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25 Best Mezcal Cocktail Recipes (All Types)

Mezcal is a distinct, often smoky, and always delicious spirit that has shown its versatility and nuance that every cocktail enthusiast should have. Let's take a look at 25 different mezcal cocktail recipes that are perfect companions on a boozy evening, no matter your taste.

A collage of Mezcal Cocktail Recipes.

Mezcal is a unique, oft-smoky, and always delicious spirit that hails from the Jalisco region of Mexico. Using the agave plants native to this part of the country, mezcal distillation has long-been a central tradition in the culture and consumption of Mexican people as well as those that lived there far before.

The word mezcal likely comes from the words Metl or Mexcalmetl, prehispanic Nahuatl (one of Mexico’s indigenous groups) words for the agave plant. From the spiritual ritualism of the Aztecs to your local trendy taco and tapas bar on the other side of the continent today, mezcal has shown its versatility and nuance time and time again. It has, without a doubt, cemented itself within the range of key spirits any modern home mixologist should have in their liquor cabinet or bar.

While tequila – the mezcal you may be most familiar with – is a very important spirit to consider on its own from the broad family it belongs to, the nuanced array of distillation methods and flavors found from terroir to terroir in mezcal production are a strong reminder of this spirit’s range and the ability to explore it as widely as possible.

For many, exploring non-tequila mezcal is a relatively new thing. In North America, mezcal has only started to really hit the mainstream in the last 10 or so years. While spirit nerds all over the world have long-been praising the beauty and versatility of the Jalisciense and Oaxacan alcohol, many casual cocktail enthusiasts are only recently coming to explore the drink for themselves.

Upon first impressions, it can often take people off-guard, especially those used to the smoother and cleaner flavor of Blue Agave mezcal (tequila). The smokiness is often rich and deep, with broad herbal, floral, and fruit notes differing from bottle to bottle.

While the smokiness of some mezcal can be a bit jarring at first, with a better understanding of how to drink it neat and mixed one quickly finds themselves craving mezcal at every instance where having a drink is appropriately called for.

In a shot, served neat with ice, or mixed with sweeteners, citrus, and herbs, mezcal is a diverse and exciting spirit to get better acquainted with. I’ve collected some classic mezcal cocktails (as well as some weirder ones) that require few ingredients, easy prep, and maximize my ever-important simplicity to deliciousness ratio.

Let’s take a look at 25 different mezcal cocktails that make for perfect companions on a boozy evening, no matter your taste, tolerance, or bartending experience level. Let’s dive in.

Related: Tequila Cocktails | Whiskey Cocktails | Gin Cocktails | Rum Cocktails | Vodka Cocktail | Amaretto Cocktail | Cognac Cocktail | Grand Marnier Cocktail | Frangelico Cocktails | Peach Schnapps CocktailKahlua Cocktail | Sherry Cocktail | Vermouth Cocktail

1. Mezcal Margarita (SH)

Mezcal Margarita in glass garnish with sliced lemon.

This one just makes sense. With the beautiful balance that a classic (tequila) margarita evokes, adding a new level of depth with the flavors of mezcal give this standard a new dimension. Build it with the same ratios and shake it no differently than you would a normal margarita.

The one place I can recommend changing things up a little would be in the type of salt you use to rim the glass. Think about using some sal de gusano or a spicier salt mix, like a BBQ rub. Mix and match, blend your own salts, wet the rim with diluted hot sauce instead of lime juice, go absolutely nuts. The world is your margarita.

Recipe

  • 1.5oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz triple sec/Cointreau
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • salt (for rim, small dash in the liquid mix)
  1. Much like we would build any margarita, let’s throw all of our liquid ingredients into a shaker with a small dash of salt
  2. Add ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass with a salted rim or serve neat in a chilled (& rimmed) coupette
  4. Garnish with a lime wheel
  5. Enjoy!

2. Smokey Mezcal Mango Margarita (SH)

Smokey Mezcal Mango Margarita in a glass garnished with sliced lemon.

While our classic mezcal margarita might follow the traditional structure of the margarita a bit closer than this drink, combining the smoky mezcal with some mango nectar can serve to really round out the flavors of the spirit.

The mango nectar also adds a bit of texture to the drink, thickening the cocktail slightly and offering a different sweetness from your traditional simple syrup. To balance the rich nectar sweetness I would definitely recommend changing up the kind of salt you rim the glass with: go with spicy and strong, see how you like it!

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz mango nectar
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.25 oz Cointreau/Triple Sec
  • salt of your choice (rim)
  1. This one is shaken the same way we would build the last margarita, add all your liquid ingredients together in the shaker
  2. Add fresh ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Pour over a large ice cube in a salt-rimmed rocks glass
  4. Garnish with a lime wheel
  5. Enjoy!
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3. Mezcal Mule (BG)

Mezcal Mule in a metal glass garnished with lemon.

While the “Mexican Mule” made with tequila is technically a Mezcal Mule, making this with smoky mezcal is a total game-changer. I like ginger beer. A lot. This drink personally just makes a lot of sense to me, and the spice of the ginger really complements the smoky and herbal notes of the mezcal.

It definitely has a bit of bite to it and might take a little getting used to for those not yet totally comfortable with the smokiness of this spirit. I promise you’ll enjoy this drink if you enjoy ginger beer already.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 0.75 oz simple syrup (or ginger syrup)
  • 3-4 oz ginger beer (if using ginger syrup replace this with soda)
  1. Easy-peasy, we’re going to add all our ingredients save the chaser (soda or ginger beer) into the shaker
  2. Shake briefly and get the mixture well-chilled
  3. Single strain into a mule mug or a Collins glass over fresh ice
  4. Top with ginger beer (or soda)
  5. Garnish with a lime wheel
  6. Enjoy!

4. “Mezcaloma” (BG)

Mezcaloma in highball glass with straw.

It’s a lot of fun to riff on traditional tequila cocktails with a smoky mezcal because it adds a totally new dimension to flavor pairings we already know and love. These pairings still exist within their mezcal variations, but they take on a few extra characteristics and offer a new level of nuance that its counterpart might not have offered.

The Mezcaloma is just a Paloma with mezcal instead of tequila. I personally add a touch more lime to brighten the whole drink – get high quality grapefruit juice if you can. Alternatively, build it with a grapefruit soda and treat it like a highball with an extra splash of lime.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 0.25 oz simple syrup (to taste)
  • salt (for rim)
  • 2-3 oz soda
  1. If you already have a grapefruit Jarritos (or another grapefruit soda) I’d recommend going for this drink as a highball and building it in the glass with a splash of lime and nothing else. If you don’t – we’re going to add our liquid ingredients (save the soda) in a shaker.
  2. Shake until well-chilled, single-strain into a salt-rimmed Collins glass or pint glass or mason jar over fresh ice
  3. Top with soda, garnish with a grapefruit slice
  4. Enjoy!

