“Para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien, también.” (“For everything bad, mezcal, and for everything good, as well.”) – Oaxacan idiom
Drunk in “little kisses,” Mezcal has quickly become one of the trendiest categories in the spirit world, but this unique drink is anything but new; in fact, it dates back hundreds of years. When the Spanish first began the colonization of Mexico, agave spirits were already in production, but it’s hard to know how long before or to what extent. We know that ever since, Mezcal has become an integral part of Mexican history, culture, and superstition and is overdue for attention on a global scale.
In celebration of National Mezcal Day, we’re sharing a look at the spirit, a few of the wonderful brands making it, and ways to enjoy it in a cocktail. In case you’ve managed to miss the memo, Mezcal is any spirit distilled from around 30 of the nearly 200 sub-species of agave (all Tequila is a Mezcal, but not all Mezcal is Tequila). Many will tell you that the key factor of Mezcal is its “smokiness,” but don’t expect to note too much-charred wood or tobacco. The key flavors that give Mezcal its reputation are actually notes of chipotle and dry chili but depending on the variety of agave used; it can read floral, fruity, earthy, and even savory.
Unlike Tequila, which can only be produced in a specific region with specific agave (blue weber), Mezcal gives producers a license to play. This freedom has opened the door to an incredible range of highly unique, artisanal distillers. Many producers use traditional methods – cooking the agave with a wood fire, milling with a stone mill, open-air fermentation, and copper distillation. Depending on the techniques, the resulting Mezcal flavor can vary wildly, making it an incredibly exciting and fun spirit to try.
It’s not possible to write an educated article on mezcal and ignore Montelobos; after all, the Co-Founder, Ivan Saldaña, quite literally wrote the book on it – The Anatomy of Mezcal. Background aside, Montelobos is a standout in the category with three varietals and a fourth soon to come. Their process from ground to glass differs per style, creating three highly unique and stunning flavor profiles.
For those new to Mezcal, Ojo de Tigre is a fantastic opening spirit to the category. Made from a mix of Espadín and Tobalá agaves, this joven class isn’t overly smokey and features notes of green apple, citrus, caramel, and smoked cocoa.
For new and established Mezcal lovers alike, Bozal offers an impressive range of expressions made from different agave varieties. For the dedicated mezcal palette, the range offers a unique chance to explore just how different each agave species can taste.
Woman run, and with a female-led production team, Doña Vega has been taking the mezcal world by storm. This modern take on the heritage liquor honors the authentic core of mezcal while keeping a lighter, less smokey, and more playful flavor.
Based in Ejutla, Mexico, Banhez is a farmer and family-run Cooperative working to make a fair trade, sustainable mezcal. The line currently has eight expressions made from a range of different agave varietals. One of our favorites is the Ensemble, made from 90% Espadín and 10% Barril agave, which gives it a delightfully sweet and smokey palate with pineapple and banana hints.
This new launch in the Ready To Drink Category caught our eye with its bold flavors and unique approach. Made from natural juice, sparkling water, and 100% Agave Espadín, these slim 12 oz. cans are an easy way to introduce curious new palettes and thrill long-time mezcal lovers alike.
Put those bottles to work with some of these delightful cocktails! Make sure to check back this weekend for more peppery/smokey Mezcal goodness in our Saturday Must Mix Feature!
- 1 1/2 oz. Mezcal Ojo de Tigre
- 8-10 Mint Leaves
- 1 oz. Simple Syrup
- 2 Dashes Lemon Bitters
- 3 Drops Olive Oil
Preparation: Place all ingredients except olive oil in a shaker with plenty of ice and give it a good shake. Serve in a cold coupe glass and use a fine strainer to catch stray pieces of leaves. Finish with 3 drops of olive oil on top and decorate with a mint leaf.
Efervescencia de Oaxaca
- 2 oz. Bozal Ensamble
- 3/4 oz. Cardamom Syrup
- 3/4 oz. Lemon Juice
- 4 dashes Mole Bitters
- 1 Egg White
Preparation: Chill coupe glass with ice water. Build mezcal, cardamom syrup, lemon and bitters in shaker tin. Add egg white in a smaller tin. Combine tins together with 2 ice cubes and dry shake vigorously for 10 seconds. Uncap, add ice, cap and seal again and hard shake for 10-12 seconds. Dump your ice water from your coupe and double strain with a Hawthorne strainer through a fine strainer into your chilled coupe.
Smokey and the Bandit credit: Michael Gellet
- 1 oz. Doña Vega Mezcal
- 1 oz. Liquor Strega
- 1 oz. Averna Amaro
Preparation: Stir, Strain over fresh large cube in a rocks glass. Garnish: Smoked Salt rim
- 2 Parts Montelobos Mezcal
- 3/4 Part Cinnamon Syrup
- 3/4 Part Lime Juice
- 4 Parts Hibiscus Tea
Preparation: Build all ingredients in a small bowl and mix. Add ice cubes and garnish with cinnamon sticks and orange slices.