If you still believe mezcal is a joke with a worm as the punchline, it’s time to catch up. With celebrity fans (LeBron James, Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul have launched their own brands) and billions of dollars in sales, mezcal is now the planet’s second fastest-growing spirit, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.
So what makes Mexico’s small-batch liquor so alluring? Like tequila, mezcal is agave-based. But while tequila is made exclusively from the blue Weber varietal (which gets steamed in industrial ovens), mezcal can include up to 50 different agave species, which are roasted in rock-lined pits, imbuing it with that telltale touch or full-on smack of smokiness.
The results are fiercely unique — and make for a kaleidoscope of cocktail riffs, like the ones here, courtesy of your favorite Hamptons haunts.
2 ozs. Pelotón de la Muerte Mezcal • ½ oz. spiced agave syrup • ¾ oz. fresh lime juice • 1 oz. fresh pineapple juice • Spritz of Laphroaig 10-year-old Scotch Whisky • Sage leaf garnish
Combine mezcal, agave syrup, lime juice and pineapple juice in a shaker with ice and shake vigorously. Spritz a double rocks glass with the Laphroaig Whisky. Add a large ice cube and strain the cocktail over it. Garnish with the sage leaf.
Well Here’s Another Nice Mezcal You’ve Gotten Me Into
2 ozs. Yola Mezcal • ½ oz. Combier Crème de Cassis • ½ oz. Ancho Reyes Verde Chile poblano liqueur • Lime garnish
Fill a shaker with ice and pour in mezcal, crème de cassis and liqueur. Shake well and strain into a chilled coupe glass. Garnish with the lime wheel.
1 ½ ozs. Dos Hombres Mezcal • ½ oz. 123 Organic Tequila Blanco (Uno) • ¾ oz. lime juice • ½ oz. Barrow’s Intense Ginger Liqueur • 1 oz. guava purée • ¼ oz. agave syrup
Fill a shaker with ice. Pour in all ingredients and shake well. Rim a double rocks glass with chipotle salt and fill with ice. Strain cocktail into glass.
1 oz. Martini & Rossi sweet vermouth • 1 oz. Campari • 1 oz. Ojo de Tigre Mezcal • 2 dashes chocolate bitters • Orange twist for garnish
Fill a double rocks glass with ice. Pour in the vermouth, Campari and mezcal. Add the chocolate bitters and stir until chilled. Garnish with the orange twist.
Start mixing (and sipping) these masterful mezcals
Madre Espadin Mezcal
There’s a ripe, rich fruitiness to this 100% espadin mezcal that makes it a fun swap for classic cocktails, like a Jack Rose or a boozy, stirred Negroni. Clocking in at an easy 40% ABV, it’s also a great gateway for the uninitiated
Lobos 1707 Mezcal
Founder Diego Osorio pays homage to his Spanish and Mexican roots with this grassy, mildly smoky offering. It spends a little time in Pedro Ximénez sherry casks, adding a distinctly salty, dried-fruit layer to the flavor profile — something that mezcal-loving investor LeBron James can’t get enough of.
Lejana Y Sola Mezcal
Serious mezcal lovers, take note. Made in Lachilá, Oaxaca, this 42% ABV ensamble of espadin and cuishe agave, made by mezcalero Silvestre Cruz Fabian, is unshy in its petrol-like, rubber-meets-the-road aromatics and spicy, full-bodied flavor.
Los Siete Misterios “Doba-Yej” Mezcal
Made in alembic copper-pot stills, this 44% ABV, limited-production pour, from brothers Eduardo and Julio Mestre, is as lovely to drink on its own as it is mixed into summery, spritzy cocktails, with its pretty notes of spring lilacs and lime zest.
The Producer “Ensamble” Mezcal
“Ensamble” is crafted in earthen ovens and crushed by traditional stone tahonas, slowly pulled round and round by Oaxacan donkeys. Authentic visuals aside, this blend of both espadin and cuishe agave is surprisingly delicate, with a distinctly fresh, floral nose, gentle sweetness and whisper of smokiness.