Many high-end Mexican restaurants lavish bar space on expansive collections of premium tequila. The new Cantina Dos Segundos in Northern Liberties is one of the few that also offers fine examples of tequila's wild and rustic cousin: mezcal.

Cantina has nine in stock - none of which comes with a worm. But just sip one of the rare "single village mezcals" from Del Maguey, an importer that has collected artisan, clay-pot-distilled brews from remote outposts around Oaxaca, and you'll know why these are among the most intense and interesting spirits out there. Chichicapa ($15), my favorite, is like a fiery, fruit-tinged, liquid bacon. Some liken Minero to watermelon-flavored bubble gum. The super-luxe Pechuga ($38 a shot), meanwhile, is a spirit-world oddity that involves chicken breast (plus wild fruits and almonds), and has an intensely earthy, complex and smoky terroir. The chicken, obviously, beats a worm.

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Most Del Maguey mezcals are $15 a shot at Cantina Dos Segundos (931 N. 2nd St., 215-629-0500), but a three-shot flight is $20. Bottles of Chichicapa, online for $73.99 after Dec. 1 at www.pawineandspirits.com.

- Craig LaBan