15 Bottles To Buy: Tequila & Mezcal

Anyone who has ever participated in a Secret Santa exchange knows one simple truth about gift giving: you cannot go wrong with booze. So, to ensure that you're everyone's favorite person at the holiday party this year, best to stock up on a few choice bottles. Sure, it's a safe bet. But it's also pretty darn smooth, if you're looking to win points with the recipient. If you're lucky, you might even get a sip as a thank you.

If you're buying for a tequila lover, you're in luck. With so many new releases in the last couple of years, you have the opportunity to turn someone on to something new. One of the most buzzed-about bottles of the year has to be the new tequila by rapper and actor Xzibit, called Bonita ($99), a certified organic agave Blue Agave tequila distilled a whopping five times. Another new release, Qui Tequila ($57), made by the owner of New York restaurant Casa La Femme, bills itself as the world's first platinum extra añejo tequila — as in, really old, but clear as a blanco.

Of course, most aged tequilas have some color to them to go with the notes of vanilla and caramel imparted by barrel aging. Siete Leguas continues to be the tequila geek's tequila for its über-traditional production method. Its oak-kissed reposado ($48) is herbaceous and peppery. Fortaleza is another cult tequila, beloved for its old-school stone-milled agave. The añejo ($70) is surprisingly light in color. A lesser-known brand that's hard to miss if you do find it thanks to its crazy hand-drawn label is Chamucos ($45). For excellent value, Espolon ($22) returned to the U.S. market after a brief absence, sporting a cool new label featuring Day of the Dead–style images. Puro Verde ($36) is another good value bottling, made from organic agave.

But if you're looking to spend, Casa Noble is one of the few distilleries producing single-barrel tequilas, such as its Single Barrel Añejo ($100). DeLeon Extra Añejo ($280) prides itself on using zero additives, including common ones like coloring and glycerin. Partida makes an Elegante Extra Añejo ($350), aged for a little more than the requisite three years. Casa Dragones ($275) adds a dose of aged tequila to unaged spirit for its sole product, a clear super-smooth ultra-premium tequila that just happens to be Oprah's fave.

The natural progression for tequila lovers is to eventually try mezcal. Del Maguey Tobalá ($135) is made from wild mountain agave, about as organic as it gets. Los Amantes Reposado ($65) tastes like the desert. Pierde Almas Conejo ($295) is made with wild fruits, herbs and nuts and a rabbit suspended over the primitive still: like a meal in a glass.

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