Allow us to introduce you to tequila’s smoky friend, mezcal. We chatted with Chef/Partner Terry Lynch of Stripburger and El Segundo Sol who demystifies this often underrated spirit and shares with us its origin and how you can enjoy it at home.

group shot of 4 mezcal based cocktails

Here’s the history:

Mezcal comes from Oaxaca, a state in southern Mexico known for its soulful eats and is allegedly, the birthplace of mole. The city itself is authentic and wildly artistic, which makes mezcal the perfect expression of the culture. 

One technique indigenous to Mexican cooking is the charring of ingredients which achieves a smoky depth of flavor. That same charred flavor profile is one in the same with the smoky tasting notes of mezcal.

People often ask, what is the difference between mezcal and tequila?

The difference is in the method:

  1. It all begins with the agave plant from which mezcal and tequila both stem.
  2. When the plant is grown to its maturity (about 7 years) and looks like a large pineapple, it is trimmed to its core.
  3. In the tequila-making process, the leaves are roasted in huge ovens to caramelize the natural sugars.
  4. Artisanal mezcal uses a wood-fired underground pit — not an oven — to roast and caramelize the leaves. This allows the flavors of mezcal to be deeper and more smoky and rustic than tequila.

Mezcal Misconceptions

The number one misconception is that mezcal is not as approachable as tequila. But it is unique and wonderful — like an older, smokier, wiser brother to tequila!
 Stumped on where to find it? Chef Terry recommends checking out your local liquor store first and trying a few different mezcal options to see what you like.  With that said, El Buho and Del Maguey Vida are both good bets in distribution and price.

Want to give it a go? Here are four mezcal recipes from Cafe Ba-Ba-Reeba! and El Segundo Sol to mix up at home.

Oaxacan Mule – A traditional Moscow Mule with a twist of mezcal

oaxacan mule

Smoky Alban – Mix Cynar liquer with grapefruit for the smoky profile that mezcal is known for

Smoky Alban - Mix Cynar liquer with grapefruit for the smoky profile that mezcal is known for

Mango Mescalero – A little mango, a little chili pepper and a whole lot of flavor

 Mango Mescalero - A little mango, a little chili pepper and a whole lot of flavor

Mezcal Mule – Think Moscow Mule but with hints of cucumber, passion fruit and of course, mezcal

 

Oaxacan Mule

Serves: 1 drink

INGREDIENTS 

  • 1 ½ oz. Mezcal Blanco
  • 1 oz. lime juice
  • ½ oz.simple syrup
  • ¾ cup crushed ice
  • 1 oz. ginger beer
  • 2 pc. lemon muddles

METHOD

  1. In a shaker – combine mezcal, lime juice, simple syrup and ice – give it TWO SHAKES ONLY.
  2. Pour into copper mug – top with ginger beer — squeeze juice of two muddles into the cup, drop on muddle in.
  3. Garnish with two wee straws.
  4. Serve forth!

 

Smoky Alban Mule

Serves: 1 drink

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1½ oz. Afiejo Mezcal
  • 1 ¼ oz. Cynar
  • ½ oz. fino sherry
  • 2 dashes grapefruit bitters
  • 1 grapefruit crescent

METHOD

  1. Add Mezcal, Cynar, sherry and bitters to a shaker.
  2. Fill with 2/3 ice.
  3. Shake well.
  4. Rum rim of glass with grapefruit crescent, add all ingredients of shaker, drop crescent in the glass.
  5. Serve forth!

 

Mango Mescalero

Serves: 1 drink

INGREDIENTS

For the Mango Mescalero

  • ½ mango, cut in half and pitted, skin left on
  • 1 oz. ancho chili syrup
  • ½ lime, juiced (¾ oz juice)
  • 1 ½ oz. reposado mezcal

For the Ancho Syrup

  • 2 dried ancho chili peppers
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water

METHOD

For the Mango Mescalero

  1. Grill the mango, cut side down, over hot grill until well caramelized. Cook, scoop flesh from skin.
  2. Muddle the mango in cocktail shaker.
  3. Add syrup, lime and mezcal to shaker 2h full of ice.
  4. Shaker well, strain into glass rimmed with orange salt.
  5. Serve!

For the Ancho Syrup

  1. Split chiles in half, remove most of seeds.
  2. Add sugar, water and chiles to a stainless steel saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil, simmer on very low 10 min.
  4. Steep 10 more min.
  5. Strain into storage container, chill.

 

Mezcal Mule

Serves: 1 drink

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 oz. agave syrup
  • 6 wedges of cucumber
  • 1 ½ oz. Del Maguey Mezcal
  • 3 oz. ginger beer
  • ¾ oz. lime juice
  • ¼ oz.passion fruit puree

METHOD

  1. Combine cucumber and agave syrup into a mixing glass and muddle.
  2. Add all other ingredients, add ice and shake hard for 6-8 seconds.
  3. Double-strain into a glass with fresh ice.
  4. Garnish: dash of chili powder.