Mezcal has become especially popular in the last few years, riding the wave of similarly popular Mexican spirits, such as tequila and pulque, and there are countless ways to pair and prepare the drink to cater to almost any taste and occasion.
Derived from the sap of the agave plant, the drink has become a firm favorite amongst cocktail lovers for its sharp and smoky taste and the romanticism of its storied history.
Despite its modern popularity, mezcal has an extensive role in Mexico’s history, dating back to before the Spanish conquest in the 15th century.
Pre-Spanish Mexicans held the agave plant as sacred, removing the ‘heart’ of the plant, cooking it, and fermenting its juices.
The Elixir Of The Gods
The reason for its important place in Mexican culture originates from mythology, wherein a lightning bolt shot from the heavens, hitting an agave plant, splaying it open, cooking it, and releasing its potent, fermented juices.
This myth gave the drink the unofficial title as ‘the elixir of the gods’, and cemented its place within the ritualistic practices of the early Mexican people.
This perfectly zesty, colorful cocktail captures the wild, passionate essence of Spain, thanks to the hibiscus syrup, citrus juices, and Mexican tajin – a chile-lime seasoning that gives the whole thing the right amount of bite.
Reflecting the breathtaking color palette of the Chihuahuan sunset, there is no surprise that this cocktail remains so popular amongst Mezcal fanatics and mixologists alike.
A new take on the traditional bourbon cocktail, The Old Fashioned, this cocktail replaces Kentucky’s finest with a taste right out of Oaxaca – providing the sharp agave taste, and the smokiness that has become synonymous with mezcal.
Simple and elegant, the Oaxaca Old Fashioned takes a New York Classic and returns it to the roots of its forebears.
3. Mezcal Mule
With a hispanic twist on the classic Moscow Mule, the Mezcal Mule replaces the vodka for mezcal, adding some spice, smokiness, and color that even fans of the classic will find it hard not to love.
Replacing gin with mezcal, the Mezcal Killer Bee is a twist on the classic cocktail – keeping the all too familiar blend of lemons and honey, and adding the smoky, spicy bite of the mezcal to create something new entirely.
Creating a more aggressive flavor palette (hence the name), the Killer Bee is a perfect before dinner drink, and is great for sunny afternoons with friends and family.
This pomegranate cocktail is a really interesting one, blending smoky mezcal with fresh fruit juice, citrus, spicy harissa paste, and savory seasoning to create a spicy, fruity combination reminiscent of the region from which it takes its name.
Perfect all year round thanks to its complex flavor palette, the Marrakesh Express is one for those seeking a little excitement with their drink.
6. Mezcal Sour
Another modern take on a classic New York cocktail, the Mezcal Sour replaces the Kentucky bourbon of the classic Whiskey Sour with smoky mezcal, transforming the concoction from one of refined, Gatsby-esque Manhattan mystery, to something altogether different.
Fluffy in texture due to the egg whites, the mezcal sour is both parts naughty and nice. Don’t let the soft texture fool you, this one also packs a bite.
7. La Pina
One of the most edgy cocktails on this list, due to its flavor alone, the La Pina incorporates the botanical sharpness of cilantro, the spice of serrano chile, and the Caribbean sweetness of fruity pineapple to create something very interesting indeed.
Complex yet infinitely drinkable, La Pina is definitely one to try!
Usually made with tequila, the mezcal turns the Paloma from a sharp, tangy concoction to a place of warmth and smokiness reminiscent of the wood fires through which the product is distilled.
With grapefruit juice and zesty limes, the Paloma is very much a summer drink, and after one sip you could be forgiven for thinking you were in a Cancun resort enjoying the sun and living the high life.
9. The Arinato
Combining the scorching taste of Mexico with the flavor of southern France, the Arinato uses Lillet (a French aromatized wine) to add a distinctive botanical flavor – unlocking the distinct elegance of the mezcal, and using a fruity, aromatic French flavor palette to create a combination you never knew you needed.
10. The Sforzando
Now this is an unusual one. A demonic red concoction, composed of Kentucky bourbon and sharp, smoky mezcal, the Sforzando takes its name from the musical descriptor for ‘urgentness of expression’.
And this is something the Sforzando cocktail has in spades, delivering a complex, endearing, yet hard punch akin to the distinct power of both of these spirits.
11. The Electron
Combining the spice of ground peppercorn, with the freshness of carrot juice, the tartness of fresh citrus juice, and the smokiness of the mezcal, this complex yet refreshing drink has a dynamic taste, both warm and homely in one sense, yet wild and sassy in another.
It’s as endearing as it is delicious, and acts in a vibrant, bold contrast to the cold and windy city of Chicago from which it originated.
‘Everything Good’ is a great description of this cocktail, combining warm, sticky honey, luxurious chocolate bitters, and rich orange liquor to create something that really is sugar, spice and everything nice.