5. Mezcal Negroni (ST)

Mezcal Negroni in glass garnished with twist zest lemon.

To me, this combo just makes sense. In the same way that bitter grapefruit works well with smoky mezcal, using amari like Campari will blend really well with the herbal and floral aspects of the mezcal. With the rich sweet vermouth to round out the bitterness and smoke, the Mezcal Negroni is a balanced and exciting riff on a standard we all know and love.

Recipe

  • 1 oz mezcal
  • 1 oz Campari
  • 1 oz red vermouth
  • orange zest
  1. Nothing crazy has changed here – we’re going to build this like we would a regular Negroni. Add all your liquid ingredients into your mixing glass over ice and stir until adequately diluted and well-chilled
  2. Double-strain into a chilled rocks glass over a big ice cube
  3. Zest with orange peel
  4. Enjoy!

6. Mezcal Sour (SH)

Mezcal Sour in martini glass.

The sour cocktail structure works with everything and anything. Because such a big part of the experience of having this kind of drink is the textural aspect, it becomes easy and flexible to make sours with all sorts of different ingredients.

The bitters you use and the smaller quantity ingredients will be the real way to add variation to this drink. Mess around with orange bitters instead of angostura and add them into the mixture, or spice the cocktail, or anything! These are lovely cocktails with which to experiment around new flavors and ingredients. Mezcal is a hit here.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz lemon
  • 0.75 oz simple syrup
  • 1 egg white
  • Angostura bitters/orange bitters/Chuncho bitters/bitters of your choice
  1. We’ll build this like a classic sour: add all your liquid ingredients to the shaker and give a dry shake (no ice) to incorporate the liquids into a uniform mixture
  2. After it’s nice and foamy to our satisfaction, add fresh ice to the shaker and give ‘er
  3. When well-chilled, double-strain into a chilled coupette
  4. Garnish with a lemon wheel
  5. Enjoy!

7. Mezcal Mojito (SH)

Mezcal Mojito in highball glass garnished with lemon and cilantro leaves.

This is a bit of a weird one and when I first tried this I wasn’t sure if I’d like it. It comes down to quantities here – too little mint and it just starts to taste flat, too much lime and it makes the smoky flavor a bit overbearing. With a drink like mezcal whose flavor is relatively forward and in-your-face, a delicious mezcal cocktail becomes all about creating balance.

The mojito has a timeless structure, one that the mint only serves to elevate. We don’t want to mess with that structure too much but simply find a way to introduce mezcal into this mix in a way that still feels balanced and intentional. Fresh mint and fresh lime juice make a huge difference in all cocktails but they especially do here.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 2-3 oz soda
  1. Pretty straightforward – save a few leaves and toss the rest into the shaker after giving them a slap. Add your liquid ingredients and gently muddle up the mint leaves
  2. Add fresh ice to the shaker, shake until well-chilled
  3. Single-strain (if you like the floaty mint chunks) into a chilled Collins glass over fresh ice.
  4. Top with a splash of soda, garnish with a mint sprig
  5. Enjoy!

8. Smokey Strawberry Mojito (SH)

Smokey Strawberry Mojito in highball glass garnished with strawberries.

Given what we just talked about regarding the mojito’s timeless structure, let’s add a bit of a natural sweetness, some pulp, and color to that same recipe. Frozen strawberries or fresh ones both work, I personally like fresh ones because of how easily they break down into mush and meld into the rest of the liquid ingredients.

The smoky flavor of the mezcal will play really nicely with the rest of the drink and if made right, this has a lovely balance to it.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz lime juice
  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • 2-3 strawberries
  • 0.5 oz syrup (to taste, depending on the sweetness of your strawbs)
  • 2-3 oz soda
  1. Same vibe as the last drink – save a few leaves of mint and add the rest into the shaker with your strawberries
  2. Add your liquid ingredients and muddle up both the strawberry and mint together
  3. Add fresh ice to your shaker, shake hard and until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into a Collins glass over fresh ice, top with a splash of soda
  5. Garnish with a strawberry slice and mint sprig
  6. Enjoy!

9. Mexican Old Fashioned (build like normal OF) (ST)

Mexican Old Fashioned in glass garnished with twist lemon peel.

One of the places mezcal really stands out for me is in sipper drinks. Something stiff with minimal ingredients that can let the main stars shine is a way to highlight the nuance and varying flavors within your base spirit. Mezcal is beautiful in an Old Fashioned.

While the bourbon or rye will pull out syrupy honey flavors from the cocktail, mezcal inches in a different direction. This drink becomes quite herbal and rich, especially if you use raw sugar. Opting for grapefruit zest over an orange zest can also work well and keeps with the overarching theme of bitter and smoky that works well with mezcal.

Recipe

  • 2 oz mezcal
  • 1 brown sugar cube
  • 2 grapefruit zest
  • 2-4 dashes Angostura bitters
  1. We’ll follow the traditional old fashioned recipe as closely as we can for this iteration. In our mixing glass, drop your brown sugar cube and hit it with a few dashes of bitters. Throw in one of your grapefruit zest and muddle these ingredients into each other
  2. Add your mezcal and fresh ice to the mixing glass
  3. Mix well, tasting as you go to optimize the final temperature and the balance of the cocktail
  4. When it is to your liking, double-strain into a chilled rocks glass over a large ice cube
  5. Zest and garnish with a grapefruit peel
  6. Enjoy!

10. Oaxaca Old Fashioned (Phil Ward version) (ST)

Oaxaca Old Fashioned in glass garnished with lemon.

This ain’t the old fashioned you saw just above. This was created by Phil Ward, one of the legendary bartenders from the more legendary cocktail bar Death & Co. of New York’s East Village. Ward invented this drink in 2007 and became one of the central figures in making mezcal increasingly popular in North America.

This drink is fundamentally tied to that story, crucial to that increase in popularity. It uses a tequila base complemented by mezcal, which makes it an easy drink to introduce people to the spirit.

