made with 100 percent recycled glass. The wood used for roasting the agave is from certified wood farmers, and all profit from its merch goes to support schools, social programs, and immigrants’ rights issues.
But here’s what we appreciate most about Ilegal Mezcal: It’s so damn good.
This is a premium sippin’ spirit when it’s time to relax or celebrate, be it Cinco de Mayo, Father’s Day, to a random Tuesday you’ve decided to play hooky from work. It’s great around the campfire, fantastic after dinner, and it suits us just fine for unwinding in the shop after a job well done.
Ilegal Mezcal comes in three varieties. Joven ($45.99) has a light smoke flavor with a whisper of lingering heat. It’s the classic clear mezcal, perfect for cocktails. (Yep, shots too.) According to the flavor profile, “eucalyptus and mineral aromas compliment hints of green apple, fresh citrus, and red chiltepe.” We don’t know about all that, but if you’re looking to make a margarita (or, yep, pour a round of shots) that raises eyebrows at your next gathering, Joven is the mezcal you should reach for.
Ilegal’s Reposado ($57.99) is a velvety amber mezcal, aged six months in medium-char, American oak bourbon barrels sourced from Louisville’s own Kelvin Cooperage. Tasting notes on Ilegal Reposado point to “caramelized pear and bitter orange on the nose, with clove, butterscotch, and hints of vanilla on the palate.” Sure, you could put it in a shot glass and knock it back. But we prefer to savor it.
Ilegal Mezcal’s Anejo ($97.99) is a drop-dead gorgeous sipping spirit that rivals anything made in the Scottish Highlands or the farmlands of Kentucky. This is premium liquor, folks, and it deserves to be appreciated—slowly. It features “maple, clove, and bitter orange aromas, with hints of dark chocolate and sweet agave on the palate.” All we know is it’s rich and delicious and oh-so-damn-good in a glass. With ice. And that’s it. A splash of water, maybe a squeeze of lime, is up to you.
Build all ingredients in cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously with ice. Strain over fresh ice and garnish with a cucumber sliver.
Signature Ilegal Mezcal Cocktail by Carlos Abeyta
Ilegal Mezcal is made by fourth-generation Mescaleros using pure Espadín agave that’s hand-harvested (by machete, of course) in the Santiago Matatlan Valley in Oaxaca. The harvested agave is roasted in underground earthen pit ovens lined with river stones for 5-7 days, then crushed by a freakin’ horse-drawn tahona (mill). That’s right: Every batch of Ilegal is made with the help of a caballo. It’s then allowed to naturally ferment in pine vats for 7-10 days, double distilled in small batches, and then bottled right away (for Joven) or put in barrels to age (Reposado and Añejo). Every bottle of Ilegal Mezcal is hand-corked, hand-labeled, and hand-numbered.
While you won’t find any celebrity shills desperately trying to lend hipster cred to crappy alcohol, you will find Ilegal Mezcal at a number of events around the US this summer, including traveling pop-up bars, sponsorship of events and venues, and even a tattoo shop during concerts at Forest Hills Stadium in New York City.Ilegal Mezcal