Mezcal has become so popular in restaurants and bars as well as retail stores. It’s a spirit that 10 years ago you probably knew about, but may have not tasted it. Today, it takes over cocktail menu’s and also spirits menu’s and has grown so much in the USA. I hear so many requests for Mezcal to sip as well as mix into cocktails and I was lucky enough to receive some amazing samples this year as well as taste some on my Honeymoon. I certainly made Mezcal a part of my cocktail routine the past few years, and I think you will want to do the same, if you haven’t already.
What is mezcal? This Mexican spirit can be made from over 30+ different types of agave plants, unlike Tequila which can be made from one type. Mezcal makes a great replacement in cocktails when you want to add a smokiness. Mezcal is also becoming more popular than Tequila in Mexico! Mezcal once harvested mainly by hand with a machete, is cooked inside an underground pit, where it caramelizes and gains those beautiful smoky, sweet, earthy flavors we know and love! Like wine, agave plants take over 7+ years to reach a good full weight and height, and some can be as tall as 7 feet or more. Some agave plants like vines can be 16+ years old. Terroir also has a lot of influence on the agave and the regions have different soil types and micro climates that impart different tastes in the agave.
Fun fact: Tequila is technically a type of mezcal… but Mezcal can never be a tequila.
I sip mezcal on its own many times, but in cocktails it takes on a whole new life. I make mezcal a part of my routine and have a few new favorites I have been sipping this season. I like them on their own, on the rocks, with cigars, and mixed into seasonal margaritas. Here are two Mezcal brands that you’ll want to add to your bar at home!
Ilegal Mezcal- Beautifully balanced with a hint of smoke! Handcrafted in small batches and very popular in the mezcal category is this bright and vibrant brand. You have probably seen this one around the stores, even though its small batch, we’re lucky here in NYC and have our hands on many brands. Sun, agave, and time is all it takes plus passion to produce this fantastic Mexican spirit.
Ilegal Joven is A classic expression and one I am enjoying this holiday season. It’s light on the smoke so it’s great for the new mezcal drinkers, as well as its full of green apple, citrus, spice, and smoothness. There is no oak on this so it’s also ideal for cocktails such as a classic Margarita or a Paloma.
The Producer Mezcal- These Oaxacan producers have carefully crafted two different styles of Mezcal for all palates. They sought out to produce mezcal for all and they have certainly showcased that in their two different unique styles. The Producer mezcal is for everyone, whether you’re new to mezcal or an expert the idea behind The Producer is to enjoy mezcal how they do in Oaxaca and enjoy it with people and make that human connection.
Ensamble Mezcal showcases the subtle smoke, vegetal notes, minerality, and floral notes. This is great on it’s own but even better as an old fashioned! Yes you read this right, a mezcal old fashioned using the Ensamble combined with simple syrup and orange bitters. $47.99
Tepeztate Mezcal is a nice high end mezcal ideal for the expert or passionate mezcal drinker. The agave reaches maturity after 16 years, on the coastal region of Sierra Sur. Here you’ll notice a salinity and true expression of the terroir! This mezcal is complex with salty notes, citrus, white pepper, subtle smoke, and green notes. It’s smooth and layered and absolutely delicious. This is going to be sipped on its own in my home, probably paired with a cigar or two, but you can also make it into a cocktail.
Always remember eat what you like and drink what you love! Don’t be afraid to add spirits to your holiday season, especially Mezcal, you’ll be the host/hostess with the most this season if you do! Please pair responsibly.