The mezcal flavor is prominent, but it is very balanced and rounded out against the other ingredients, a closer bridge to other cocktails that you may have had that let you dip your toe in that smoky water. This is one of the most legendary modern cocktails out there and it’s not going anywhere.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz tequila (reposado recommended but silver works too)
  • 0.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.25 oz agave nectar
  • 2-3 dashes Angostura bitters
  • Orange zest
  1. Easy easy easy – we’ll add all of our liquid ingredients to our chilled Old Fashioned glass over a large ice cube
  2. Stir until well-chilled and adequately diluted
  3. Zest with orange
  4. Enjoy!

11. Hibiscus Highball (BG)

Hibiscus Highball in glass with straw garnished with lemon.

Hibiscus juice rules. I’m relatively new to it but have had the immense pleasure of being friends with a few people that recently started their own business selling the stuff. Theirs is an old family recipe from Egypt. It’s crazy good. Their juice has a bright, clear taste with hints of mint and citrus.

It’s not very sweet either, which makes it a really useful ingredient when making cocktails as it doesn’t overpower other ingredients. Deepen the flavors with a little extra lime, maybe even a touch of simple syrup – a good hibiscus juice will create a round and refreshing structure within which many kinds of alcohol and ingredient pairings can shine.

I spent a fun night helping those aforementioned friends test and design a few cocktails for a party they were having to promote the brand: it bonded beautifully with every drink we tried to build with it.

Chief among my favorites (followed closely behind the sour and the smash) was the humble highball, built with a base of equal parts tequila and mezcal. A splash of lime juice and a quick stir later, I had found one of my favorite quick-build summer cocktails. Try it yourself and tell me I’m wrong.

Recipe

  • 1.25 oz mezcal
  • 0.25-0.5 oz lime juice
  • 4 oz hibiscus juice
  1. We’ll build it like a highball – in a chilled glass and over ice add your mezcal and lime juice, which you will then top with hibiscus juice
  2. Garnish with a lime wedge
  3. Enjoy!

12. Hibiscus Cilantro Smash (BG/SH)

Hibiscus Cilantro Smash in glass garnished with cilantro leaf.

In the spirit of celebrating delicious hibiscus juice, let’s take a look at another delicious and easy cocktail. This time, we’ll add a little extra effort and shake the mezcal, lime juice, simple syrup, and hibiscus with a bit of muddled cilantro. When poured over some ice cubes and served with a stem and leaf (rubbed over the rim of course), you have an herbal and very refreshing summer sipper. I’d also recommend trying this with basil.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz lime
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  • 2 oz hibiscus juice
  • 5-6 cilantro leaves
  1. First thing, we’ll add our lime juice and 5 cilantro leaves into the shaker and we’ll gently muddle the herb
  2. Now we add the rest of our liquid ingredients and add ice to the shaker
  3. Shake hard and until well-chilled
  4. Double-strain into a rocks glass over a large ice cube
  5. Garnish with a cilantro leaf positioned on the floating cube
  6. Enjoy!

13. Killer Bee (SH)

Killer Bee in glass garnished with lemon.

The Killer Bee is a variation of the classic Bee’s Knees. We’re going to use a simplified recipe (I’ve seen a bunch that want you to make fruit purées and stuff but I always go for simplicity in home cocktails). Shake it, make a honey syrup if you feel up to it as well, it’ll incorporate easier into the drink. Regular honey works fine though, don’t worry too much about that.

Recipe

  • 2 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz honey
  • 1.25 oz lemon
  1. Add all your ingredients together in a shaker
  2. Add ice, shake until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled rocks glass over ice cubes
  4. Garnish with some lemon wheels stuffed inside
  5. Enjoy!

14. Simplified Piña (SH)

Simplified Piña drinks in a glass with ice.

I found a recipe for this one online and while I enjoyed it, I felt that the serrano chiles it called for in the recipe wasn’t something I was a huge fan of. Obviously it’s personal preference and I still strongly suggest you try both variations yourself to see what you like best.

When I made it the second time, I omitted the chiles and leaned more into the herbal notes with extra cilantro and a dash of Peychaud bitters. It kinda became a different cocktail at that point but I quite liked it.

Recipe

  • 2 oz mezcal
  • 5-6 cilantro leaves
  • 1 oz pineapple juice
  • 0.75 oz simple syrup
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 3 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  1. Easy build for this one, just add all your ingredients into a shaker
  2. Add ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled rocks glass with a large ice cube
  4. Enjoy!

15. Arinato (ST)

Arinato in glass garnished with lemon.

We often see mezcal in the same realms we see tequila, served as the base of fruit-forward and semi-sweet drinks. This isn’t an all-encompassing statement, but many ways in which casual bartenders may use the spirit is as an elevation to a cocktail that already used tequila or followed a similar profile.

This is why drinks like the Oaxaca Old Fashioned stand out so much, because they allow mezcal to shine in the area of classic, herbal, spirit-forward drinks and cocktail structures.

The Arinato is one such drink, created by Ivy Mix of New York. It uses chartreuse and lillet with a splash of maraschino liqueur to counter some of the intensity of the mezcal. The result is a complex and balanced sipper with lots of bite. It’s delicious.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz Lillet Blanc
  • 0.5 oz dry vermouth
  • 0.25 yellow chartreuse
  • 2 dashes Peychaud’s bitters
  • 0.25 oz maraschino liqueur
  1. Add all of your ingredients into your mixing glass
  2. Add fresh ice, stir until well-chilled and diluted to taste
  3. Single-strain over a large ice cube in a rocks glass
  4. Garnish with a grapefruit twist
  5. Enjoy!

16. Mezcal Manhattan (ST)

Mezcal Manhattan in martini glass.

This just makes sense to me – it’s a way to add a new dimension to a tried and true structure and the smoky flavor pairs very well with the sweet vermouth and bitters. Even garnish it with a grapefruit twist for continuity’s sake.

Recipe

  • 2 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz sweet vermouth
  • 3-5 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • Grapefruit twist
  1. Make this like you would a classic Manhattan, add your ingredients to a mixing glass
  2. Add ice, stir until well-chilled
  3. Single strain into a chilled coupette
  4. Garnish with grapefruit twist
  5. Enjoy!

17. Dirty Mezcal Martini (ST)

Dirty Mezcal Martini in martini glass.

While the classic martini will still work well with a mezcal (provided you like the taste of mezcal on its own already), adding some olive brine, a bit of orange liqueur, and a few dashes of orange bitters take the standard that we all know and love and bring it to a new place. It’s strong, it has high salinity, it’s aromatic, and it’s tasty.

