Friday, April 8, 2016

8-2-Eat: Favorite Mezcal Cocktails

The Lightsaber cocktail with mezcal

8-2-Eat is my food-focused list series. A perfect Friday distraction. This week I've focused on mezcal, my favorite spirit, with a trip to D.C.'s new mezcal- and Oaxaca-focused restaurant, Espita Mezcaleria and a look at a book all about the spirit, Holy Smoke! It's Mezcal! Finishing the week, here's 8...or rather 17...great cocktails made with mezcal.

Margarita. Starting with something familiar, a margarita is a great way to get a first taste of mezcal, since it's in a familiar setting of the tart and sweet classic, but just a bit smoky. Dave Arnold's Smoky Frozen Margarita, from his book Liquid Intelligence, plays on mezcal's affinity for chartreuse. The Margarita on Fire plays on mescal's affinity for heat with Bittermens Hellfire habanero shrub (since, after all, where there's smoke, there's fire). The Smoky Pear Margarita drops the margarita's usual orange flavor in favor of pear. Lastly, Mom's Mezcal Margarita, which I found in John McEvoy's Holy Smoke! It's Mezcal! book that I wrote about earlier this week, is a wonderful variation on a mezcal margarita with brandy and Peychaud's bitters.

Oaxaca Old Fashioned. This modern classic from Death & Co is where mezcal really gets a chance to shine. It's an elegantly simple (brilliant really) play on the classic Old Fashioned where tequila and mezcal sit in for whiskey and agave replaces simple sugar.  The bitters is a good place to get creative--Angostura is in the original recipe, and many, including me, like it with Bittermens Xocolatl mole bitters for yet another nod to Oaxaca. The original recipe has 3 parts tequila to 1 part mezcal, but as you drink this cocktail more, I think you'll appreciate upping the proportion of mezcal (in fact, I like now with all mezcal).

Division Bell. Mayahuel in New York is our favorite place to drink mezcal. I wrote about the bar after our first visit last September and again this January. A few years ago, before I'd ever stepped foot inside, I had already heard about the bar's reputation for crafting excellent cocktails like Jacko's End and the Smoked Palomino. It was after our first visit that I shared their recipe for the Division Bell, a great example of a summer mezcal cocktail that isn't a margarita, its smokiness playing off the sunny-citrusy Aperol with just a touch of maraschino liqueur (it only takes a touch of that stuff). Another good mezcal and Aperol combination is Naked and Famous, developed at Death & Co as play on the Last Word where the drink's four components are in equal proportion.

Broken Oath. Citrus and agave flavors are hallmarks of margaritas and play well with mezcal too, but here's a drink that goes in an entirely different direction, marked by darker, bitter and savory flavors of sherry, coffee and sweet vermouth. Of course, it's another winner from Death & Co.

6666 Miles. Also with coffee liqueur, although much simpler than the Broken Oath, this is my attempt at a sort of homage to the Oaxaca Old Fashioned by recreating an existing classic--in this case, a Black Russian--with mezcal. The name comes from the distance between Moscow and Mexico City.

Sweet Lips. This is also from McEvoy's Holy Smoke! It's Mezcal! book, a fantastically sweet and spicy drink made with fresh serrano chile peppers (for some serious kick) and homemade vanilla syrup. While I enjoyed all three of the cocktails I made from the book, this was my favorite.

The Lightsaber (pictured at top). Mezcal has featured prominently in my Oscar-themed cocktails over the years. My Star Wars: The Force Awakens-themed drink, The Lightsaber, was one of my favorites this year, a smoky take on a swizzle drink made with mezcal, cachaça, crème de cacao, blue curaçao and lime. Other mezcal-based favorite Oscar drinks include Whiplash, The Red Planet (The Martian, pictured at right) and The Market Fizz(led) (The Big Short).

Spicy Aztec Hot Chocolate with Mezcal. I'll finish this list with a dessert cocktail, a wonderfully Mexican take on boozy hot chocolate with mezcal, cinnamon, mole bitters and habanero shrub.


  1. As a fan of coffee I would prefer having 6666 miles. I think It is great. Thanks for sharing

    1. Thank you! I love using coffee liqueur in cocktails, and it's good for things other than just dessert-like drinks.