9 Mezcal Cocktail Recipes to Get You Hooked On This Smoky Spirit
Mezcal and tequila—unlike popular belief, and the insistence of your kinda-drunk friend—are not the same thing.
Prepare your brain: To put it simply, all tequila is mezcal but all mezcal is not tequila. Both spirits are made from agave, but tequila must be made with at least 51 percent of one specific type of agave (Blue Weber), says Joseph Boroski, bar director at The 18th Room, a cocktail bar in New York City. Only two states in Mexico (Jalisco—where the city of Tequila is the capital—and Nayarit) produce tequila, whereas mezcal is produced in several different states, though a majority comes from Oaxaca. (Related: Your Guide to Drinking Alcohol On the Keto Diet)
If they both come from the same plant, why do they taste so different? To make tequila, the agave is steamed in above-ground ovens, while mezcal-producing agave is roasted in underground pits filled with stone, mesquite, volcanic rocks, and wood, which give the spirit its signature smoky flavor, explains Maurice DiMarino, wine and beverage manager for the Cohn Restaurant Group. He describes tequila as a cleaner-tasting spirit while mezcal is more earthy and rustic. Because mezcal has been made for so many years via this old-school roasting method, it's earned the nickname "poor man's tequila," says Boroski. These days, however, you're likely to see it on the bougiest of cocktail menus.
"I think that tequila and mezcal are interchangeable, but will each create a very different cocktail," says DiMarino. "Mezcal is typically higher ABV than tequila (which is 40 percent), and this can change the punch of a cocktail." If you're new to mezcal and iffy about the smoky flavor, DiMarino recommends cutting your margarita with 1/2 tequila and 1/2 mezcal to keep it more balance. (Related: How Much Alcohol Can You Drink Before It Starts to Mess with Your Fitness?)
The most important difference between mezcal and tequila? You simply *do not* do mezcal shots: "Do not disrespect the spirit by shooting it," says DiMarino. Sip on it and enjoy it—or mix it into one of these creative mezcal cocktails instead.
Sangre de las Flores
Inspired by the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos, this cocktail will make you wish it came around more than once a year. A mix of blood orange juice (appropriate, right?), lime juice, mezcal, and a homemade marigold-hibiscus syrup, this smoky mezcal drink will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand up—in a good way.
Get the recipe: Sangre de las Flores
Ruby Bolt Cocktail
Swap your typical Paloma for this ginger grapefruit mezcal cocktail perfect for al fresco rooftop and backyard parties. (Bonus: It uses an artisan mezcal that's supposed to nix any chance of a hangover.)
Get the recipe: Ruby Bolt Cocktail
What's a summer day without a margarita (or three)? Serve up some spice in this mezcal margarita by adding pieces of jalapeño and cilantro. (Related: The Science-Backed Reasons You're Legitimately Happier and Healthier In the Summer)
Get the recipe: Mezcal Margarita
This one is for berry-lovers that need a refreshing cocktail that's also strong enough to make you forget the day's troubles. The olallieberry is the lovechild of the blackberry and raspberry—and the blogger behind this recipe calls it the "perfect berry" for a reason. Add some agave syrup and lime juice and you're ready to start sipping.
Get the recipe: Olallieberry Cocktail
The Deathly Hallows Cocktail
Calling all Harry Potter fans! With the help of some cranberry juice, mezcal, orange liquor, lemon juice, maple, and ginger beer, you can spend all night pondering whether you'd be sorted into Gryffindor or Ravenclaw.
Get the recipe: The Deathly Hallows Cocktail
Rosemary Mezcal Slushie
A tasty treat for grown-ups, this rosemary mezcal slushie is ideal for those suffocatingly hot and humid summer days. Pro tip: Prepare these at least eight hours ahead so they can develop the right slushie consistency. (Related: Super Refreshing Low-Calorie Summer Spritzers)
Get the recipe: Rosemary Mezcal Slushie
Smoked Strawberry Mezcal Margarita
Upgrade your margarita game by adding double the smoky flavor. Hint: It doesn't just come from the mezcal. Throw the strawberries on the grill, on the broiler, or over the flame of your gas-top stove, and let them char. Add to a blender and to your margarita mix, and you're good to go.
Get the recipe: Smoked Strawberry Mezcal Margarita
Step up your Paloma cocktail game with some mezcal and a couple of jalapeño slices. The triple-threat kick of spice, sour, and smoke will send your tastebuds over the edge.
Get the recipe: Jalapeño Paloma