Recipe

  • 2 oz mezcal
  • 0.25 oz olive bring (really, however much you like to use)
  • 0.25 oz Cointreau or Triple-Sec
  • 1-2 dashes of orange bitters
  • Orange twist
  1. Build like a dirty martini and swap the vermouth with some Cointreau
  2. Add the ingredients into a mixing glass, add fresh ice
  3. Stir until well-chilled, double-strain into a martini glass
  4. Zest and garnish with orange twist
  5. Enjoy!

18. Mezcal Spritz (BG)

Mezcal Spritz in glass garnished with lemon.

Another standard that just makes sense with mezcal. Spritzes are fun because bubbly wine and Aperol work so well together that they tend to really complement whatever you throw in there to add some ‘oomph’. Mezcal is one such ‘oomph’ that highlights the bitterness and peppery flavors of the spirit when you mix it with a little grapefruit juice. Perfect for a hot summer day.

Recipe

  • 1 oz mezcal
  • 0.75 oz Aperol
  • 2 oz grapefruit juice
  • 3-4 oz sparkling wine
  • grapefruit slices
  1. This one we can build in our spritz glass – just add all the ingredients together (except the bubbly) over ice
  2. Top with your sparkling wine
  3. Stuff a few grapefruit slices in the glass, throw a straw in there
  4. Enjoy!

19. Mezcal Sunset (BG)

Mezcal Sunset in highball glass with straw.

Another riff on a tequila standard, the Tequila Sunrise. We aren’t changing anything else other than the base spirit. Despite such a small change the difference is, well, like sunrise to sunset. Great drink.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.5 oz grenadine
  • 4-6 oz orange juice
  1. Pretty simple to make – we’ll add our mezcal and orange juice together in a Collins glass over ice
  2. Slowly pour your grenadine into the mix where it will slowly travel through the liquid for a cool visual effect
  3. Garnish with a maraschino cherry and orange slice
  4. Enjoy!

20. Ruby Diamond (ST)

Ruby Diamond in martini glass.

The traditional recipe would call for an Italian spirit called Cappalletti, which is a wine-based amaro that exists in the same family as Campari. Unlike Campari, however, Cappalletti is a bit sweeter and more downplayed. It’s relatively niche and if you don’t have it around, there is a bit of a workaround that will make something in the spirit of the Ruby Diamond.

By using a little less Campari and adding a splash of Aperol, we can mimic some of the flavors of Cappalletti. That, with the lemon and orange juice, as well as an even ratio of mezcal to gin, what results is a bright, round, and semi-bitter mezcal spirit that doesn’t overpower any of our ingredients. It’s a great one to try.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz gin
  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.5 oz Campari
  • 0.25 oz Aperol
  • 0.75 oz lemon juice
  • 0.25 oz orange juice
  1. Lots of ingredients, but deadly easy to make – just add ‘em all together into your shaker
  2. Add ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Double-strain into a chilled coupette
  4. No garnish for me
  5. Enjoy!

21. Mezcal Julep (BG)

Mezcal Julep in metal glass garnished with cilantro.

We’ve already established how well mezcal and mint can work together, so it only makes sense we would build a julep out of these ingredients. The crushed ice and metal tin are pretty essential to the julep, so I’d recommend making sure those are around for your build.

Given that juleps don’t use any lime to cut into the forward spirit flavor, a mezcal that is a little downplayed might be the right call to encourage a bit more balance in your drink. Still tastes great with an extra smoky version though.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 5-6 mint leaves
  • 0.5 oz simple syrup
  1. We’re going to muddle our mint with the simple syrup in the shaker
  2. Add the mezcal with some ice, shake hard until well-chilled
  3. Single-strain into a julep tin over crushed ice
  4. Garnish with mint sprig
  5. Enjoy!

22. Mezcal, Ginger ale, Lemon Highball (BG)

Mezcal, Ginger ale garnished with lemon.

Now we venture into the world of some of the mezcal highballs that we can build simply and quickly. In the spirit of some of the flavors present in a classic ‘Buck’ style cocktail, I thought it would be fun to add a smoky element to the ginger ale and lemon mix. We’ll build this in the glass over cubed ice and give it a good stir to mix everything up. Then you make a few more. Maybe a few more after that.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 4-5 oz ginger ale
  1. Build in the glass – add all the ingredients together over ice
  2. Give the drink a quick mix
  3. Garnish with a lime wedge
  4. Enjoy!

23. Mezcal, Cucumber, lime, Soda Highball (BG)

Mezcal cucumber with lime in a glass.

It was a fun surprise to discover how well mezcal could work in a fresh, relatively open-ended highball. The soda sits in the back and provides more of a textural element to the drink, while the lime and cucumber draw out some of the peppery and herbal (vegetal?) elements that can often be present in the background of an artisanal mezcal.

The result is a refreshing drink with an exciting, spicy bite that is cooled off by the cucumber. Great highball.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • Cucumber cut in long, thin strips
  • 0.5 oz lime
  • 4-5 oz soda water
  1. First, use a potato peeler to get long strips of your cucumber cut, which you’ll then press against your highball glass so it sticks
  2. Add ice to hold the cucumber slice in place, then lime and mezcal.
  3. Top with soda, give a quick mix
  4. No garnish
  5. Enjoy!

24. Mezcal Ranch Water/ Hacienda Water (BG)

Hacienda Water in highball glass garnished with sliced lemon.

We learned about Ranch Water when we were exploring tequila a few weeks ago. It’s a Texas staple and should traditionally be made with Topo Chico and lots of lime. I say we do the exact same for mezcal and this time call it Hacienda Water (if that’s not taken yet I say we take it for this drink).

Best to find the Topo Chico at your local Latin American food market. Alternatively, a lemon and lime soda will work similarly.

Recipe

  • 2 oz mezcal (however much you want, really)
  • 4-6 oz Topo Chico (however much you want, really)
  • 3-5 lime wheels
  1. Easy as highballs get: add your preferred level of mezcal to your glass of preferred size
  2. Add lots of ice, top with lots of Topo Chico, stuff plenty of lime wheels in there
  3. Make 6 more
  4. No garnish
  5. Enjoy!

25. Jalisco Kiwi (name in progress) (SH)

Jalisco Kiwi in glass garnished with sliced kiwi.

For our last drink, I say we dive fully into embracing the smoky and peppery aspects of the mezcal we’ve been enjoying so far. We want to build this with a few splashes of hot sauce and some orange bitters, as well as a fruit purée of your choice to provide a sweet and fruity base.

I enjoyed this with kiwi heavily. Adding some lemon, simple syrup, and a BBQ salt rim, the result is a relatively spicy, salinated cocktail with a lovely acidity and underlying fruit sweetness.

