It’s only a few days until Cinco de Mayo which means, you are likely to think Tequila and Margarita Cocktails. Which makes sense. However, as for my own Cinco de Mayo this year, it’s all about Mezcal.
Don’t get me wrong. I love the classic Tequila cocktails, with all the fabulous versions of Margarita on top. Occasionally, however, I am looking at some change in flavour profile.
So what is Mezcal, and what exactly is the difference to Tequila?
Well, firstly both Mezcal and Tequila are made from agave.
However, there is a distinctive difference. Tequila is distilled exclusively from blue agave. By contrast, Mezcal can made from more than 30 different agave varietals. This means, all Tequilas are technically Mezcal but not all Mezcal are Tequilas.
In addition, Tequila is a denomination of origin drink, meaning only those spirits distelled from blue agave in the Mexican regions of Guanajuato, Jalisco, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas can be legally called Tequila.
Mezcal on the other hand is not a protected name and the spirit is produced in nine different regions of Mexico, including Durango, Guanajuato, Guerrero, San Luis Potosi, Tamaulipas, Zacatecas, Michoacán, Puebla and Oaxaca. The latter being the region where more than 80% of all Mezcal is made.
Another significant difference is how both spirits are made.
Tequila is typically made by steaming the agave in industrial ovens, after which they are distilled tow or three times in copper pots.
Mezcal will be usually cooked in earthen pits in the ground, lined with lava rocks and filled with wood and charcoal, which gives the spirit its characteristic smoky flavour. After that, it will be distilled in clay pots.
Different to the industrial scale production of Tequila, Mezcal is mainly made by small local producers and typically offers an expressive expression of terroir.
How does it taste and what is the best way to drink Mezcal?
I’ve already mentioned smoky, which is the most common expression used to describe Mezcal.
However, there are different types of Mezcal. Due to how it is produced, it can sometimes taste a little charred, with hints of roasted bell pepper and chipotle. Others will be more floral, fruity and spicy.
Mezcal is traditionally enjoyed straight, accompanied by an orange slice and and sal de gusano, which is a mixture of salt, dried chiles, and well, yes ground agave worms.
That said, and though you should not confuse Mezcal with Tequila, swapping Tequila with Mezcal in a cocktail will almost always work.
Three awesome Mezcal Cocktails for Cinco de Mayo
Though Margarita is typically the drink of choice on Cinco de Mayo, if you want to get a start on Mezcal, check out these three classic cocktails using Mezcal instead of Tequila.
Mezcal Strawberry Margarita
115 g strawberries
60 ml mezcal
40 ml fresh lime juice
30 ml honey
15 ml Cointreau
Rim a margarita glass with salt.
In a blender, add strawberries, mezcal, lime juice, honey, and Cointreau. Blend until smooth. Let set for a minute or two, then eliminate the foam on top.
Fill the margarita glass halfway with ice, pour the strawberry margarita on top and garnish with a strawberry or lime wheel.
Smoky Mezcal is the perfect balance for the sweet vermouth and bitter Campari. Thus try this classic Italian cocktail swapping gin for Mezcal.
30 ml Campari
30 ml sweet Vermouth
30 ml Mezcal
Orange zest for garnishing
In a mixing glass over ice, combine Campari, Vermouth and Mezcal. Stir and strain into a cocktail glass filled with ice.
Garnish with an orange zest.
The classic Matador cocktail, based on just three ingredients (Tequila, pineapple and lime juice) is largely overshadowed by the hugely popular Margarita. Which is totally undeserved. The Matador, which combines three main Mexican flavours, is the perfect drink for a hot summer day.
Simply swap the Tequila for Mezcal to achieve an even more expressive flavour combination.
1 to 1.5 parts Mezcal
2 to 3 parts pineapple juice
juice of half a lime
Add all ingredients in a sharker half filled with ice. Shake, then strain into a chilled cocktail glass or champagne flute.
Garnish with a pineapple or lime slice.
Are you familiar with Mezcal? Do let me know how you like it.