Mezcal is quickly becoming America’s favorite Mexican import. Bartenders across the country have ditched tequila in favor of its smoky cousin, and many prefer it for its depth (and the lack of embarrassing college memories associated with it, I’m sure).
What is mezcal made from?
Mezcal is distilled from a mash of roasted agave plants, but unlike tequila—which can only use the variety known as blue agave—it can be made from many different cultivars. Traditionally, the spirit was made with whatever regional varieties were available to the people making it.
And contrary to popular belief, the worm in the bottom of the bottle is absolutely not a necessary component. In fact, you’ll find that nearly every brand that contains one is inferior. The worm tradition was actually started to give these spirits added flavor (yuck!), and was first done by Nacionale Vinicola in their Gusano Rojo mezcal.
Today, small-batch mezcal producers are springing up all over Oaxaca (the Mexican state where mezcal is most traditionally produced) and beyond. One of my personal favorites is Del Maguey. Their single-village distilling method encourages small producers to use traditional techniques, and as a result the brand tends to demonstrate unique flavor profiles from distinct growing regions.
For the summer, I’ve put together a collection of some of my favorite mezcal cocktails. Some are classics, others are new-school favorites, and two of them were concocted right here in the Bevvy Cocktail Lab!
The Aventura is an original cocktail from the Bevvy Cocktail Lab. It features the smokiness of mezcal, the freshness of mint, and the sweetness of seasonal berries, and is further enhanced by the lively flavors of St. Germain and luxurious Grand Marnier. Delightfully elegant and devilishly sweet, the Aventura is a drink you'll remember with fondness for year…
Spanish for "dove," the Paloma is one of the most popular cocktail recipes made in Mexico, and features either grapefruit juice and club soda or one of the many traditional Mexican grapefruit sodas that can be found in most well-stocked grocery stores. While traditionally made with tequila, the smokiness of mezcal takes the Paloma to new heights.
A drink as classic and simple as the Paloma is bound to have variations, and one of our favorites comes from SIP (Southport & Irving Restaurant and Bar), an amazing Prohibition-style neighborhood bar in North Lakeview, Chicago. Recipe courtesy Ardit Dizdari.
Despite it’s name, El Diablo is a perfect cocktail to help you beat the heat this summer. The sweetness of crème de cassis combines perfectly with the tartness of ginger beer, and the intense smokiness of mezcal. These cocktails are especially good for summer get-togethers where exact measurements aren’t your top priority!
The Tobacco Road is simple, strong, and features an unmistakable combination of Cynar and mezcal. The finishing touches of a grapefruit rind and a pinch of salt really enhance the experience (I’ve chosen to garnish mine with some Kilauea Onyx Black Hawaiian Sea Salt I got from online specialty shop The Meadow). The result is a dynamic garnish that begins to …