This is maybe for the individual that wants to really explore the spicy and smoky aspects of their mezcal. Build it with different hot sauce and fruit purées to make it your own.

Recipe

  • 1.5 oz mezcal
  • 2-3 dashes of Frank’s Red Hot (or spicy cocktail bitters like Firewater)
  • 0.5 oz lime juice
  • 0.25 oz simple syrup
  • 0.5 oz kiwi purée
  • BBQ salt (for rim)
  1. Blend a peeled kiwi up with a splash of water to make a thick purée
  2. Pretty easy – add all your liquid ingredients into a shaker
  3. Add ice, shake hard and until well-chilled
  4. The purée is quite thick, make sure to shake for long enough to really dilute it and incorporate it into the drink
  5. Double-strain into a chilled rocks glass with a large ice cube
  6. If you find the mixture isn’t fully getting through the fine strainer, agitate the pulp with a barspoon and you’ll see the mesh open up to let liquid through
  7. Garnish with a lime wheel
  8. Enjoy!

What is Mezcal? What is the difference between Mezcal and Tequila?

Agave plantation in a blue sky background.

Agave is a leaf-bearing plant that grows throughout the Americas, thriving in hot, arid climates. Also known as maguey, agave is central to Mexican food and drink culture, especially in its distilled form of tequila and mezcal. It’s important to quickly mention that mezcal is a word used to refer to the body of spirits that are made from agave.

In this sense, tequila and mezcal are not separate spirits, tequila is a type of mezcal. The fleshy, spiny plant used to make this spirit is part of the Agavacae family, which contains almost 200 different species within its umbrella of variation. Around 30 are used to make mezcal, 1 for tequila.

While we covered a basic overview of agave growth and harvesting in the tequila article, I’ll give a very quick recap for those of us who aren’t familiar. This plant is known as a ‘monocarpic’ plant, meaning it dies shortly after flowering. Those who harvest agave, jimadores, are able to prevent the flowering process early by trimming the plant.

This in turn will allow the agave’s core – the piña – to mature and build natural sugars. The jimadores keep a careful watch on the agave anywhere from 7 to 15 to even 30 years to ensure the piña is at its most delicious. This is a careful, dedicated process informed by knowledge handed down through generations of agave farmers. These individuals are not just caretakers of the plant; they are custodians of a tradition that connects the people of Mexico to their land and to their history.

We’ll go on a tangent for a moment and talk about the Aztecs. From the 13th century, they would ferment agave into a brew they called pulque. In Aztec mythology, it is said that lightning struck the maguey plant, cooking it and releasing the juice that was then able to be distilled.

This brew, known as the “elixir of the gods”, was a central part of Aztec spiritual traditions, specifically those meant to pay homage to the godess of the agave plant and the god of pulque. Mayahuel and Patecatl were wife and husband, respectively associated with the maguey plant and the pulque spirit it produced.

Central to the cultural, economic, and spiritual context of pre-Spanish Mexico, agave and the alcohol it produced would remain a fundamental tradition with knowledge passed down from as far back as pre-Spanish South America.

Now that we have a little backstory to our backstory, let’s get back to the mezcal production process. Once the piña is mature, jimadores will use a special tool called a coa – a long stick with a rounded blade at the end – to cut away the maguey’s leaves and extract the piña.

They are often massive, weighing upwards of 88 pounds. These cores are then cooked, traditionally in pit ovens, to break down the sugars and add the smoky flavor typically associated with the final product.

After the maguey has been roasted, it will be mashed to extract the sweet juices. The most traditional form of this would be the stone wheel, turned either by multiple people or a horse. This mixture is then collected, diluted, and fermented, where the sugars begin to convert to alcohol once introduced to a live culture. Mezca is often fermented in multiple steps: first is a “dry” ferment with just pulp and the juices from the piña mash.

Then there is a “wet” ferment, where water is added into the mixture and it ferments further. After the second fermentation we pretty much have the aforementioned pulque. Clay jugs were traditionally used for the fermentation and distillation process, a technique that is still used today by some smaller-scale mezcal producers. Modern-style stills made of copper and steel are also commonly used.

This liquid is then distilled into a stronger, purer spirit that is the mezcal. Most of the time the mezcal is distilled at least 2 times, which increases the ABV and allows many of the flavors to start becoming more prominent in the final mixture.

Different flavors of Mezcal drinks.

As mezcal is usually distilled twice, even three times, in order to give it a 75 proof strength, there are lots of places where additional ingredients can be added into the mixture for flavoring. Most mezcal is aged in some way, often in oak barrels, but joven mezcal is the unaged variety. The amount of time needed to age the spirit can be anywhere from one year to 12 depending on the final flavor desired by the distiller.

As we see, the process is relatively universal. In this sense, the large range of variation in mezcal comes from is the agave used and its terroir. Additionally, fruits and herbs are often added to flavor the spirit during the distillation and fermentation process.

Once to the distiller’s taste, the tequila is bottled and ready to be drank and enjoyed across the whole world. It’s interesting to note that most mezcal is not diluted like whiskies and brandies: bottled at full strength, mezcal producers aim that this high strength will maintain and highlight the flavors innate to the style of the spirit.

In Mexico, there are over 820 000 acres of land being used to grow agave for mezcal production. Wiki states there are 9 000 different haciendas and producers growing the stuff. The maguey is sold to 625 mezcal facilities throughout Mexico and is distilled and shipped everywhere in the world. Mexico’s government is very strict about mezcal production in the country, with specific regulations as to what kind of spirits can be called mezcal.

The certified areas are Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosí, Puebla, Michoacan, Zacatecas, and Tamaulipas. Most of the mezcal is made in the Oaxaca and Jalisco area, especially given that Jalisco is where the legendary Agave tequilana azul grows, the only variant of maguey (Blue Agave) that can be used to distill tequila.

Mezcal is a protected appellation tied exclusively to Mexico, meaning that only spirits made in these areas are allowed to be sold as ‘mezcal’ anywhere in the world.

After the Spanish arrived in Mexico, they quickly saw the pulque brew and its various distillates as a valuable resource to have around. Running out of French brandy, the conquistadors would began producing their own mezcal in the 1500s. By 1600, The Marquis of Altamira Don Pedro Sánchez de Tagle would begin producing tequila around what would later be Jalisco.

This would cause tension between the Spanish authorities in the country and colonists around taxation of the product. The Spanish King Carlos IV would finally grant the familiar-sounding Cuervo family as the first official tequila-maker for commercial purposes. The spirit would be extremely popular and commercial mezcal projects began to pop up all across Mexico.

