There is no doubt that tequila is the most celebrated and well-known spirit to come out of Mexico, but mezcal—its smokier, more mysterious cousin—is equally as delicious. Similar to tequila, mezcal is made from agave, but the two spirits are made from different agave and undergo a different distillation process (creating two very different flavors).
Known for its distinctly smoky taste, mezcal gets its flavor from the underground roasting process it undergoes during distillation.
With its smoky and subtly sweet taste, mezcal works wonders in cocktails, especially for those willing to give in to creativity. If you find that mezcal's unique flavor is a bit too tricky to work with, the following cocktails are easy to make and a great way to introduce yourself to the wonderful world of mezcal.
Deathly Hallows Cocktail
The Recipe: The Deathly Hallows Cocktail
Hero Ingredient: With a hearty helping of citrus, there's both fresh lemon juice and orange liquor in this sip, but the addition of real maple syrup helps balance tart with sweet.
Pro Tip: For a little bit of flair and flavor, Tieghan Gerard of Half Baked Harvest finishes off The Deathly Hallows Cocktail with a sprig of smoked fresh thyme. "To give the drink a little smokiness, I finished each drink off with a sprig of fresh thyme that I then lit on fire," she explains.
Why We Love It: What's not to love about a Harry Potter-inspired cocktail? In addition to scoring literary cool points, this cocktail is a great sip for fall.
Black Widow Smash
The Recipe: The Black Widow Smash
Hero Ingredient: Sparkling water adds a touch of carbonation and welcome fizz to this mezcal cocktail.
Pro Tip: Although The Black Widow Smash calls for sparkling water, ginger beer can also be used for that fizzy touch. "Add sparkling water (ginger beer would be delicious here, too) and done," Half Baked Harvest's Tieghan Gerard reveals.
Why We Love It: With a combination of both fresh and craft ingredients, this boozy sip is a true craft cocktail, but takes only a handful of minutes to make.
Marigold Mezcal Margarita
The Recipe: Marigold Mezcal Margarita
Hero Ingredient: Dried marigold flowers are used to create a simple syrup for this cocktail and are also used as a garnish, adding a welcome dose of color.
Pro Tip: Hola Jalapeño's Kate Ramos offered some insight into one of the ingredients in this drink. "These tall-stemmed queens [marigolds] are strewn into wreaths, and constructed into brilliant arcs surrounding altars in Oaxaca and all over Mexico for Dia de los Muertos or Day of the Dead," she explains.
Why We Love It: Marigolds don't receive much shine in the culinary world, but this recipe cleverly and deliciously incorporates this vibrant flower.
Strawberry Mezcal Margaritas
The Recipe: Smoked Strawberry Mezcal Margaritas
Hero Ingredient: This cocktail already boasts a smoky edge thanks to the mezcal, but the addition of smoked strawberry juice adds another layer of smoky sweetness.
Pro Tip: According to Jessica Merchant of How Sweet Eats, smoked strawberry juice was used to add a much more mellow strawberry flavor. "I wanted things to be a little lighter. So I puréed the smoky strawberries and then drained the juice, and just used the juice," she says.
Why We Love It: A little bit savory, a little bit sweet, this cocktail is an ideal take on a smoky mezcal cocktail.
Guava Mezcal Mule
The Recipe: Guava Mezcal Mule Cocktail
Hero Ingredient: The addition of guava juice will take you straight to the tropics and also acts to balance out the smokiness of the mezcal.
Pro Tip: Salt And Wind's founder, Aida Mollenkamp spills the details on where you can find a great bottle of mezcal here in the states. "There's a liquor store in Baja California that might just have the best Mexican liquor selection I've ever seen."
Why We Love It: Featuring only three ingredients (and a garnish), the Guava Mezcal Mule Cocktail is a quick and easy way to enjoy your next bottle of mezcal.
Charred Grapefruit & Mezcal Paloma Sour
The Recipe: Charred Grapefruit & Mezcal Paloma Sour
Hero Ingredient: As intimidating of a cocktail ingredient egg white might seem, it adds an element of creaminess and frothiness that can truly elevate a cocktail.
Pro Tip: Created by The Modern Proper's Holly, the Charred Grapefruit & Mezcal Paloma Sour proves that adding an unexpected element to a cocktail can really set it over the top. "It’s a deliciously simple and straightforward cocktail with a few surprise 'elements' (pun intended) that make it completely crave-worthy and something that we will be making again and again," she reveals.
Why We Love It: The charred grapefruit garnish carefully placed on the top layer of froth makes this cocktail as aesthetically charming as it is delicious.
Apple Cider Mezcal Margarita
The Recipe: Apple Cider Mezcal Margarita
Hero Ingredient: Apple cider is a hands-down fall favorite. Surprisingly though, it works quite well with mezcal, balancing out any smokiness with its sweet, tart flavor.
Pro Tip: For those of us who like a little spice, Gimme Some Oven's creator Ali Martin reveals how you can add a little kick to this cocktail. "If you’d like to make it a little spicier, try muddling a little jalapeño slice in there," she explains.
Why We Love It: Any boozy spin on apple cider is a welcome treat, but this particular combination of apple cider and mezcal is uniquely satisfying and a great way to sample a mezcal cocktail for those unfamiliar with the spirit.
Valenzuela Zapata AG, Gaytan MS. Sustaining Biological and Cultural Diversity. Geographic Indications and Traditional Mezcal Production in Jalisco, Mexico. Rev Ethnoecol. 2012;2. doi:10.4000/ethnoecologie.990