We present a crash course in the spirits of Mexico—and an introduction to their made-in-Kansas City cousin.

By Hannah Agran; Photographer: Andy Lyons
Agave sips

Jeff Evans is a fifth-generation Missouri distiller-but in running Mean Mule with wife Meg and partner Patrick Little, he's the first to explore agave, the spiny plant we all can thank for tequila. Contrary to their name, Mean Mule's spirits have a floral flavor and smooth finish. (The name refers to a beast that guarded Jeff's granddad's Prohibition-era still.) For now, Mean Mule is only available in Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma, but any silver tequila works in these recipes. And be sure to visit Mean Mule's new tasting room in KC. Just steer clear of the mule.

Agave sips

Piña Piña Colada "Garnish with a pineapple leaf, an umbrella, a lounge chair, the sun and a pool," say the founders of Mean Mule. Get the recipe.

Paloma Mixology doesn't get any easier than this! Whip out Mean Mule's easy version of a classic Mexican cocktail for Cinco de Mayo, or just your average Taco Tuesday. Get the recipe.

Learn the Lingo

A quick translation guide for the terms you'll find on bottles of Mexican spirits.

Mescal Newly trendy stateside, mescal is any spirit made with agave. Many makers still cook the agave in earthen pits and crush it with mule-powered wheels. The final product usually has smoky notes.

Tequila Tequila is a variety of mescal made with blue agave, often steamed in industrial settings. Tequila must come from one of five designated Mexican states. Scan labels for "100 percent agave." Cheaper blends cut the mix with sugarcane or corn.

Silver Also called blanco or white, these tequilas are younger and the best choice for affordable mixed drinks. Good ones have grassy notes from the agave.

Reposado/Añejo These terms refer to properly aged (and higher-priced) tequilas. Expect a sippable spirit that's a deeper brown and sweeter, thanks to aging in oak barrels.

Gold A good gold tequila (like Mean Mule's new release) is made by briefly aging silver tequila or blending it with a reposado. But beware of impostors: Most mass-market golds are faux-aged with caramel color or sugar.

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