The spirit was extremely popular in the United States as well. It was heavily smuggled in during the Prohibition Era, fueling the drunken escapades of illegal boozers and crime families. Now, the US and Japan are the two main importers of the spirit. Over time, the definitions of these spirits began to become more specific as Mexican liquor authorities built criteria for what spirits can be called mezcal.

Small-scale production is still alive and well, and the tradition of separate distillers and the towns related to these industries is seemingly protected by the government. Tequila has DOP status in the EU and is protected through NAFTA. Furthermore, the region within which Blue Agave grows is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Oaxaca and Mezcal

The front facade of Historic Santo Domingo Cathedral.

Oaxaca is the region in southwestern Mexico where the vast majority of artisanal mezcal is produced. While small-scale local distillation is a method that is having a comeback in spirits all over the world, Oaxacan mezcal distillers have been purposely building their spirit in this way for over half a millennium.

The vast variation in mezcal comes from this notion of small-scale, independent distillation that attempts to highlight the maguey as directly as possible.

Slight nuances in the distillation process are what set each mezcalero from the other but their method remains the same: it’s all about the piña and the little bit of water in the fermentation process. After that, the flavors really come from the terroir of the maguey.

Oaxaca is linked to mezcal not only through its production but mostly through the ancestry of and tradition of the spirit linked to this geographic location. In all of Mexico, Oaxaca is one of the areas with the largest indigenous population, one of the indicators as to why the traditional methods of agave fermentation and distillation are still so strong in the culture of the region.

There is supposedly a saying in Oaxaca that goes: “Para todo mal, mezcal, para todo bien, también”, which roughly translates to “For anything bad, mezcal, for anything good, also mezcal”. The relationship of Oaxacan people to the agave plant has been strong even before the colonial period.

Today, Oaxaca celebrates its mezcal industry with great enthusiasm. They have a yearly festival called the International Mezcal Festival which is held in Oaxaca de Juárez, the region’s capital city. This festival draws massive amounts of tourists from the country and internationally, where many different kinds of the spirit are shared with people and tasted.

This festival is more than a celebration of the spirit itself – it is a celebration of a tradition and a culture. Mezcaleros from nearby mezcal-producing regions are also invited, and distillers from Guerrero, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato are also welcome to bring mezcal from their regions to share. It is a big boost for the local economy and attracted over 50 000 visitors in 2009.

One of the towns in this region, Santiago Matatlán, is the self-named world capital of mezcal because of a local mezcal’s first place position in liquor awards since 2003. Mezcal is easily purchased on roadsides from local distillers and there are significant non-alcoholic drinks also made from the maguey.

This region is also where the majority of mezcal exports occur: since the beginning of the 21st century, mezcal has begun to be increasingly in demand around the world, with mezcal varieties going through rigorous criteria to be able to be called mezcal and obtain the quality certification from federal agencies in Mexico.

After this, they are able to be sold around the world with the US and Japan being main consumers. Oaxacan culture is strongly linked to the final product and the handcrafted, artisanal quality of the spirit is one of the main selling points. Foreign investors have gone into Oaxaca to put money into smaller-scale distillers in order to highlight the nuanced and highly-traditional products that they make.

Because of this increase of the mezcal industry in Mexico, there has also been a pushback from activist groups in Mexico, criticizing the environmental and cultural impacts of a growing industrialization and commercialization of this special and highly-protected substance.

Many also call to attention the effect this growing industry has on the indigenous peoples of the region who are being pushed out in order to accommodate for increasing business around the agave plant.

It is important to remember that before mezcal, maguey has long been a central cultural symbol for the pre-Hispanic peoples of the region, tied intimately to a geographical, cultural, and spiritual identity. For this reason, it is also important to be able to enjoy the spirit with a bit of reverence and be mindful of where it’s sourced from and how it’s made.

How do we drink Mezcal?

A group of young individuals gather around to drink mezcal.

Given that mezcal is such a broad range of spirits made with different traditions and flavors, there is a lot to keep in mind if you’re learning about the stuff and want to taste lots of it.

Let’s chat about some of the terms that will be useful to know when talking about mezcal. We’ll be getting these definitions from Serious Eats, linked in the bibliography. First of the terms should be Espadin – this is the type of maguey that is most commonly used in mezcal production. It is sustainable, can be commercially grown with relative ease, has a shorter growing period, and is cheaper to make mezcal from.

Espadin mezcal is useful to drink in a cocktail because it is relatively clean and downplayed. It has an herbal center and a bit of smoke that makes it work well with citrus and sweeteners. This is the most commonly found mezcal you can likely get out there in the wild.

Then, we have mezcal made from wild agave. This is mezcal made from maguey that grows wild and is resistant to commercial farming – its flavors are significantly more varied than the Espadin and without a doubt are resulting in more expensive mezcal. The trade-off is a spirit that is significantly more dynamic and expresses uncommon notes that are specific to the maguey and the region.

For mass-scale production, the cultivation of wild agave can be an issue in sustainability as many of the wild varieties have been harvested to now very low levels. Espadin is thus an important resource to be able to use in order to offset some of the difficulties and resistances to cultivation often found with wild varieties.

Next, we’ll go over the concept of mezcal blends, called Ensembles. Mezcaleros will be able to control specific flavors and build spirits that are closer to a desired vision by the distiller. This will be a blend of different agave varieties, like Espadin and wild agave, as well as a mix of different ages of the spirit.

This can result in a complex bottle of mezcal with different notes than would be expected from the purest form of the spirit. Equally, it can offer higher complexity at a lower price point. Much like blended Scotch whisky, blended mezcal is an excellent way to get a closer taste of each distillery’s own unique nuance and production methods.

Lastly, we’ll talk about the aging process. There are generally three levels for all mezcal: Joven, Reposado, and Añejo. In that order they are ‘young’, ‘rested’, and ‘aged’. Mezcal that is joven is often unaged like an eau de vie, which gives it a clear, straightforward profile. Reposado is mezcal that has been stored in oak for under a year, giving it new notes and allowing the spirit’s flavors to meld together more smoothly.

Añejo is aged over a year and up to 3, after which it is considered extra-añejo. However, while many of the best whiskies are those aged for long periods of time in oak, it is actually often recommended to drink joven mezcal in order to get closest to the flavor of the maguey.

The aged variations are delicious and worth trying, but the specific ages of different mezcal are not necessarily associated with better or worse quality, often counter to the common perceptions of aging around wine and whisky. It is worth noting that some of the highest-rated mezcal on the planet are of the joven variety.

