Kate Gerwin Says Agave Spirits Are A Must-Have For Your Home Bar

If you like to entertain at home, odds are you have the perfect serving trays, utensils, and glassware. But just having the right tools isn't enough. You also need to have the right ingredients. If you like to make cocktails, that means having a well-stocked bar, and every well-stocked bar should have at least rum, gin, vodka, one type of whiskey, and tequila in it. 

While you could stop there and still make plenty of great drinks, Kate Gerwin, a finalist on Netflix's "Drink Masters" and respected bartender, believes there's another liquor that should absolutely be part of your bar: mezcal. But the mixologist didn't stop there, "What I would really say is that people should start trying other agave spirits."

Gerwin has been mixing up and creating cocktails for over 20 years. During that time she was named one of the "Top 100 Most Influential Figures" in the World by Drinks International in 2019 and 2022, and was inducted into the Tales of the Cocktail Dame Hall of Fame. With that kind of pedigree, it's safe to say that Gerwin knows a thing or two about liquor. So, when we met her at the Netflix Pop-up, Netflix Bites, and she told us that she "loves" agave spirits, it wasn't a surprise. After all, her cocktail on the Bites menu is a spin on a margarita, only she didn't use tequila. She used mezcal, another agave spirit, instead. 

Mezcal is a great alternative to tequila

We've all had tequila. We started off shooting it with a little salt and lime in college and then mixed it into margaritas and tequila sunrises. While tequila is still a great option for the classic cocktails, it's not your only choice. You can substitute mezcal just as easily. In fact, Kate Gerwin says that all agave spirits, are interchangeable. So, if that's true, what exactly is the difference between tequila and mezcal? The mixologist says it's all about the region. 

When most people think of mezcal, they think of a smokier liquor. But Gerwin says not all mezcals are created equal. In fact, that smoky flavor is really just one type of mezcal that Gerwin tells us comes from Oaxaca. "The way the mezcals and agaves work is that tequila comes from a certain region like champagne in France. So, there's actually different regions that have different representations of agave," she says. While the smokier mezcals tend to come from Oaxaca, since mezcal is produced all over the country from Durango to Guerrero, each one will create a very different cocktail. 

There's more to agave than just tequila and mezcal

Even though mezcal and tequila are the most popular agave spirits out there, they're not your only option. Turns out there are actually five different types: tequila, mezcal, Raicilla, Bacanora, and Sotol, and Kate Gerwin believes you should taste them all. "Bacanora, Sotol, Raicilla, they're all different types of agave spirits that people aren't familiar with. So, I think that's just some things that people need to kind of adventure out a little bit and try."

Five different spirits mean each one will bring something different to the tipple since each has its own unique flavor. "Raicilla is coastal near the Pureto Vallarta region. Usually very, like, high in minerality, saline, really, really great," Gerwin says. "They're not smoky like Oaxacan mezcals. You've got Bacanora which is from the Sonoran desert," she continues. "A little bit more arid climate so you get a lot more earthiness to them."

But there's another reason Gerwin believes the public should give these other agaves a chance: It's good for the industry as a whole. "The other thing is that tequila is a lot more harvested right now. So the more people start drinking other agave spirits, the more the tequila industry can kind of recoup," she explains.