Mezcal Cocktails

I love tequila, but lately have been reading about mezcal. Here is some of what I have learned about this smoky spirit. Mezcal, or mescal, is a distilled alcoholic beverage made from the maguey plant (a form of agave) native to Mexico. The maguey grows in many parts of Mexico, though most mezcal is made in Oaxaca. Mezcal is made from the heart of the maguey plant much the same way it was 200 years ago. In Mexico, mezcal is generally consumed straight and has a strong smoky flavor. Mezcal is not as popular as tequila, which is made from the blue agave plant, but its popularity is growing in the United States.

Mezcal is handcrafted by small-scale producers using methods that have been passed down from generation to generation. Some still use the same techniques practiced 200 years ago. The process begins by harvesting the plants, and extracting the heart by cutting off the plant’s leaves and roots. The heart or piñas are then cooked for about three days, often in pit ovens, which are earthen mounds over pits of hot rocks. This underground roasting gives mezcal its intense and distinctive smoky flavor. The piñas are then crushed and mashed (traditionally by a stone wheel turned by a horse) and then left to ferment in large vats or barrels with water added. Each distiller impars their signature character to the mezcal by flavoring the mash with cinnamon, pineapple slices, red bananas and sugar. The mash is allowed to ferment and the resulting liquid collected and distilled in either clay or copper pots which will further modify the flavor of the final product. The distilled product is left to age in barrels for between one month and four years, and some aged for as long as twelve years. Mezcal is not as smooth as tequila, as it is generally distilled only once while tequila is distilled twice. Mezcal is highly varied, depending on the species maguey used, the fruits and herbs added during fermentation, and the distillation process employed.

So now we know how mezcal is produced. Mexicans traditionally drink it straight, but we are going to start with trying it in cocktails. We are going to start with a traditional margarita recipe, replacing the tequila with mezcal. Then we are going to try a cocktail with an additional fruit syrup. Finally, we are headed towards a tropical drink that still retains some tartness. Come along and drink with us as we explore mezcal.

Mezcal Margarita

  • 1 ½ ounces mezcal
  • 1 ounce Cointreau
  • ½ ounce lime juice
  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake it like you mean it.
  3. Rub a lime around the edge of a margarita glass.
  4. Rotate the outside edge of the glass in rock salt
  5. Strain shaker into a margarita glass.

Mexican Firing Squad

  • 2.0oz Mezcal
  • 1.5oz fresh lime juice
  • 1.0oz agave nectar
  • .5oz pomegranate molasses*
  • 3 dashes Angosturo bitters
  1. Mix all the ingredients into a shaker.
  2. Fill with crushed ice.
  3. Shake it like you mean it.
  4. Pour into a highball glass.
  5. Garnish with a lime wedge.
  6. ….and Holy Pancho Villa Batman!  Amazing mezcal cocktail!

*You can buy pomegranate molasses at grocery stores, but I find they taste a bit odd and, besides, they are easy to make.  Just buy a bottle of Pom, the bigger the better, pour it in a sauce pan, and simmer it down.  It can take more than an hour, but just as it starts to thicken a little, turn it off.  Let it cool, and then pour it into a container that you can keep in the fridge.  

Oaxacan Dream
(from an article in Imbibe Magazine)

  • 1 ½ oz. mezcal
  • 1 oz. pineapple juice (fresh, if available)
  • ¾ oz. cranberry juice
  • ½ oz. fresh lime juice
  • ½ oz. agave nectar
  • Ice cubes
  • Crushed ice


  1. Combine all ingredients in a shaker with ice.
  2. Shake it like you mean it.
  3. Strain into a highball filled with crushed ice.
  4. Garnish with a grilled pineapple, optional.

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