A shot glass of mezcal drinks garnished with lemon.

Much like you would taste wine, when we are discussing mezcal we are discussing terroir. Everything from the soil type (volcanic soil in Jalisco vs salinated in Oaxaca, as one example) to the harvesting method, the maturity of the piña desired by that specific mezcalero, the extras added to the distillation process, and production methods through aging are all factors that lend themselves to a vast array of flavors and aromas.

It’s also important to note that mezcal is a very artisanal spirit: do not expect consistency in flavors as the ingredients and the nuances that change the mezcal flavor are many and contingent on even more variables. Mezcal develops in the bottle as well, giving it a dynamic nature even for the one bottle you have. This is a truly artisanal spirit, which gives it an ephemeral quality that makes each bottle special.

Mezcal notes range from vegetal, floral, sweet, spicy, nutty, earthy, or mineral – that’s like, most of the notes out there. Furthermore, the longer the piña matures the more of the flavors from its environment are absorbed. Aleks Medina, manager of bar Sabina Sabe in Oaxaca, offers a few tasting tips in a VinePair interview.

For one, Medina recommends starting your mezcal tasting experience with something relatively young from central Oaxaca or lower Guerrero. These are legendary regions for mezcal: according to him “these two states have the greatest mezcal tradition and […] are the most representative” of authentic mezcal.

The Espadin varietal, which uses a maguey harvested relatively young (6-8 years), is recommended for its more downplayed profile that can serve to introduce people to the spirit before diving into the bigger stuff. It’s also more commonly-found in bars and liquor stores worldwide.

Medina also recommends trying different mezcal from the same region. This allows you to get a better idea of the nuance inherent to each separate distiller and their unique process, as well as the little variations of terroir that can make noticeable differences in the final product.

It can be approached like wine for this reason, where minute specificities like elevation, seasonal weather, direction of crops, etc, all add different elements to the spirit. Much like you would want to try Pinot Noir from different places within Burgundy, it’s a great idea to try mezcal from different places within Oaxaca.

Medina also mentions the importance of high alcohol volume. While the 40-45% ABV ratio is the most common in North America, looking for a spirit with a ABV around 50-55% is the best way to allow the unique flavors of the mezcal to be expressed through the alcohol. This would lead well into the last piece of advice Medina leaves, which is to drink it neat in small sips.

Much like you would explore a neat bourbon or scotch, the best way to get a feel for mezcal is to drink it on its own. Serve it at room temperature: this allows the undiluted flavors to come out as directly as possible. In regard to making cocktails, knowing what the spirit you’re working with tastes like on its own is a huge advantage in your later drink-making adventures.

You also may have heard about sal de gusano, translated to worm salt in English. A worm that grows around and in the agave, gusanos del maguey, are often associated with the mezcal drink on its own. There is a Mexican tradition to mash the worms up with salt which is then sprinkled onto an orange slice and served with your neat glass of mezcal.

The way to consume it is to sip the mezcal, take a little bite of the worm-salted orange slice, maybe a sip of water, and then repeat with another sip of mezcal. It allows you to continue resetting your palate and will hopefully let you get to deeper notes in the drink.

Del Maguey: A Modern Mezcal Producer Rooted in Tradition

A lined of Del Maguey bottles.

Source: Hawaiibevguide

Del Maguey is a pretty interesting mezcal producer with an extremely high-quality product and an artisanal vision behind each batch of their spirit. In order to understand why this brand is so highly celebrated, we need to cover the concept of “Single Village Mezcal”.

This is a term that is closely tied with Del Maguey’s vision in creating and distributing Mezcal: they aim to highlight the unique micro-climates of different villages in order to create a wide range of aroma and flavor diversity in their products.

Thus, their practice is to provide individual village producers with the funds and freedom to produce mezcal through hyper-traditional pre-Hispanic (and early colonial) methods of fermentation and distillation.

The result is a vast array of mezcal with unique and intentional flavors that come to represent the regions within which they were created. Spirits made with maguey grown in higher altitude valley regions are drier and smoother, where the lower-altitude mezcal are spicier and fruitier. Each bottle of Del Maguey credits the village where it was made and attempts to highlight the nuances in production and terroir related to the spirit.

The founder of Del Maguey is California-born artist Ron Cooper. Cooper, who started making art after visiting Oaxaca in the late 1960s, fell in love with the region, its people, its art, and its mezcal. By 1970, Cooper was becoming an established artist in the Los Angeles art scene, increasingly well-known for his explorations of light, color, and reflection through fluorescent lighting, neon, and glass.

His popularity would explode in a short number of years and he had pieces in permanent collections in the Guggenheim and LACMA. He was becoming an increasingly popular figure in the art scene and his reputation would help in his development of a mezcal brand.

After visiting Oaxaca, it was obvious that the region and its culture had an impact on Cooper’s art and perspective. It thus makes sense that he would also find himself involved in the mezcal scene, where he fell in love with the spirit and hoped to bring it to the United States and abroad. He lived in Oaxaca while he was making art and he founded Del Maguey in the 1990s after living and working with the locals for some time.

His aim was to highlight the artisanal aspect of this spirit and the nuances in production and product from village to village, especially given that there was a huge lack of this style of mezcal anywhere else in the world. His aim was to help produce high quality, organic, traditional mezcal to have people around the world taste the unique and varied forms that this spirit could take.

He obviously views the spirit as something significantly deeper than just an alcohol to get buzzed off – this quote Cooper gave helps put some of his abstract connections to the spirit in a context that I think helps elevate the more ethereal and intangible aspects of mezcal, as well as its connection to people and geography: “A good mezcal has a very different high than other spirits.

After a sip, it seems my feet come off the ground a centimeter or two – a floating feeling – and an intense, comfortable connection with the earth and the sky. Next the colors become a bit brighter, and if drinking with others, the connection between people gets stronger and the conversation more humorous and fluid”. He views this spirit, as do many others, as conduits to greater connection with people and our environment.

Cooper is credited as one of the central figures in bringing mezcal to a larger American audience in modernity, especially in the cocktail scene. He has since done many dining pairings with famous chefs and has won awards for his contributions to the global spirit industry.

Del Maguey is the top-selling mezcal in the USA, where each of their single-village mezcal are made by different families and use traditions nearly half a millennium old.

Del Maguey’s Agave and Mezcal Varieties

Wide plantation of Del Maguey’s agave variety.

Del Maguey works with ten different varietals of maguey. On their website they state the importance of knowing the plant in order to understand the mezcal that it creates. We’ll go over them briefly. The first, which we chatted about earlier, is the young-maturation and easy-grow Espadin that offers a wide range of flavors and clean mezcal.

