Tequila and mezcal are taking over the bar

Tequila and mezcal’s versatility and broad appeal are boosting the spirits’ popularity.

Credit: Getty Images / Joel Villanueva

You may be most familiar with tequila in a shot glass, accompanied by a salt rim and lime wedge (AKA training wheels).

But tequila and mezcal are in the midst of a rapid rise in popularity, vaulting agave-based spirits to the top of the liquor cabinet, per Bloomberg.

In 2022…

… American consumers will spend more on tequila and mezcal than whiskey. Per IWSR, they will likely also surpass vodka by 2023, making the combo the most purchased spirit category in the US by value.

Mezcal, known for its smoky flavor, saw US consumption jump 53% in 2021, compared to 27% for tequila.

Combined, the two are expected to fuel 81% growth in the agave category in the US by 2026.

What’s behind the rise?

A combination of factors, including:

  • Versatility: Sippable high-end offerings have pushed tequila beyond shots and margaritas. While mezcal can substitute for tequila, it can also be used in drinks that would otherwise call for scotch or whiskey.
  • Health factor: Though it’s hard to justify any spirit as healthy, 100% agave tequila is gluten free, low in calories, and has fewer congeners (fermentation products that lead to hangovers) than other spirits.
  • Broad appeal: Tequila and mezcal consumption spans age, gender, culture, and occasion, giving it a wider market than other spirits.

There’s also the celebrity factor. George Clooney, Kendall Jenner, Eva Longoria, and Justin Timberlake are just a few of the famous figures dipping their toes in the tequila pool.

What’s next?

The growth of tequila and mezcal isn’t exclusive to the US. The UK, Russia, Germany, and Japan are among the 10 largest markets for the agave category — which means global domination could be on the horizon.

If you’re looking for the next mezcal, look no further than sotol, a Mexican spirit made from dasylirion cactus that has (controversially) started popping up in bars across Texas.

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