More and more people are getting curious about mezcal. The bar-drinker wants to try it and the bartender wants to try mixing it. Both things could be sliiiiiiightly intimidating for a few of those on both sides of the bar as it’s a complex spirit that requires a little understanding and care.
If you know about tequila, you’re halfway there. A common misunderstanding is that mezcal is a type of tequila… wrong! Tequila is technically a mezcal though – any alcohol made from distilled agave is a mezcal. Tequila is made from 100% blue agave in a specific area of Mexico, whereas mezcal can be made from over 30 types of agave all over Mexico.
In order to make mezcal, the hearts of the agave are slow-roasted over hot rocks in earthen mounds for several days. This gives a glorious smokiness to the spirit, which actually varies depending on the region it was produced in and the type of agave used, much like a fine wine.
So, how best to make the most out of mezcal’s spicy, earthy smokiness?
For the mezcal novice:
Simple is best. Mezcal on the rocks with a splash of club soda and lime is a great way to enjoy mezcal, and it allows mezcal’s natural flavours to flourish.
For the mezcal intermediate:
If you’re feeling a little more experimental, muddle a shot of mezcal with lime, cucumber, a splash of club soda and a dash or two of hot sauce.
For the mezcal pro:
Make a Oaxaca Old Fashioned with two shots of mezcal muddled with two orange slices, a couple of maraschino cherries and some diluted agave syrup in a cocktail shaker. Add a dash of Angostura bitters and shake, strain and pour over ice. Top with a splash of club soda and you’ve just made one hell of an awesome cocktail.
Love mezcal and it is one spirit that will love you back. Enjoy!