The next is Arroqueño, the once-primary agave used to create mezcal that comes from the valley regions around Oaxaca. It takes up to 18 years to mature (and must grow wild), resulting in a rich, sweet mezcal with chocolate notes.

Tobalá is known as the “king of magueys”, supposedly one of the first to be distilled by the indigenous Oaxacans. It grows wild in high altitude soil and can take up to 15 years to ripen, creating complex mezcal with high minerality.

Tepextate is another high altitude maguey that grows near cliffs or in the shade and beds of pine and oak forests. They can take up to 30 years to mature in the wild, producing “candied, ethereal mezcal”. Jabalí is the maguey of the mountains, germinating in cliffside cracks.

It’s notoriously difficult to work with – especially in the fermentation process – and thus requires a close and careful distillation to produce bright and acidic mezcal. Papalome is another variant which means butterfly in Nahuatl, maturing in 12 years and creating complex and earthy mezcal.

Papalote is an interesting type of maguey used by Del Maguey that has characteristically small piñas with very high sugar content, making it slightly different from other agave in the distillation process. Growing in the sun of high-altitude forests, this 15-year maturation maguey produces floral and strong mezcal.

Barril is a maguey endemic to very specific regions in Oaxaca, taking up to 30 years to mature and resulting in a meaty (umami) mezcal with strong earth notes. Madrecuixe is a weird-looking maguey given that it stands upright with this weird stem. It takes up to 18 years to mature and creates vegetal and herbal mezcal.

Lastly, Tobaziche is another upright maguey that grows in the wild and can reach up to 10 feet tall at the end of its 18-year maturity lifespan. Like Madrecuixe, Tobaziche mezcal is vegetal and herbal but also is a bit drier and earthier. Del Maguey uses these varietals and only these in its mezcal production.

Del Maguey’s most famous mezcal style is called ‘Vida’, meaning ‘Life’ in Spanish. It is supposedly very fruity in aroma with hints of honey, vanilla and roast agave. The palate offers ginger, burnt sandalwood, banana, citrus, and cinnamon. The finish is soft in its intensity, with a long-lasting smokiness and bite.

Launched in 2010, Del Maguey’s Vida has been lauded as a perfect mezcal by which to introduce newbies to the wonderful world of this spirit, as it is approachable but full of personality. This mezcal is twice-distilled in copper stills heated by wood fires and was originally conceived to be put in cocktails.

Vida is Del Maguey’s mezcal style created by Paciano Cruz Nolasco, a legendary mezcalero who was among the first to begin working with Cooper for Del Maguey. Don Paciano wanted to highlight the specific flavors inherent to the maguey that grew in the region around his village, San Luis Del Rio. This village is bordered by the Red Ant River and is a central component of the culture as well as the flavors of the mezcal.

Del Maguey gave Don Paciano full freedom to create a traditional and entirely unique San Luis Del Rio mezcal, one that represented the region and the traditions behind it as closely as possible. The result was celebrated everywhere, a dry and smooth spirit that carries body and resilience, quoted as a “true Zapotec elixir”.

The Nolasco family and the village of San Luis Del Rio are also behind some of Del Maguey’s most iconic bottles including San Luis Del Rio, Crema de Mezcal, Vida de Muertos, Madrecuixe, and Tobaziche. If you see any of these around in your local liquor store, it’s highly recommended you try it out. Now, Paciano’s son Marcos continues the tradition of highlighting his region’s terroir with Del Maguey and ancestral methods.

Close photo of agave plant.

In the same vein, the village of San Baltazar Chichicapam is another place in which Del Maguey works closely. This is a village of mezcal producers, a tradition and history central to the culture of this community. Distiller and mezcalero Faustino Garcia Vasquez and his son Maximino are the faces of San Baltazar Chichicapam mezcal, creating Del Maguey’s highly-celebrated Chichicapa mezcal.

The last village we’ll explore that Del Maguey works with is the town of Santa Catarina Minas. Under Luis Carlos Vasquez, this area – known as the Cradle of Mezcal – is elevated to new levels of popularity and recognition worldwide. The village traces its mezcal production to the earliest years of Spanish occupation, one of the first places where commercial mezcal began to be produced.

Through this long history, mezcal of this region is rooted in traditionalism and a deep connection to the maguey culture. Don Vasquez is intimately knowledgeable about all parts of the mezcal process, having become familiar and then an expert in everything from the cultivation and harvesting to the distillation and tasting. He heads the creation of Del Maguey’s Minero, Arroqueño, Pechuga, and Iberico styles of mezcal.

I strongly recommend anyone interested in this brand to take a look at the Del Maguey website where they have short write-ups about the villagers and distillers they work with.

I found myself becoming deeply involved with the stories of these different artisans, feeling my awareness of the connection between the spirit and its people growing as I read through their individual stories. It’s very beautiful and serves to highlight the obvious care Del Maguey has for its mezcal and importantly, those that produce it.

Alcohol giant Pernod-Ricard bought the brand in 2017 (a sign of mezcal’s recently-growing popularity worldwide), where Cooper and the original founders signed on with a strict devotion to the environmental and social responsibility they feel is central to Del Maguey’s production. They work closely with NGOs to manage their social and economic initiatives meant to promote and protect the people of these areas in Mexico.

Among these initiatives are the Zapotec Talking Dictionary Program and Digital Library Program to increase education levels among people in the region. They are also heavily involved with environmental initiatives like their Apiculture (bees) Program and their Reforestation Program to promote soil and biosphere health.

Lastly, they are central supporters of the Growers First initiative, a program meant to advocate for farmers living in remote areas all over the world. They “utilize agriculture and education to create traceable transformation in the lives of poor farming families”, offering resources in medicine through traveling doctors and attempting to increase access to care in villages that can be scaled and maintained.

I hope you enjoyed learning a little bit more about Mexico’s native spirit and I hope you may feel inclined to try out some of these cocktails or even mezcal on its own. The spirit is a bit of an acquired taste, yes, but once you understand the parts about it you like and the different variations you’re drawn to, you’ll find yourself immersed in a world with seemingly infinite possibilities of exploration.

This is, more than most other well-known spirits in the world, a truly artisanal product. This is about as farm-to-glass as it gets. If you are a lover of alcohol and the stories that connect it to people (like I am), I have a feeling you’ll love mezcal.

With a generous splash of mezcal, a fresh orange slice, and some sal de gusano, this is Graham. Thanks for reading, we’ll see you next time.

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