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Forget tequila and mezcal. Bacanora is now the Mexican spirit you should be drinking.


The bottles

Kilinga Bacanora, $56.99-$73.99

The back story

It’s no secret that Americans love their tequila and mezcal. Annual sales of the Mexican-made spirits, derived from the agave plant, have soared over the past two decades, from just under $1 billion in 2003 to $6 billion in 2022, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, a trade group.

But that may be leaving Americans thirsty for more from Mexico. Enter bacanora, another agave-based spirit — specifically, Kilinga Bacanora, a brand launched in 2018 that has enjoyed its own sales success, with 235% growth in the U.S. last year alone.

So, what is bacanora? As mentioned, it’s made from agave, but it’s sourced from a specific area in Mexico — namely, the Mexican state of Sonora. “It has its own unique history,” Kilinga founder Rodrigo Bojorquez Bours told MarketWatch, pointing to the fact bacanora has been made for three centuries, though it wasn’t recognized as a distinct category with its own denomination until 2000.

Taste-wise, bacanora falls somewhere between mezcal and tequila — it’s not as smoky as the former, but has much of the earthy quality of the latter. And it indeed has a growing legion of fans, even though it’s still a bit hard to find. Which is perhaps what prompted a writer for Bon Appétit to put it thusly: “If you see a bottle of bacanora on the shelf of your local liquor store, don’t think, just buy.”

Kilinga, a family-owned brand, is largely the vision of Bours, who named it after his mother, a woman he calls the “heart of the family.” He said he wanted to create “a smooth, bright bacanora that evokes the beauty of the region.” The brand says its bacanoras — there are four main expressions — vary depending on when the agave, which is sourced from the family farm, is harvested and how the spirit is aged.

What we think about them

Kilinga Bacanora is indeed a delicious alternative to tequila and mezcal, with a flavor all its own — vegetal but refined, with a hint of smoke. In short, very drinkable, even by itself. Of the various Kilinga expressions I tried, I liked the Silvestre ($64.99) the most — it adds a distinct floral note to the mix and what the brand describes as “a subtle violet finish.” But the Blanco ($56.99) and the Añejo ($73.99) each have their own appeal.

How to enjoy them

As noted, these are great sippers by themselves. But the brand says that you can easily use bacanora in cocktails — certainly, a margarita (just substitute the bacanora for the tequila) but even in drinks ranging from an Old Fashioned to a daiquiri.

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