A perfect addition to any seasonal get-together, or indeed in the summertime for those seeking something a little more indulgent, the Everything Good is a shining example of the love and care that goes into modern mixology.
With the smoky mezcal adding just a hint of naughtiness, Everything Good is definitely one to try!
13. Cactus Flower
Arguably one of the most attractive, distinctive, and vibrant cocktails on this list, the Cactus Flower is a love letter to the desert succulent which bore the famed Mexican spirit.
With a striking, vivid pink allure, the intrigue of a watermelon infused mezcal, ginger, and prickly pear syrup, the Cactus Flower has a savage beauty – both parts elegant and dangerous – a duality shared by all things great and appealing.
You just can’t have a summer cocktail without that tropical flavor, and luckily that is something the Mezcal and Passionfruit has in spades.
The warmth and fruitiness pairs excellently with the smokiness of the mezcal, creating a flavorful, summer drink perfect for sipping in the evening sun with friends and family.
This is an example of the versatility of mezcal – taking the bitter, smokiness of the mezcal with the sweetness of the tropical fruits to create a perfectly balanced drink that feels like summer incarnate.
15. Naked & Famous
Another complex yet attractive pairing, taking smoky mezcal and combining it with tangy citrus flavors, and the richness of yellow chartreuse liqueur.
As decadent and mysterious as its home of New York City, the Naked & Famous is a strange cocktail that could feel just as at home in a dimly lit noir movie as it would on the beaches of western Mexico.
If there is one thing to remember when pairing mezcal, it is to find the perfect balance.
Now, to find this balance, there is no one right answer, but there are many fruity numbers that really take the smokiness of the mezcal to a whole other dimension.
Grapefruit is one example, light and refreshing in and of itself, yet tangy and complex when paired with the mezcal, citrus, and jalapeno pepper – creating something that is equal parts elegant, attractive, and endearing, but most importantly, something that is very drinkable.
17. Mezcal Negroni
Another fresh take on a traditional, this cocktail takes the classic gin cocktail and turns it on its head, adding sharp, smoky mezcal to create a richer, stronger flavor palette.
Some might say change is a bad thing, but in this case the switch works wonders, with the distinct taste of the mezcal more than holding its own against the strong, powerful flavors of the vermouth and Campari.
In many ways the Mezcal Negroni proves that change can not only be good, but downright delicious.
Many would agree that there are fewer things more refreshing in the summertime than a pitcher of cold margaritas. But what if I told you that by exchanging your tequila for mezcal, you can open up a whole new world of deliciousness?
The smokiness of the mezcal pairs surprisingly well with the cool, lightness of the cucumber, filling your system with vital electrolytes, and ensuring that you feel energized, refreshed, and comfortable while you combat the heat of the mid afternoon sun.
This is a great summer sharer with friends and family, and is a refreshing, interesting take on a classic vacation cocktail.
If summer could be summed up in one beverage, this might just be the one.
The smokiness of the mezcal pairs nicely with the soft, cozy taste of the delicious fresh peach, creating something that has the warm fuzziness of a classic summer cocktail, with the alluring menace of rattlesnake.
It makes for a complicated image, I know, but that is exactly what this drink brings to the table – a delicate yet contentious pairing that feels so wrong but tastes so right.
Perfect for those summer nights by the ocean, why not treat you and your friends to a taste sensation they won’t soon forget.
Last on our list, but by no means least, the Harvest Apple Mezcal Cider is a perfect Fall drink for when the days begin to draw in, but the last comforting rays of summer still linger defiantly in the evenings.
Equal parts comforting and refreshing, this combination takes the smokiness of the mezcal and pairs it with the tanginess of the apple cider, creating something that feels both very festive and seasonal, but also outdoorsy, rustic, and adventurous.
The tartness of the apple and the twang of the lemon keep it feeling fresh and alive, whilst the smokiness of the mezcal and the sweet spice of the cinnamon somehow remind you that winter is right around the corner.
It’s a bittersweet feeling, which perfectly reflects the flavor palette of this glorious creation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is There Anything Mezcal Doesn’t Pair With?
It would be best to avoid anything else with a smoky flavor, as this could be overpowering.
Does Mezcal Pair Best With Summer Or Seasonal Fruits?
This depends on your taste, as well as the drink you are trying to make.
Pairing Mezcal with summer fruits like watermelon and grapefruit helps create a refreshing summer feel, whilst pairing it with apple and cinnamon creates a distinctly Fall flavor.
And there you have it, our rundown of the 20 best mezcal cocktails for you and your loved ones to enjoy.
A somewhat underrated alcoholic drink, this list alone shows that mezcal is a versatile (and vital) component for any cocktail lover or professional mixologist to add to their repertoire.
Why not try for yourself? Something tells me you won’t be disappointed!