If you've spent any time at a cocktail bar lately, it's likely you've seen jiggers of mezcal going into the drinks. Long past are the days when the US only had access to cheap, rough versions of this agave spirit. What you can find now is fascinating stuff: herbal and savory, sometimes smoky, and definitely worthy of tasting straight up. We love it in cocktails too, and recommend grabbing a bottle for this year's Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Here are nine recipes to get you started.
Wanna read more about the spirit itself and how it's made? Start with Michael Dietsch's Mezcal 101.
Last of the Oaxacans
You might have heard of a cocktail called the Last Word, which features gin and herbal Green Chartreuse, along with maraschino liqueur and lime. This simple variation subs out the gin for savory mezcal, and tosses in a slice of serrano pepper to add spice to the subtly smoky drink.
Sierra Madre Sunrise
Earthy mezcal meets orangey Aperol in this fizzy drink, which you can spice with Angostura or chocolate bitters. Lemon juice adds brightness, and a lemon peel enriches the aroma.
Grilled Tomato and Chili Cocktail
Tomatoes not amazing yet? Throw them on the grill to concentrate their flavors a bit, along with smoky guajillo chilies. Muddled together with lime juice and coriander, the mix is a great match for savory mezcal—especially when you add a dash of umami in the form of Worcestershire sauce. This recipe makes a four-drink pitcher.
Basil Cranberry Julep
Want to combine your Cinco de Mayo and Derby Day celebrations? Go ahead and stock up on bourbon for a classic julep, but try this mezcal version, too. The smoky stuff works great with mountains of crushed ice, alongside a tart cranberry syrup and fragrant fresh basil leaves.
Jewel of Oaxaca
Mangoes get luscious after a spin on the grill, and they're wonderful with a squeeze of lime. Turn it into a cocktail by muddling it up with a little (easy to make) ancho chili syrup and shaking with earthy mezcal. This savory, fruity drink is just the thing for a barbecue; especially one that starts around brunch time.
This one couldn't be simpler: just mix your mezcal with sour apple soda (Sidral Mundet Sour with the green label is the one you want). It may sound like a regular ol' highball, but smoky mezcal lends a complexity to this drink that you won't find in a vodka-tonic.
All Betts Are Off
If you're a cocktail lover but you're not quite sure if you're a fan of mezcal, this drink's a great place to start. The mezcal is enriched with sweet and herbal Yellow Chartreuse and lightened with easy-drinking Dolin Blanc vermouth, plus grapefruit bitters for a touch of citrusy flavor.
We often recommend mezcal to Scotch lovers, and this drink illustrates why: the touch of smoke from the spirit mingles with vegetal Cynar and briny sherry in delicious ways. Spiced with Peychaud's bitters, the results smell like woodsmoke and leather.
Mezcal gets extra richness in this frothy drink, thanks to a shaken egg white. The smoky flavor is underlined with ginger liqueur and chili powder, and softened with a touch of floral St. Germain. Averna brings in a touch of caramel and bitterness to seal the deal. It may sound like a wacky combination, but it's one worth trying, especially if you find yourself gravitating toward gingery cocktails.